Most Americans pay scant attention to Guantanamo. In fact, many Americans believe it is closed or only houses convicted terrorists. However, Guantanamo is still open, holding 122 men, 55 of whom have been cleared for release.
As little as Americans know about Guantanamo, they know even less about the lives of detainees after they have been transferred out of Guantanamo. The more fortunate detainees are resettled to their home country, where they can reunite with and be supported by their families.
However, a number of the detainees cannot return home because of the instability of their home country, their home country does not want them, or they may be tortured or executed on their return. These men must wait for other nations to accept them. Initially, nations wanted to help President Obama close Guantanamo and agreed to accept prisoners. However, as confidence in Obama’s initial pledge to close the detention center has waned, fewer nations are willing to reach out and receive former detainees.
Nevertheless, because of the tenacity of Special Envoy Cliff Sloan – the State Department official tasked with resettling detainees from July 2013 to December 2014 – several countries have accepted detainees in the past 18 months. In November 2014, Slovakia resettled two detainees. One was Hussein Al-marfadi, originally from Yemen.
In February 2015, the Witness to Guantanamo project interviewed Al-marfadi in a town in central Slovakia. Although physically and psychologically scarred from 14 years of torture and brutal treatment at Guantanamo, he is an engaging, even-tempered and thoughtful man. He was never charged with a crime and had been cleared for release years ago.
Al-marfadi is a born storyteller with an amazing aptitude for details. Unlike many detainees the project has interviewed, Al-marfadi provided a day-by-day description of his experiences, including comprehensive accounts of the torture and unspeakable treatment he suffered. Interviews with detainees generally last for two hours. His interview covered six-plus hours over two days. Al-marfadi told W2G that it was important for him to tell his complete story. He explained that his story was not only for history but also for the men still in Guantanamo.