GUANTÁNAMO BAY – I write this from the United States Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay, where I have been held without charge for almost seven years.
My detention here is the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. More than two years ago, I was notified that I was cleared for release. I would have been happy about this news if I did not come from Uzbekistan, a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. It is not safe for me to go home.
My journey to Guantánamo began in December 1998, after I finished my mandatory service in the Uzbek army. Uzbekistan, a former Soviet Republic, is a poor country without many employment opportunities. After several months of job hunting, I joined my brother in a business venture buying and selling apples, honey, and other goods in neighboring Tajikistan. I lived in a community of Uzbeks, and met my wife, Fatima, another Uzbek, while living there. We had a child, and my mother came from Uzbekistan to join us.
Unfortunately, there were some in Tajikistan who didn’t like having a bunch of Uzbeks living in their country. So, one day, in November 1999, the Tajik authorities rounded up 200-300 Uzbeks and said they were taking us back to Uzbekistan. Instead, they dumped us in Afghanistan. There, we met a group of Afghan Uzbeks who helped us to settle in Mazar-i-Sharif. I began working as a traveling salesman, selling goat’s milk, hens, roosters, and sheep.