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A Former Guantánamo Detainee Shares His Story

Mansoor Adayfi before he was captured and taken to Guantánamo Bay at 18 (left), and after his release (right). He spent 14 years detained without charge.
Mansoor Adayfi before he was captured and taken to Guantánamo Bay at 18 (left), and after his release (right). He spent 14 years detained without charge.

At the age of 18, a Yemeni man named Mansoor Adayfi says he was traveling in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped and sold to the CIA by Afghan warlords. The U.S. government had distributed flyers across the region offering bounties in exchange for “suspicious people.”

He became “Detainee 441” and was held without charge at Guantánamo Bay Detention Center for 14 years until his release in 2016. Adayfi tells his story in his new memoir, “Don’t Forget Us Here.” He describes torture, like when vacuum cleaners were turned on outside prisoners’ cells so that the constant roaring noise would drown out their thoughts. But he also describes moments of community and humanity between prisoners, and even between prisoners and guards.

At one point, he writes that tarps put up to block detainees’ view of the sea blew away during a storm

For the first time, our blocks quieted down. No guards, no chains, no banging and clanking. The song of our daily lives changed that day so that the wind could sing to us. Without the green tarps, we looked out our windows and saw the sea, the vast and beautiful sea, dark and angry, and the sea saw us, too, and raged at what it saw: hundreds of men in metal cages.

“Allahu Akbar!” an Afghani brother called out when he saw the sea for the first time. “Allahu Akbar!” brothers called out, thanking Allah for the wonder of this beautiful sea.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Guantánamo Bay in 2009. Twelve years later, it remains open, with 39 detainees. A tribunal will begin hearing the case soon of five of those men who are accused of being involved in the 9/11 attacks. Much of the evidence is tainted by torture.

We talk to former detainee Mansoor Adayfi about his experience as a prisoner as well as an expert on national security about the future and past of Guantánamo Bay Detention Center.

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