Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Guantanamo or Guantanamera? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The suicide of three detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, represents a blow to the United States’ reputation worldwide. The father of one of the suicide victims wondered how the prisoners were able to take their own lives. Others are asking the same question, given the surveillance cameras located in each cell. These questions are justified. Moreover, if we were to ask an even bigger question: how does a religious person commit suicide?

In truth, we have not seen a country as focused at hurting its own reputation like the United States.

What is the difference between countries that Washington has attacked for detaining individuals without trial, and those detained in Guantanamo Bay? It is incomprehensible why the US continues to detain these men without a fair trial, while it can hand them over to their countries to be tried and release those who are innocent.

This is especially the case given that some of the detainees, once they have returned home or back to prison are seldom wrote about and are forgotten. This is the unfortunate truth. Most of the people defending them are either looking to play a role or seek to settle political scores with Washington D.C. Not only is America disregarding the law when it continues to detain them under illusory pretexts, it is harming its reputation.

Herein, I recall a visit to the Center for Islamic Studies, in Oxford, around a month ago, during which a Professor asked me, “When you hear the word Guantanamo … what immediately comes to your mind?” I answered, “The Camp!” The Professor agreed and replied, “Unfortunately, this is true. Let me tell you a situation that I was involved in, in the 1960s, in Cuba.”

“I was on a visit to Cuba … we reached the shore of one of the beautiful islands. My companion on the trip asked me, do you know this island? I said no, I don’t know it or its name! This is Guantanamo, he said. One of the greatest Cuban poets and a symbol of independence wrote the poem “Guantanamera” about it, a poem about love and freedom. I told him, “I know it… it is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard!” The Professor then described to me how he feels saddened because the prison’s name now obscures that of the poem!

Later, I researched the poem and discovered that it has been translated into several languages and been sung in several countries by many famous artists. “Guantanamera” is a poem written by Cuba’s national hero, the poet Jose Marti, who died in 1895 and was nicknamed the apostle of Cuban independence. He also wrote the famous play, “Love is Repaid with Love.” A statue of Jose Marti on horseback adorns New York City’s Central Park.

After reading the poem and discovering its worldwide fame, I found myself wondering, what does Washington D.C want to be linked with, Guantanamo Bay, the ill-reputed detention center, or Guantanamera, the poem about love and freedom?