By the time I started writing this book, I was no stranger to sitting alone with my thoughts … I had spent countless hours doing just that in my cell in Guantánamo.
What I didn’t know during my six years of incarceration was that I wasn’t alone; my employers, Al Jazeera, were bringing up my name and my trial on a daily basis. They broadcast a message that resonated around the world: Release Sami Alhaj.” My name scrolled across the channel’s TV news ticker, engaging viewers with my plight.
I am truly grateful to, and proud of, this organisation, which treated me like a son throughout my trial and brought my case to the world’s attention. They spurred on institutions and NGOs working on human rights issues in all four corners of the earth. They turned news coverage into an international onslaught.
There are some I would like to thank by name. First and foremost is my wife, Umm Mohammad, who worked tirelessly for my release and always believed I would return to my family.
At Al Jazeera, I would like to thank Wadah Khanfar, former director general of the organisation, who was waiting for me when I arrived in Khartoum airport after my release, having cancelled all commitments to be there. I’d like to thank Dr Fawzi O Sediq who coordinated with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other civil society organisations. In Sudan, Dr Hassan Saeed al-Mujammar from the Civil Aid Organisation was tireless in his support and advocacy.
The International Office of Humanitarian and Charitable Organisations (IOHCO) in France also advocated on my behalf, Dr Haytham and Anna, who visited Guantánamo herself and made sure the administration there pulled my file back out of oblivion. Alkarama, a human rights organisation in Switzerland, also advocated on my behalf, particularly Dr Rachid Mesli, the legal director. In Kuwait, Dr Adel Jassim al-Damakhi, head of the Kuwaiti Association for the Basic Elements of Human Rights at the time, campaigned on my behalf. Thanks are also due to Khalid al-Anasi, executive director for the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) in Yemen, and Asim Qureshi, head of CAGE in London.
I also want to thank Al Jazeera’s lawyers, the Sudanese Lawyers Union and the human rights NGOs who worked tirelessly to free me. Also, I’d like to thank those who massed in a silent rally in front of the American embassy in Khartoum for believing in me and my innocence. To the Sudanese activists, parliamentarians, organisations, the Worldwide Body for Development in the South, the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development, the Sudanese Observatory for Human Rights, the Hope Centre, and the Development Initiatives for Women and Children organisation, to all of you, thank you.
Everyone who stood by my side buoyed my faith in humanity and justice, and in the work I was doing as a journalist, work I had always been reverent of. I am indebted to all who worked on my behalf and believed in the justice of my cause.
With every beat of my heart, streams of gratitude flow towards Al Jazeera, who remained a compassionate and persistently approachable father. My gratitude extends to the organisations that took up the work of the mother, and to all who worked on my behalf around the world and have become my brothers and sisters.
To you all, I dedicate my memoirs, an attempt to put down in words what I went through during six years in the world’s most inhumane prison camp. Taken without cause and held with no justification, I remained there, bewildered and in agony until my jailers saw fit to release me. Forgive my jumble of memories, thoughts and emotions as I tried to unburden myself to you and describe the depths of depravity and humiliation in which we were mired.
Through the telling of this story, I have gained insight, peace and strength, releasing the turbulence in my soul as the words poured out on paper. Now, I am at peace, stronger than I was before, more tolerant, more a friend and companion in the silence of this gentle Arabian night in the city that I love: Doha.