A father of four, Mr. Dhiab was cleared for release by the Obama Administration in 2009; but he remains in Guantánamo after more than a decade without charge or trial. Today, Mr. Dhiab’s release from Guantánamo has become even more elusive due to ongoing civil war in Syria, which has taken an estimated 20,000 lives, and makes his return there impossible.
Mr. Dhiab was born in Lebanon but when he was about 8 years-old, the family moved from Lebanon to Syria. Mr. Dhiab completed mandatory military service, working as an ambulance driver. He then went on to establish a business selling clothes and housewares. After getting married, however, he found great difficulty making ends meet. So, in June 2000, together with his pregnant wife and their children, Mr. Dhiab moved to Pakistan. He hoped to make a fresh start, but found anti-Arab sentiment to be much higher than expected. The family decided to move to Kabul, where Syrian friends helped them get established. Mr. Dhiab opened a food import business, mainly selling honey. The family settled into their new life.
In late August 2001, Mr. Dhiab traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan to receive treatment for back pain. His wife and now three children were at home in Afghanistan. Then the tragic events of September 11 took place and it rapidly became apparent that the United States blamed Afghanistan for the attacks. Mr. Dhiab rushed back to his family and they all escaped Afghanistan as it descended into war, crossing into Pakistan. The family soon found a place to live in Lahore.
A few months later, however, on April 1, 2002, Pakistani police arrested Mr. Dhiab. No reason was given for the arrest, but it was likely in response to large bounties being offered by the United States for so-called terrorism suspects. At that time, the US offered enormous bounties for any Arabs found in Pakistan, and former Pakistani President Musharraf boasts in his autobiography about the “millions of dollars” he and his security services earned by selling foreigners to the American military. The Pakistanis did not charge Mr. Dhiab with a crime, but rather turned him over to the United States. Mr. Dhiab was flown to a US prison in Afghanistan, and then on to Guantánamo Bay. He has been there ever since.
Mr. Dhiab’s health has deteriorated significantly over his more than ten years in Guantánamo. As a result of the conditions and treatment in custody, he is currently confined to a wheelchair. He is profoundly depressed. Despite being cleared for release for more than three years, he remains trapped in Guantanamo simply because he has the misfortune to come from a country wracked by civil war. He urgently needs a country to step forward and offer him resettlement so that he can begin his life with his family again, in safety and in peace.