A Day in the Life of a Uighur Detainee at Gitmo's Camp Six

On May 20, 2008, Sabin Willit, a corporate lawyer from Boston who represents Huzaifa Parhat, the Uighur detainee whose designation as an "enemy combatant" was reversed Friday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. From his testimony:

One of my clients is Huzaifa Parhat. He’s never been charged with anything. He never will be. In fact, he’s been cleared for release for years. Two weeks ago he began his seventh year at Guantanamo.

....Huzaifa lives in a place called Camp Six. My information, which dates from March, is that all the Uighurs but one are kept there. The men call it the dungeon above the ground. Each lives alone in an isolation cell. There is no natural light or air. There is no way to tell whether it is day or night. Outside the cell is a noisy bedlam of banging doors and the indistinct shouts of desperate men crouching at door cracks. A mad-house. Inside the cell, nothing.


Mr. Chairman, can you remember the last time you were alone -- I mean really alone? Nothing to read, no phone, music, computer, television, radio, activity; no companion, no one to talk to. That’s been Huzaifa’s life for most of the time since December, 2006.

For two hours in twenty four, the MPs shackle and lead Huzaifa to the rec area. This is a two-story chimney, about four meters square. It is his only chance to talk to another human being, or see the sun. But his rec time might be night; it might be after midnight. Weeks go by during which he never sees the sun at all. Mr. Chairman, you try talking to a man who only wants to see the sun. You will never forget the experience.

In the cell he can crouch at the door, and yell through the crack at the bottom. The fellow in the next cell may respond, or he might be curled in the fetal position, staring at the wall. Another Uighur told us of the voices in his head. The voices were getting the better of him. His foot was tapping on the floor. I don’t know what’s happened to him: he doesn’t come out of the cell to see us any more.

A letter from a third was released last December. He wondered, did someone need to commit suicide before anyone notices? A friend has a client who used to be thought of by the command as a model prisoner, well grounded, level headed. Now he has lost hope; he has lost control; he seethes with anger. His mind is wrecked by isolation.

Huzaifa believes he will die in Guantanamo. Last year he asked us to pass a message to his wife that she should remarry.

The Uighurs are not the enemy.

As to Parhat's 's beliefs:

He believes in freedom of worship and denounces state-enforced abortion. He doesn’t care for communism. In China, beliefs like Huzaifa’s are called “intellectual terrorism.” Uighurs are regularly tortured for it. Some are put to death. I can remember when we Americans admired people who stood up for such beliefs in the face of tyranny. Now we offer them -- what do they call it? -- a “single occupancy” cell in Camp Six.

Interrogators advised in 2003 that his capture was a mistake. State has been trying to find a country to which to send him. But our allies read the same shrill rhetoric about Guantanamo that you have read. And the shadow of the communists falls over all the capitals of Europe. Nobody else wants Huzaifa. I used to think of us Americans, Mr. Chairman, as broad-shouldered, able to admit mistakes and put them right, but my government thinks we are a small people, so panicked by real enemies that we lock up imaginary ones. Forever.

When did we become such a small people?

< Appeals Court Reverses Detainee's Classification as Enemy Combatant | What Political Cost? >
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    Minor typo... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by mike in dc on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:01:23 PM EST
    ...actually, it's "Sabin Willett".  I should know, because he works for the same firm I work for (I docket events for those cases, among other things).

    I hope these poor guys can get released someday soon.

    thanks, I corrected it (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:09:04 PM EST
    Much appreciated.

    that would be 9/11. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:02:38 PM EST
    When did we become such a small people?

    you know, the date everything in the universe changed.

    I hope there is no god.... (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:04:36 PM EST
    because we're all going straight to hell for financing this sh*t.

    The "East Turkestan Islamic Movement" (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by MsExPat on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:31:08 PM EST
    ..was classified as an international terrorist organization by the U.S. as a sop to the People's Republic of China, in order to get them to cooperate with us in the "Global War on Terruh..."

    The story of these poor Uiguhr prisoners is depressing. The U.S. should give them asylum. After we apologize for keeping them in Guantanamo.

    you might think he should be offered (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Salo on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:32:31 PM EST
    a wad of cash and citizenship for his trouble.

    er sorry mate...would you like to stay and buy a farm and some pony's?

    (Uigher's if they tribal like horses. They are a bit like Tartar's, Turk's and Mongols.

    Of the many things (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by otherlisa on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:41:39 PM EST
    my government has done in recent years that utterly disgust me, this one makes my personal top 10 list.

    I tremble for my country n/t (none / 0) (#5)
    by rilkefan on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:30:47 PM EST

    Relax (none / 0) (#9)
    by bocajeff on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 02:42:25 PM EST
    This too shall pass. One of the beauties of our type of government is the checks and balances.

    We've had far, far, far more shameful times in the history of this country (within the last 70 years) and somehow we always get through it - and become better for it.


    I hope your right Jeff.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 02:48:27 PM EST
    I guess in shear numbers Guantanamo isn't as bad as internment of the Japanese during WWII, but it's troubling that we haven't learned to respect the unalienable rights of the individual (citizen or not), especially considering this country's past mistakes.

    The Uighur's shouldn't have to rot in Guantanamo until we get our heads out of our tyrannical arses...checks and balances are no consolation to them.


    japanese internment (none / 0) (#11)
    by CST on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 02:55:30 PM EST
    That's exactly what this feels like.  Maybe not on the same scale, but it has also gone on longer.  I have no idea how Japan is our ally today given the history.  I only hope we can be so lucky with our current "enemies" in Guantanamo Bay.

    Shoot.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 03:01:22 PM EST
    If I was one of the poor innocent slobs locked up there without a habeaus hearing for 6+ years and I was lucky enough to see the light of day again....I'd be looking for blood.

    Honestly (none / 0) (#13)
    by CST on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 03:08:22 PM EST
    I think our policies at Guantanamo and the war in Iraq have done more for terrorism "recruitment" than any Al-Queda training camp.  And I think our policy approach to Isreal is the number 1 reason Sept. 11th happened.  But I must be anti-American for holding my government responsible for their actions... since all muslim countries naturally hate us for no reason at all.

    I'm with you.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 03:12:47 PM EST
    Israel policy and military bases in Saudi Arabia and 100 or so other countries.

    I thought Republicans were the ones advocating for personal responsibility:)....for everybody except our government and our country as a whole I guess:)


    Name the (none / 0) (#15)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 04:45:04 PM EST
    military bases in SA, please.

    My mistake Wile.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 05:24:52 PM EST
    looks like we closed these and moved 'em next door to Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, etc.

    It guess it helps to have a friendly tyrannical regime willing to accept our arms and orders.


    Many other wrongs (none / 0) (#18)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 08:10:52 PM EST
    do not rectify this one, nor do they change the suffering these human beings have had to endure to prop up a war that never should have been.

    Solitary confinement - (none / 0) (#17)
    by songster on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 06:17:33 PM EST
    has anyone ever tried to argue in a court of law that solitary confinement is torture, or cruel and unusual punishment?