Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Life After Guantanamo | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Many have argued that returnees from Guantanamo would not be able to resume their normal daily lives upon returning home, especially in light of the state of despair that they experienced as a result of their detention at the US facility for long periods of time.

Their cases knew no legal terms; and assumed a political nature, making their return back home only possible by way of diplomatic efforts. This was the reason behind the sense of uncertainty and despair prevalent among the hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo.

This grim situation caused some to attempt suicide, having lost hope of getting out of the detention facility. However; upon their return, the Saudi Interior Ministry had prepared a series rehabilitation programs designed to raise their spirits and reintegrate them back into society.

Mishal al Harbi was received in Riyadh as part of the first groups of detainees to return home after he sustained a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair.

The US detention facility has witnessed numerous suicide attempts. Psychological experts maintain that suicide attempts reflect the state of absolute despair of life. Mishal al Harbi, who until recently had been receiving treatment at a hospital in Medina, has managed to overcome his feelings of despair and will be getting married to a Saudi women.

The impending marriage was blessed by officials at the Interior Ministry. However, before al Harbi could marry, he had to complete a number of rehabilitation programs, which the Interior Ministry carries out with all Guantanamo returnees.

But the situation with Mishal, who celebrated his wedding last month, had required more time by reason of the incapacity he suffered while inside the US detention facility.

In Medina, al Harbi lives with his large family, and his wife, whom he sees as the most beautiful thing in his life. He leads a quiet and normal life in the al Duwaymah neighborhood, which is one of the oldest districts in the city.

Assisted by some of his brothers, al Harbi entered into the reception area of his home in his wheelchair and spoke at length about his future plans.

Today, al Harbi aspires to raise a family and become a productive member of society. His chief worry is to find a job that could make him self-reliant. Al Harbi, who left school at the intermediate stage, wishes to establish a small business venture that could provide a fixed income for him and his immediate family.

The Saudi Interior Ministry pays Mishal 3,000 Saudi Arabian Riyals (SAR) [the equivalent of approximately US $800] a month as a means of assistance until he fully recovers. Al Harbi has started to consider assuming his responsibilities towards his immediate and extended family.

He said: “I have to provide a means of livelihood on my own. Although the Interior Ministry is helping me, it will certainly not continue to do so.”

Mishal al Harbi is extremely happy today following his marriage. He is highly appreciative of the trust his family and wife have placed in him. The Saudi Interior Ministry is making clear efforts to allow the returnees from Guantanamo to resume their previous jobs. The Ministry has succeeded in this endeavor on various occasions.

Furthermore, the ministry has not witnessed any negative signals from the citizens returning from the detention facility and whom it has recently released after completing the rehabilitation programs that seek to restore their psychological, social and religious wellbeing and reintegrate them back into society.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry is placing 23 former Guantanamo detainees through a rehabilitation program before granting them their final release. Interior Ministry officials have adopted a new method in dealing with former detainees whom they have finished investigating, which is to provide them with the opportunity to live outside the prison. It also provides schooling and involves them in different social programs.

The Interior Ministry’s philosophy in dealing with the Guantanamo returnees depends on several chief factors, the most important of which is reforming them intellectually. This is handled by a number of religious specialists who apply a program that is especially prepared for this purpose. Facts show that a portion of those who returned from the Guantanamo facility were not involved in armed movements in areas of conflict.

No charges had been leveled against them in this regard. Approximately 23 Saudi returnees from Guantanamo are awaiting release orders following the Saudi authorities’ completion of the necessary investigations. Moreover, the religious judiciary is expected to examine their cases.

This aforementioned group is still undergoing a number of rehabilitation programs with the ultimate aim of gradually reintegrating them back into society as part of the care program, which is supported by the Assistant Minister for Security Affairs,

HRH Prince Mohammad Bin Naif.

The Interior Ministry is in the process of placing the final touches on the programs for the last two groups that arrived from Guantanamo through teaching classes and sports, including religious, psychological, and training programs. They have been moved to places designed for this task and are furthermore supervised by a number of specialists in the relevant fields.

The Interior Ministry has allowed Asharq Al-Awsat, as the first Arab newspaper, access to these sites and the opportunity to meet with the detainees there. Officials at these locations, where there is no tight security, have separated the detainees from those last two groups from one another. One of the locations has 16 detainees, while the other has seven.

The majority of detainees in both groups appeared to enjoy high morale after the Saudi Interior Ministry placed its trust in them, however this did not lack a cautious attitude to accompany that trust.

The release of the detainees present in these locations depends on a number of tests that they must pass to secure their final release. Officials at the Interior Ministry focus their attention on the fact that a detained person there must pass the mental test first before he is released. According to specific timetables, detainees receive religious lessons to educate them about the true meaning of jihad in Islam and the regulations set by the Shariaa regarding this matter, while explaining the misconceptions about jihad.

Detainees at these places are allowed to play a range of sports, and the facilities are moreover equipped with volleyball and football fields, in addition to a swimming pool.

According to the detainees there, the officials supervising over them do not hesitate to meet any of their demands, which include clothes and special meals to break their daily routine. The detainees are also allowed to watch satellite television channels throughout the day, and they receive newspapers on a daily basis to remain updated with the latest local developments.

The Saudi Interior Ministry had previously allowed groups of detainees to go out and visit their families at their homes in accordance with a timetable that is equally divided among the detainees. They are also allowed to use telephones at any time, and may take part in attending celebrations or offering condolences regardless of their cases or status.