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Volume 2 | Issue 4 | May 2008 | 

"First Poem of My Life"
Mohammed El-Gharani


Hustle cautiously in the land of those who speak no Arabic!
  Even if they gave you oaths bound by oaths.

Their aim is to worship petty cash
  And for it they break all vows.

I came to their land to pursue an education,
  And saw such malice among them.

They surrounded the mosque, weapons drawn,
  As if they were in a field of`war.

They said to us, "Come out peacefully,
  And don't utter a single word."

Into a transport truck they lifted us,
  And in shackles of injustice they bound us.

For sixteen hours we walked;
  For the entire time we remained in shackles.

All of us wanted to move our bowels
  But they insisted on denying us.

The soldier struck with his boot;
  He said we were all equally subjects.

In the prison's darkness they spread us out
  In the cold's bitterness we sat......

Mohammed El Gharani was arrested by Pakistani Police when he was 14 years old. A native of Chad who was born in Saudi Arabia, he had recently travelled to Pakistan to pursue an education when his mosque was raided. Pakistani police hung him nearly naked by the wrists with his feet barely touching the floor, and beat him if he moved. He had come to Pakistan to study English and information technology, and was overjoyed when he heard he would be transferred to American custody, thinking that his beatings and strippings would end. Instead they continued in US custody in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In 2002, he was shipped to Guantanamo and became one of the first "enemy combatants" detained there. 29 juveniles are thought to have been shipped to Guantanamo.

Among the detainees at Guantanamo are students and truck drivers, charity workers and businessmen, scholars and journalists, children and grandfathers. Some were poets before they arrested. But most, like Mohammed, began writing poetry to maintain sanity and as an aid and comfort amidst the crushing physical and psychological blows being directed at them. Despite every effort to keep any word from getting out of the dungeons, 22 of these poems escaped, and they are collected, along with the stories of their writers, in Poems from Guantanamo.









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