[Pnews] Omar Khadr - Guantanamo's child: The boy I witnessed becoming a man

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 9 12:16:41 EDT 2015

  Omar Khadr: The boy I witnessed becoming a man

    Omar Khadr is still not completely free.

09 Jun 2015

  Moazzam Begg
  is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and spokesman for Cageprisoners.

The release of Omar Khadr after 13 years of imprisonment has sparked 
huge interest in the case of the man known as "Guantanamo's child". 
Although I too was in Guantanamo, I never met him there. I only met a 
boy in Bagram whose severely wounded face, body, and mind had to endure 
the vengeance of a post 9/11 US military machine. Fifteen years ago, in 
the summer of 2002, that is the state in which I first encountered Omar 

I'd been detained by Pakistani Intelligence Services (ISI) in Islamabad, 
Pakistan, and questioned by the CIA before being flown off to the US 
military prison at Bagram airbase which was far more oppressive than 

Prisoners were dispersed between six communal cells housing around 10-12 
each. The entrance to each cell had two caged metal doors - the 
"airlock" or "sally port" where prisoners were isolated - mostly for 
shackling purposes but also for seclusion from other prisoners, and 

There were no windows, no natural light - just powerful floodlights 
shining down on us day and night. At the back of each cell an oil barrel 
cut in half served as a toilet.

*Whispered conversations*

The rules prohibited prisoners from talking to one another but most 
managed whispered conversations. Being one of a handful of 
English-speaking prisoners I often had conversations with the guards, 
one of which told me about a heavily wounded teenager they'd captured, 
who was accused of throwing grenades at unsuspecting US soldiers.

When Omar was brought to the cells next to me, it was clear that he was 
a young emaciated boy (he'd just turned 15) with shocking wounds all 
over his body. He was blind in one of his eyes and had deep exit wounds 
in his shoulder and chest. The stitching across the wounds reminded me 
of a corpse after autopsy.

At night, soldiers would isolate Omar in the airlock and scream at him 
calling him a murderer, a terrorist scumbag who deserved to die. But 
Omar was tranquil and never complained.

Walking, talking, congregational prayer or reading the Quran aloud was 
an infraction of the rules. To punish us we'd be isolated in the "sally 
port", our heads hooded and our hands shackled to the top of the door 
for hours. This was hard enough for us able-bodied men but when it 
happened to Omar it broke our hearts.

But again, Omar was tranquil and never complained despite his horrific 
wounds. In fact, when he recited the Quran in his soft, gentle voice he 
appeared more serene.

Eventually Omar and I were moved to the same cell and we spent some time 
having muted conversations. A handful of soldiers, like Damien Corsetti 
"the Monster" 
<http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/omarkhadr/2010/05/05/interrogator_nicknamed_the_monster_remembers_omar_khadr_as_a_child.html> - despite 
being accused of prisoner abuse - recognised Omar's mistreatment and 
afforded him some humane conduct.

*'Buckshot Bob'*

The guards dubbed Omar "Buckshot Bob" alluding to the primary cause of 
his injuries. The soldiers who captured Omar had shot him in the back 
with a shotgun - at point-blank range - even as he lay wounded in the 
rubble of the mud straw compound pulverised by US military bombardment 
where he was captured. Astonishingly, Omar survived. He was the only one.

Omar only stayed in Bagram for a few months and was sent to Guantanamo 
before me. I never saw him again but his story was always close by. 
After my release, I met with many of his civil and military attorneys 
and spoke to his family. He was the last citizen of a Western nation to 
be released.

We were all freed before him. His repatriation to Canada only came as a 
result of pleading guilty to "war crimes". Whatever he may have done, he 
certainly did not throw grenades at unsuspecting aid working soldiers.

Most of the prisoners who pleaded guilty in Guantanamo's kangaroo 
court-style military commissions process have gone home. That was Omar's 
ticket to repatriation where he could appeal the sentence and seek his 

*No bitterness*

However, following his release Omar has challenged his Guantanamo guilty 
plea and maintains that there is serious doubt as to whether it was even 
possible that he could have thrown the grenade that killed the US 
Special Forces operative, with subsequent eyewitness testimony, from 
soldiers, supporting the suggestion that someone else threw the grenade.

Omar's words following his release on bail have overawed his supporters 
and silenced his critics. He neither complains nor is he bitter.

Omar Khadr is still not completely free: He has to remain at one 
address, wear an electronic tag, refrain from using a mobile phone or 
the internet and, crucially, is unable to see his family over 3,200km 
away, until he wins his appeal.

In Dennis Edney, he has more than just a lawyer; he has a committed 
friend who genuinely cares about him. But, like some of us, in the 
middle of the night, when all is quiet, Omar will crawl under his bed 
and cry, just as he did when his youthful wounded eyes watered the cells 
of Guantanamo and Bagram.

/*Moazzam Begg is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and spokesman for 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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