US Teenager Tortured in Kuwait and Barred Re-Entry into the US
Gulet Mohamed is an 18-year-old American citizen whose family is Somalian. His parents moved with him to the U.S. when he was 2 or 3 years old, and he has lived in the U.S. ever since. In March, 2009, he went to study Arabic and Islam in Yemen (in Sana'a, the nation's capital), and, after several weeks, left (at his mother's urging) and went to visit his mother's family in Somalia, staying with his uncle there for several months. Roughly one year ago, he left Somalia and traveled to Kuwait to stay with other family members who live there. Like many teenagers who reach early adulthood, he was motivated in his travels by a desire to see the world, to study, and to get to know his family's ancestral homeland and his faraway relatives.
At all times, Mohamed traveled on an American passport and had valid visas for all the countries he visited. He has never been arrested nor -- until two weeks ago -- was he ever involved with law enforcement in any way, including the entire time he lived in the U.S.
Approximately two weeks ago (on December 20), Mohamed went to the airport in Kuwait to have his visa renewed, as he had done every three months without incident for the last year. This time, however, he was told by the visa officer that his name had been marked in the computer, and after waiting five hours, he was taken into a room and interrogated by officials who refused to identify themselves. They then handcuffed and blindfolded him and drove him to some other locale. That was the start of a two-week-long, still ongoing nightmare during which he was imprisoned for a week in an unknown location by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated, and severely beaten and threatened with even worse forms of torture.
Mohamed's story was first reported this morning by Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times, who spoke with Mohamed by telephone, where he is currently being held in a deportation center in Kuwait. I also spoke with Mohamed this morning, and my 50-minute conversation with him was recorded and can be heard on the recorder below. Mazzetti did a good job of describing Mohamed's version of events. He writes that during his 90-minute conversation, "Mr. Mohamed was agitated as he recounted his captivity, tripping over his words and breaking into tears."
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