A Teenage Refugee Freed From Guantanamo And Released In Ireland

On Sunday, following the revelation of the identity of one of two Uzbeks released from Guantanamo
to take up a new life in the Republic of Ireland, I published a letter
from Guantanamo written by this man, Oybek Jabbarov, and also included
a statement by his lawyer, Michael J.

On Sunday, following the revelation of the identity of one of two Uzbeks released from Guantanamo
to take up a new life in the Republic of Ireland, I published a letter
from Guantanamo written by this man, Oybek Jabbarov, and also included
a statement by his lawyer, Michael J. Mone Jr., to a Committee of the
US House of Representatives, in which Mone explained that Jabbarov was
a refugee, living in northern Afghanistan with his pregnant wife,
infant son, elderly mother and other Uzbek refugees at the time of the
US-led invasion in October 2001, and that he ended up in US hands
"after he accepted a ride from a group of Northern Alliance soldiers he
met at a roadside teahouse who said they would give him a ride to
Mazar-e-Sharif. Unfortunately, instead of driving him to
Mazar-e-Sharif, the soldiers took Oybek to Bagram Air Base where they
handed him over to US forces, undoubtedly in exchange for a sizeable

Yesterday, the Irish Times
revealed the identity of the second man, and although I respect his
desire for privacy, and the chance to begin rebuilding his life after
his long ordeal, as much as I recognize Oybek Jabbarov's right to the
same courtesies, I believe that, as with his countryman, it is useful
to point out what is known of his story, as it is yet another example
of an innocent man losing nearly eight years of his life in a cruel and
experimental prison designed to hold human beings without any rights

As I explained in my article on Oybek Jabbarov, men like these two
Uzbeks, just two of the many hundreds of innocent men who have been
held in Guantanamo over the last seven years and nine months, were
"mostly seized by the Americans' opportunistic allies at a time when
bounty payments for 'al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects' were widespread,
and were then presumed guilty without any screening process by an
administration drunk on its own exercise of unfettered executive power."

The story of Shakhrukh Hamiduva

Unlike Oybek Jabbarov, whose lawyer fought tenaciously to establish
his client's innocence, and actively courted the media, Shakhrukh
Hamiduva, the other man freed in Ireland, did not register on the
media's radar during his detention, although I mentioned him in my book
The Guantanamo Files.
Nevertheless, his story - as accepted by a military review board that
cleared him for release from Guantanamo in 2006 - bears striking
similarities to that of his fellow countryman: a vulnerable refugee,
preyed upon by unscrupulous Afghans following the US-led invasion, when
substantial bounty payments were on offer for foreigners who could be
presented to gullible US forces as "al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects."

All that is known publicly of Shakhrukh Hamiduva is that he was born
in Kokand, Uzbekistan in December 1983 (and that he was, therefore,
probably under 18 years of age at the time of his capture), that he was
one of the first prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo in January 2002, and
that he gave the following account in December 2004 to his Combatant
Status Review Tribunal (the one-sided military boards
established to review - and largely endorse - the administration's
contention that everyone who had ended up in US custody was an "enemy
combatant" who could be held without rights).

In his tribunal, Hamiduva explained that he left Uzbekistan because
of religious persecution, and added that his father and five uncles had
been jailed, and that another uncle had been killed. Nevertheless, he
had to contend with a number of allegations whose provenance was not
disclosed, but which were almost certainly produced as a result of the
interrogations of other prisoners (or of Hamiduva himself), in
circumstances that may well have involved coercion or bribery. One
allegation was that he had spent a year and a half in a training camp
run by the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan, but he explained that he had
spent that time at a refugee camp, which contained around 300 refugees.
He also denied an allegation that he "willingly became a soldier in the
Mujahideen Army," and that he traveled to Afghanistan to "participate
in jihad against the Russians and the Northern Alliance."

In a statement provided to his Personal Representative (a military
officer assigned to the prisoners for the tribunals instead of a
lawyer), he explained that he had initially wanted to go to Turkey, but
that he couldn't get a passport because he was too young, so he decided
to work with the Tajik authorities at the refugee camp instead. This,
he said, involved helping the refugees, and he added that the Tajik
government then provided transportation to take him and other refugees
to Afghanistan (actually deporting them, as they did with hundreds of
Uzbek refugees in 1999, including Oybek Jabbarov and his family), where
he helped some of them "to fix up things like cars or roofs" at a place
in Kabul. He also explained that, after five or six months, he hooked
up with an Afghan "mentor," who owned a garage and taught him to drive,
and added that, after working for him for a while, he bought a car and
started to work as a taxi driver, which was his occupation when he was

Speaking of his capture, he said that he went to the United Nations
in Pakistan (as there was no office in Afghanistan) to get help in
returning to Uzbekistan. "They promised me they would be able to help
me and send me back to my homeland, but nothing would happen to me and
that I would be protected," he said. "He [a UN official, presumably]
gave me a piece of paper. I guess it was some kind of travel document
so I would be able to travel along with."

He explained that, after this visit, he returned to Afghanistan in
his car with five or six Afghans from Mazar-e-Sharif, and added that he
didn't want any money from them; he just wanted them to give him
directions. However, in the mountains he was stopped by armed Afghans
who let his passengers go, but who took his car and handed him over to
"the American general" - probably General Rashid Dostum, the Afghan Uzbek warlord who was working with US forces - at Mazar-e-Sharif.

He also explained to the tribunal that he told the Americans his
story, and added that they saw his travel document and promised him
that they would help him get home, but, after keeping him imprisoned
for a month "in some kind of house" with about 15 Pakistanis, they were
all transferred to the US prison in Kandahar, and after about a month
and a half he was sent to Guantanamo.

Speaking of the nearly three years he had spent in the prison by the
time of his CSRT, he told his tribunal, "They said that they were
through with me and promise[d] to send me back to my homeland, that's
why I'm confused. When they brought me here for interrogation, I didn't
want to talk a lot to them ... They didn't treat me well here, that is
why I didn't tell them anything." He added, "I just want to let you
know that they torture me a lot here at the camp. They would not let me
sleep through the night; they were tak[ing] me to interrogations. I saw
them beating other detainees, breaking their arms and legs."

When the tribunal asked why he was wearing orange (which meant he
was uncooperative, as, by 2004, white uniforms had been introduced for
"cooperative" prisoners, and tan for those who were somewhere in
between), he explained, "I know that there are four levels of
discipline. Every time I try to go one level up, they will do something
to keep you in the level. I know that there are a lot of detainees who
don't want to talk to the interrogators and no matter what you tell
them they are not going to change your level or change your clothes for
that matter. I know that a lot of people have been tortured here at the
camp ... When I don't exercise I feel very weak, that [is] why I try to
exercise inside my cell but MPs don't like it. That is the only [way] I
can keep myself healthy here is by doing some exercise because when you
get sick you don't get any appointments here so what should I do? Every
prison detainee should be allowed to exercise; I don't understand why
they don't allow us."

As with the story of Oybek Jabbarov, this is a disturbing account on
a number of levels. With such limited information available, I have no
idea if Shakhrukh Hamiduva, like Jabbarov, was threatened by Uzbek
intelligence agents who were allowed to visit Guantanamo (although it
seems likely), but enough information is readily available to
demonstrate, yet again, that the phrase "the worst of the worst," as
used by senior Bush administration officials to refer to the supposed
terrorists in Guantanamo, is more accurately applied to the kind of
mistakes made by the administration, which in its myopic arrogance, was
more than happy to detain randomly seized foreigners in Afghanistan,
and to deprive them of any rights, even if they were under 18 years
old, and should, as juveniles, have been rehabilitated
rather than being subjected to sleep deprivation, punished for trying
to exercise in their cells, and forced to watch as other prisoners were
beaten until they were hospitalized.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.