Samir Nasy Hajan Mukbel arrived in Guantanamo Bay in January 2002, on the first plane to deliver prisoners to the detention facility. He was arrested on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan after asking for consular assistance over a lost passport, held in prison for two months before being transferred to US custody.
Samir comes from a very poor family in Ta’iz, Yemen. His father Najy Hasan Mukbel worked in manufacturing for seven years, but had to retire early because of illness. He is now elderly and unable to support the family.
Samir is the eldest son of seven brothers and five sisters, and as the eldest son, is the family breadwinner. He was working in a factory in Yemen earning just $50 a month when he was approached by a friend with an proposition. In Afghanistan, his friend told him, there were more jobs and better salaries. In mid-2000, Samir travelled to Afghanistan with his friend.
Almost as soon as he arrived he found the promises of a better life were false. His impression of Afghanistan was that there were no jobs, and it was a very dangerous place. He believed that he had been tricked into going there. He did not have any money, so he stayed at his friend’s apartment and had to go to the mosque to eat. With no money to buy a ticket home, he was trapped.
But it got worse. His friend began suggesting to him that he joined the Taliban in their fight against the Northern Alliance. If he did, he would be given a house, a wife and money. But Samir had had enough of his “friend’s” promises, and had no intention of joining the Taliban. “I did not come to lose my life” he told his friend.
Soon afterwards, events on the other side of the world changed everything. After 9/11, the storm clouds were gathering over Afghanistan, and Samir wanted to leave.
In October 2001 after hearing gunfire and seeing military planes overhead, Samir realised that serious warfare was approaching. He told his friend that he intended to flee Afghanistan, at which point he vanished, taking Samir's passport with him.
Samir travelled to the border with Pakistan, and asked border guards for Yemeni consular assistance over the lost passport. Instead of helping him they put him in jail, and two months later he was transferred to US custody, where he was accused of being a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden. For Samir, it was the beginning of nightmare that continues to this day.
Held without trial or charge for eleven years, Samir is worried about his parents’ health, and wishes only to return to them and his family. He misses his siblings and his extended family, especially Mohammad Hassan, an uncle who lives in the same village, and his children, Naji and Abdullah. He would love to return, to marry and have children, and to be able to live in a house big enough for his parents, his siblings and his wife.
Mr Mukbel has not received any letters from his family for a very long time. He used to send letters through the ICRC, but does not believe that they were delivered, since he has not received a reply for some years. He stopped writing letters over two years ago because he was not receiving any replies, but he has recently resumed writing letters, in the hope that some might reach his family eventually.
Samir was betrayed by his friend, betrayed by Pakistani border guards who pretended to help him, and betrayed by a system of “justice” that has given him no chance to clear his name. He sits alone in his prison cell and waits for the day he is released, unable to do anything but count the days he has been incarcerated for a crime of which he is innocent.