Idir’s Family…Collateral Damage of Guantanamo
The imprisonment of Idir has left a deep psychological scar on Hamza.
By Wael Kurdi, IOL Correspondent
SARAJEVO, July 6, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Despite the distance separating them, Um Mohammad and her husband, Mustafa Ait Idir, are close in their sufferings.
He has been caged incommunicado there in the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba since 2002 when he, along with five others, were detained in Bosnia at a request by the United States, alleging they were planning attacks against US and British embassies in Sarajevo. Then, they were transferred to the “gulag of our times.”
She is the mother of his three sons Mohammad, 8, Hamza, 5, and three-year-old Abdullah. She has to work round-the-clock as a housemaid just to make a living at a meager $150 a month.
Bosnian Um Mohammad is indeed a telling example of a forbearing wife and a caring mother, who took pains to hardly cater for her children, with the image of her Algerian-Bosnian husband always in her mind, according to IOL correspondent.
“I have to work hard for my children as I receive no financial backing from aid agencies, Arab or Islamic organizations operating in Bosnia because they fear that they could be designated as terrorist due to my husband’s status,” the mother of three told IslamOnline.net.
Idir and the other five prisoners fought alongside the Bosnians in their 1992-95 war, which culminated in the worst massacre in European history when some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slain at the hands of Serbian forces.
On July 11, thousands of Bosnians will mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide.
Abdullah has not yet seen his father.
The early sufferings of the three children have left their deep psychological scars, with Mohammad dreaming of the comeback of the “globe-trotting” father and Hamza is haunted by the image of Idir behind bars in Bosnia before being handed over to the Americans.
“Everyday, Mohammad wakes up early to go to one of those charge-free schools built for orphans and when he comes home at noon, he reads for Hamza,” the bereaved mother added.
“Mohammad was only four years old when Idir was arrested, but he remembers every moment he spent with his father. But as he grew up, he can’t buy this talk that he father is abroad.”
In April, a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration on behalf of Idir, asserting that he was tortured at the hands of his US jailers, and his appalling prison conditions drove Amnesty International to let out a moving plea to release him.
Prison guards, the lawsuit reads, beat Idir so badly that he suffered facial paralysis and stuck his head in a toilet, flushing repeatedly until he almost suffocated.
They allegedly sprayed him frequently in the face with a chemical, and threw him, tied up, onto a floor of crushed stones.
“They further held him down and pushed a garden hose into his mouth. They opened the spigot. As the water rushed in, Idir began to choke. The water was coming out of his mouth and nose,” according to the lawsuit, which was made public by Reuters at the time.
Lawyers asked the court to compel the US government to provide documents, medical histories and videotapes from prison monitoring cameras, as requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
Guantanamo has been at the center of a political storm since a Newsweek report claimed that military interrogators at the camp flushed a Qur’an down a toilet to rattle Muslim detainees.
The US military also detailed on June 3 five cases in which Guantanamo jailers had desecrated copies of the Noble Qur’an, including one incident which occurred as recently as March.
Once calling the prison the “gulag of our time,” Amnesty International said in a recent report that Guantanamo has become a “symbol of abuse and represents a system of detention that is betraying the best US values.”
Chief among the Guantanamo critics are former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who both called on the Bush administration to shut down the prison to demonstrate to the world America's commitment to human rights.