A Lonely Corona-life in Guantánamo Bay

It is lonely facing the Conoravirus here in Guantánamo Bay. I don’t mean that in any self-pitying sense, but I am desperate to be in the refugee camp with my family. People in Europe have everything while Afghanistaninfo-icon cannot protect people as they are fighting for their daily life. They have enough problems, without something else like this. The doctor here told me that Coronavirus will take millions of lives. So many of those lives will be in countries like Afghanistan with such limited healthinfo-icon care, people will not bring food to your house, the government is not going to assure you that you will get thousands of dollars a month.

This is a very real enemy, and many countries have not taken it seriously enough.  As for America, the guard force here (thousands of men and womeninfo-icon) need to be helping in other places, rather than wasting their time here.

This is now a global issue – Corona has just made its way to Guantánamo Bay, with the first soldier testing positive. We know it was probably late in the day when the soldier was identified, and nobody tells us whether he was part of the guard force who had already been into the cell blocks. There is some fear here as we cannot get away from guards. Saifullah Paracha, from Pakistaninfo-icon, is in his seventies and he has had two heart attacks already, so we worry particularly for him. Prisons are notorious for being places where viruses multiply much faster than in the outside worldinfo-icon. I was joking with the guards, telling them, “I am not going to shake your hand any more!” Of course, they never do shake my hand – just roughly manhandle me into shackles and handcuffs.

I have refused three doctor visits in the last week, as at least I can refuse that if they will give me no assurance that the doctors are free of infection. I have no idea if they have it, and I do not fear having it myself, but I don’t want to be the one who brings it into the block. I do not want to be the one who brings Saifullah a death sentence just because I want a medical visit for myself. I will take the risk I know – not having medical treatment – rather than take a risk that I do not know and cannot control.

I do not think it is going to go away very fast. I watch the news and as I write this there are more than half a million people who have it. If the US does not want to release me because they think they still have the right to hold me in prison, despite all these years when they have never thought to charge me with a crime or give me a trial, they should think about my family. I know I am innocent of any crime, but my family are all innocent in the eyes of the world. All I want is to be with my family to help them.

My wife had surgery recently and she is still in recuperation. She suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, which is another vulnerability to the virus. I don’t know if she gets supplements, I wish I could get them to her. I do not want her to go to hospital too much as that is where she will catch it. People have little knowledge and understanding where she lives, and they will be spreading it all around.

My daughter Mariam is still going to school – if I was there I would teach her at home. Schools are like other institutions – she cannot stay far away from the other students, so she is going to catch anything that is in the school. If Mariam gets sick the police will take her by force and they will put her in hospital for two or three weeks. She is a child and nobody would be allowed to see her.

My parents are over 60 years old and very weak because they have had disease for too much of their lives. My mother had a heart attack when I was detained. My father is diabetic. They have all the risk factors. I worry all the time for them.

It is very hard to sit here in my solitary cell, unable to do anything about it. I wish I could be put on trial – tomorrow – even if it was with no notice and no chance to prepare. I think I would be acquitted, but at least there would be certainty. If I was convicted of something - however false - at least then I would be someone who was falsely convicted. But if I am just to rot here, unable to do anything to help, and if one of my family dies, I have no idea what my response would be. I think the coronavirus is as much a mental disease as a physical one. People panic, worrying about someone they love dying.

I listened to a doctor from Kabulinfo-icon talking on Voice of America saying that people are afraid of the virus, but they are more afraid of the breakdown of societyinfo-icon. I read that in Britain people panic-bought toilet paper; that may be foolish, but it’s not dangerous. In America they went out and bought more guns. People will kill each other. Yesterday the Afghan government was asking for cooperation with the Talibaninfo-icon – I hope that the people will become more united as there is a common enemy to all humanity. The virus does not recognize borders, it targets everyone. But I have no assurance that my family will be okay.

In the end, if I am to help my family, President Trump surely needs to hear from President Ghani – how can you ask Afghanistan to release thousands of prisoners, if you will not release one? I do not think the public in America would have any problem with me being released from here to be with my family. The people will have compassion even if the government does not.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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Author’s brief introduction

 Asadullah Haroon Gul is the last Afghan No-Value-Detainee imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been held for over 12 years. He has never been charged with any crime and has never seen the inside of a court room.  Donald Trump refuses to return him back home in Jalalabad, Afghanistaninfo-icon.

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