Picking up the pieces

Sandeep Singh Grewal

Bahrain Tribune

Every time I opened my eyes, I used to curse myself that I was still alive. Every suicide attempt was a disaster and my only desire was to die… Even when freedom was in the air, I chose death. Yet, as fate would have it, I survived again…

Life as much as it is beautiful can be very ugly too. It is a cruel world out there on the dark side of life.

Six years in Guantanamo Bay can turn life upside down leaving a deep scar at the root of one’s life and beliefs. The past is a blur and the present a painful reminder of the past.

Juma Mohammed Abdul Latif Al Dossary breaks his silence, as he exclusively speaks to the Bahrain Tribune.

“I am learning to forget my past and adjust to this new world where I have my family rather than my fellow detainees,” Al Dossary said over the phone from his home in Damam.

He was recently released from Al Hair prison in Saudi Arabia after receiving rehabilitation and is now busy receiving relatives and well wishers in his majlis.

He said he is being instructed by the Saudi authorities not to speak about the tortures he suffered in the hands of the US authorities. But that does not stop Al Dossary from narrating his heart-wrenching experience with us . Fifteen flirtations with death as repeatedly tried to end his life in Camp Delta. All in vain!

“When a person is desperate, he does desperate things. I wanted freedom at any cost and ending my life was the best option. I have committed suicide fifteen times but kept surviving.”

In fact, ten days before his release in the month of July, he slit his wrists and damaged the main artery linked to the heart. “And once again I survived. The US State department underplayed the incident. In fact it never came to light until today,” he says nonchalantly.

Al Dossary said that he has lost count of the blood transfusions he had at the Camp Delta because of his ‘determination to end his life’. “I do not remember how many visits I have had to the medical facility for transfusions in the camp. My body has been my partner in pain and has suffered equally with me,” he says without any fear.

“After the hunger strike for our release, I lost 20 kgs. I had surgeries done on my stomach, developed eye problems. The hospital became a second home for me,” he said.

Rumour mills worked overtime speculating that Juma had contracted AIDS due to the repeated blood transfusions. “The rumor was started by a lawyer from Saudi Arabia who said that I have AIDS. I had lost lot of blood and was anemic which required blood transfusions.”

“I went through a complete health check up two days and reports said that I had no disease,” he said.

In the midst of all the physical and emotional turmoil, Al Dossary was informed of the disturbing news about his father’s death due to terminal cancer. “A committee of cultural advisers and doctors broke the news a week after they got to know about it on the Internet.”

“My life was no longer important to me and I never missed a chance to end my life since then.” Juma sent his family letters during this period stating that ‘death was his greatest hope’.

As the conversation continues, Juma traces his route to Guantanamo Bay. He says he was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 while he was returning from Afghanistan. “I was arrested in December and kept in detention for two days in Pakistan. Then they shifted me to Kandhahar camp run by Americans for two weeks. They made all the detainees forcefully sign papers, which we could not read. The journey ended in Guantanamo Bay.”

This was also the first time Juma who holds dual citizenship of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia met with former Bahraini detainee, Isa Al Murbati. “He was in Camp X-ray at that time and I used to meet him quite often. I spoke with him after the release and am happy that both of us are no more prisoners of the cruel past,” he said.

So when will you visit Bahrain?

“I do not think that at this moment there is any restrictions on my travel to Bahrain. I would like to thank His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince of Bahrain for their efforts for our release.

“But the one person from Bahrain who fought for our freedom till the end was Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He appointed a lawyer- Joshua Colangelo Bryan for us and took our case to international level. I am thankful to him along with Deputies- Adel Al Muawada and Shaikh Mohammed Khalid,”

Juma is slowly suturing his wounded life to lead a normal life with his dear ones.

From the shackles at the Camp Delta, Juma said that he is all set to enter wedlock. “I used to hate life but now I want to live and settle down. My family has started looking for an alliance. The Saudi government is taking good care of us and has given me a car and 10,000 riyals as financial assistance.”

“I want to take care of my ailing mother. I have to start my father’s construction business again and continue with my studies. I am a new person with responsibilities,” he says in his American accent.

Guantanamo Bay is over. And so is his gruesome past. For today there is a new lease of life and the optimism and certainty of tomorrow.