So reads the jaw-dropping headline in today's Sunday Telegraph (London). It tells the story of Mohammed Ismail Agha, 15, an Afghan boy who spent 14 months in detention as a terrorist suspect at the Guantánamo Bay base. In the first interview with one of the three juveniles held there, Mohammed spoke to a reporter in southern Afghanistan, close to his home village:
They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons. … At first I was unhappy … For two or three days [after I arrived in Cuba] I was confused but later the Americans were so nice to me. They gave me good food with fruit and water for ablutions and prayer.
The American soldiers taught him and the two other underage captives to write and speak a little English and supplied them with books in their native Pashto language. As the three boys departed the base, U.S. soldiers gave them a send-off dinner. "They even took photographs of us all together before we left," Agha said.
As the Sunday Telegraph notes, these words of praise echo those of Faiz Mohammed, an elderly Afghan farmer released in October 2002 after spending eight months at Guantánamo: "They treated us well. We had enough food. I didn't mind [being detained] because they took my old clothes and gave me new clothes."
These testimonies need to be remembered at a time when so-called human rights agencies insist that the U.S. detention of prisoners in Guantánamo is immoral, contravenes international law, and so on. (February 8, 2004)
Mar. 6, 2006 update: In an article titled "Some Gitmo Prisoners Don't Want to Go Home," Ben Fox of the Associated Press reports on transcripts of hearings at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba that that some prisoners from China, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and Algeria fear returning to their countries of origin, worried that they or their families could be tortured or killed. Inmates fear reprisals from governments or from Islamists who suspect them of cooperating with U.S. authorities. A Syrian explained: "If we return, whether we did something or not, there's no such things as human rights. We will be killed immediately."
July 10, 2010 update: "Six detainees would rather stay at Guantanamo Bay than be returned to Algeria" reports Peter Finn of the Washington Post. He explains:
The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don't want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.
"These men would rather stay in Guantanamo for the rest of their lives than go to Algeria. That speaks volumes," said David Remes, an attorney for detainee Ahmed Belbacha, who was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by an Algerian court last year for alleged association with an illegal armed group. "They are terrified to go, but this administration is willing to march them off a cliff."