A Letter from Omar Khadr in Guantánamo

Andy Worthington

July 27, 2010

The Washington Post has just made available a letter from Guantánamo (PDF), written by Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan in July 2002. The letter, to one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney, was written on May 26, and touches on aspects of Khadr’s impending trial by Military Commission — including his constant desire to fire his lawyers, which surfaced in recent pre-trial hearings, and which I discussed in two articles, Defiance in Isolation: The Last Stand of Omar Khadr and Omar Khadr Accepts US Military Lawyer for Forthcoming Trial by Military Commission.

The Washington Post described the letter as "providing a glimpse into the thinking of one of the most high-profile inmates there in advance of his August military commission trial on murder and war crimes charges," and, in a press release that accompanied the release of the letter, one of Khadr’s supporters explained that, in it, "we see both the boy and the man; the boy in his awkward phrasing and grammar — the man in his sophisticated assessment of his predicament and the role he appears destined to play in the Guantánamo Bay story."

What is also readily apparent is how Edney has come to be regarded by Khadr as a father figure, a substitute for his own father, killed in Pakistan in 2003, and, presumably, one of the very few people that Khadr has been able to trust during the long years of his incarceration. I think a measure of hard-heartedness can be gleaned from readers’ responses to Khadr’s description of himself as "Your truly son [sic]," and his encouragement to Edney to "Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life," if he were to fire Edney and not see him again.

The press release also stated, "Omar’s supporters would also like to announce their intent to embark on a renewed campaign of appeals to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and American President Barack Obama to re-establish the once solid international reputation of their countries as just enforcers of the rule of law. To do so, we hold that they must take immediate action to insure that Mr. Khadr receive a fair trial, either in an American federal court or in a Canadian court which recognizes his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

The letter is cross-posted below.

Omar Khadr’s letter from Guantánamo

Dear Dennis:

I’m writing to you because sometimes there are things you can’t say, but rather write on paper, and even if I were to tell you you won’t understand. So anyway here are the things:

First: About this whole MC thing we all don’t believe in and know it’s unfair and know Dennis that there must be somebody to sacrifice to really show the world the unfairness, and really it seems that it’s me. Know Dennis that I don’t want that, I want my freedom and life, but I really don’t see it coming from this way. Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. Dennis justice and freedom have a very high cost and value, and history is a good witness to it, not too far ago or far away how many people sacrificed for the civil right law to take affect. Dennis I hate being the head of the spear, but life has put me, and as life have put me in the past in hard position and still is, I just have to deal with it and hope for the best results.

Second: The thought of firing everybody as you know is always on my mind so if one day I stop coming or fire you please respect it and forget about me, I know it is hard for you. Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life. Of course I am not saying that will or willn’t happen but its on my mind all the time.

Dennis. I’m so sorry to cause you this pain, but consider it one of your sons hard decisions that you don’t like, but you have to deal with, and always know what you mean to me and know that I will always be the same person you’ve known me and will never change, and please don’t be sad and be hopeful and know that there is a very merciful and compassionate creator watching us and looking out for us and taking care of us all, you might not understand these thing, but know by experience they have kept me how and who I am.

With love and my best wishes to you, and the family, and everybody who loves me, and I love them back in Canada, and I leave you with HOPE and I am living on it, so take care.

Your truly son,

Omar

26 May 2010 at 11:37am

P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation

Link: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/07/27/a-letter-from-omar-khadr-in-uantanamo/

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