Hisham Sliti arrived in Guantánamo Bay after being captured and sold for a bounty to Pakistani soldiers in December 2001. He was then handed over to the Americans in January 2002. Subjected to brutal torture for four months in Kandahar Afghanistan, he was moved to Guantánamo in May 2002.
Hisham grew up in Bir El Bey, on the outskirts of Tunis, with his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. His father was employed as an office worker in the Ministry of Agriculture. Hisham’s mother remembers him as a joker and bon vivant who loved to go out with his friends, play sports and keep fit. As a youth he was employed as a lifeguard and then trained as an electrician but like many young Tunisians found that he could not find work. He migrated to Italy where he worked on fishing boats but he developed rheumatism from the cold, damp manual labour. Unable to secure work, life was not working out for him in Europe. In 2000 he decided to travel to Afghanistan.
"It would be a chance for me to make a fresh start, a clean break. I thought I could study my religion, and hopefully I might be able to afford to get married and settle down. I emphatically did not go to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban or for anyone else."
In Afghanistan he instantly realized he'd made a mistake. "I hated life under the Taliban," he recalls. He found the culture as oppressive as the heat: he couldn't socialise, couldn't smoke cigarettes, and as an unmarried man, he couldn't even rent a house. He started trying to get back to Europe virtually as soon as he arrived, but he had little money. However, when Afghanistan began to disintegrate after September 11, Hisham felt he had to leave even if it meant walking the whole way. He paid an Afghan man $20 to take him over the mountains to Islamabad. Instead, he was taken with a group of four other Arabs to a house. The proprietor of that house sold Hisham and the rest of the group to Pakistani soldiers in December 2001. The Pakistanis, in turn, handed Hisham over to the Americans for $5,000. He was rendered to the US airbase at Kandahar, Afghanistan on 1 January 2002. Here he endured brutal torture. On 1 May 2002 he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
During Hisham’s time in Guantánamo, he has suffered appalling abuse. One interrogator, nicknamed “King Kong,” once picked up a mini-fridge and threw it at Hisham, striking him in the face. The resulting scars on the corner of his eye were later witnessed by Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith.
Hisham was held in isolation in Camp V for years. As with the rest of the prisoners, life in Guantánamo for Hisham has been incredibly harsh. In a statement he gave to lawyers, Hisham stated:
"I have been mistreated in ways that I am trying hard to forget since I was taken into U.S. custody... I will not detail my mistreatment here, but it suffices to say that it has frequently amounted to torture under any sane definition of that term."
This year Hisham begins his eleventh year of detention without charge. It is hard for him not to despair. The post-revolution Tunisian government is actively calling for his release. In Tunis, his family are waiting. His mother Maherzia says:
"Now we are old and we have been through a lot. All I want is to hug him and to have him home."