Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Pampering or Torturing of Prisoners? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I do not think that the authorities in charge of Camp Delta in Cuba, have succeeded even once in changing, reforming, winning over, or understanding the detainees that fill the prisons. There are prisons filled with terrorists and extremists in many countries of the world, similar to the famous detention camp. Some succeeded in handling it, and others failed. Perhaps the most apparent of the successful reformative programs is that which was carried out in Saudi Arabia, which was also a battlefield for the Al Qaeda organization and members of its extremist ideology. The confrontation led to the imprisonment of hundreds of the most extreme, violent, and dangerous people. What is interesting is that many of them became virtuous whilst in prison. Whilst detained, they would take part in ideological debates with expert religious scholars who succeeded in convincing them and changing their thinking, to the extent that some became anti-Al Qaeda. There is nothing that scares radical organizations more than the departure of members from their way of thinking to an opposing ideology as they are more aware than anyone of the group’s thinking and capabilities.

It is not odd that the Americans failed in Guantanamo. In the beginning, they repressed, isolated, and insulted the detainees. After the taming process failed, the Americans changed their method and took a friendly approach to win the detainees over. They started to provide the prisoners with toothbrushes, basketball courts, and allowed them to pray and to correspond with their families. The situation regarding the treatment of prisoners is similar in some twenty countries. The number of detainees, terrorists, and extremists increases everyday, with no sign of success in changing the stubborn and angry minds of detainees who wish to die at the first given opportunity.

Therefore, the Saudi experiment is significant on two levels. The first is confronting the trainee extremists, who may later join terrorist organizations or support their ideology. The campaign of Al-Sakinah, an expert religious group that promotes ideological debate either directly or through electronic forums, discusses the extremists and issues they consider the basis of conflict and the reason for their hostility toward society. The campaign has convinced many to abandon their extremist ideology and has spared the world of the danger of potential terrorists. The second level is debate with the real terrorists who are detained. One day they will be released, and society will be exposed to their danger once again. Experience tells us that many of them took part in the discussions as recommended and found an opportunity to debate with the government and were in fact, participating in a test of their knowledge of religion with those who are more knowledgeable. I do not imagine that the prison guards at Guantanamo are capable of even having an ideological debate let alone winning it. Therefore, the recreational basketball matches will prove to be as ineffective as the previous torture methods that were used. The only solution is that which was presented to America at the beginning, which is to hand over the detainees to their countries of origin as these countries themselves are all suffering from and fighting terrorism and extremism.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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