Younous Abdurrahman Chekkouri has been held in Guantanamo Bay since 2002, when he was transferred to the prison after 5 months spent in jail in Kandahar. He was arrested in Pakistan, and transferred to US custody soon afterwards. He has never been charged with a crime or given a chance to clear his name.
Younous was born in 1968 in Safi, a seaside town in Morocco. Poverty plagued his family of fourteen. Younous’ boyhood dream was to study one day at a European university, and to return to Morocco to build a better life for his brothers and sisters.
Cost, however, put the grandes écoles out of Younous’ reach. So when a well-known charity, Jama’at Tabligh, told him of the affordable education available in Pakistan, Younous decided to take a chance. He left Morocco to study in Pakistan in 1990, along with his older brother, his sister, and her husband.
All went well at first. The family lived together in Peshawar; Younous studied, while his brother-in-law supported the family by working for a Saudi charity called the Humanitarian Committee.
But then disaster struck. His brother-in-law died in 1991, leaving Younous responsible for the family’s well-being. They struggled to make ends meet and his brother and sister eventually returned to the family in Morocco. Younous stayed on, hoping to finish his studies before rejoining them at home.
But before he could return, Younous’ family suffered a double tragedy that changed the course of his life. His brother was arrested and tortured in Morocco; and shortly thereafter, in 1993, both of Younus’ parents passed away.
Younous wanted to return to the country at this time, but the remainder of the family advised him not to as they worried it would bring further official harassment down upon their heads.
It wasn’t that Younous had been engaged in any suspicious activities—he had registered with the Moroccan Embassy in Pakistan, and had officially registered through the Embassy at the University.
But every Moroccan who had spent time in Pakistan was targeted by the Moroccan regime when they returned: often facing arrest, interrogation and abuse. So Younus decided to cut ties to Morocco and build his life in Pakistan.
In 1994, he enrolled at the Islamic University in Islamabad, but continued to struggle financially. He went for a brief period to Yemen, where he had heard the education was even cheaper, and then to Syria. He still failed to find satisfying work, and in June 2001, he travelled to Afghanistan, hoping to assist the charity work that was taking place at the time.
He lived and worked on the outskirts of Kabul, for a charity that helped local Moroccan youth.
After September 11, he tried to flee Afghanistan via Jalalabad. He sent his wife ahead of him to Pakistan, intending to rejoin her on the other side of the border. However, he made it there only to discover that people of Arabic descent were being rounded up and arrested en masse. Like hundreds of men at the time, Younous was sent to a Pakistani jail and eventually handed over to the Americans.
He spent five months in detention in Kandahar, and was then sent to Guantánamo where he has been ever since. He is accused of membership of a Morroccan terrorist group fighting in Afghanistan, a charge he flatly denies.
Despite his continued detention, Younous has consistently been one of the most cooperative, peaceful prisoners at the base; he says he bears Americans no ill-will. His greatest wish is to be reunited with his wife and continue with the quiet life that was interrupted by America's "war on terror".