Monday, February 15, 2010


From the first time I laid eyes on Gamal, I knew he wasn't like any other prisoner. It was almost as if he had some sort of a fortress around him that protects him from other inmates. I wasn't a guard long enough to know the 'code' of prison, and that it's not a right thing to get close to a prisoner, but something about him made it hard for me to let him go unnoticed.
He was sentenced to death in two months, but if you look at him, he seemed like he could care less. He had that peaceful look on his face, and that shadow of a smile that makes you feel that everything is going to be just fine. He wasn't handsome, but his face had this gesture of nobility, that set him apart. Most of the time you'd find him wandering alone in the yard, or just sitting in his cell, as if he's waiting for something. Holding a book in his hands, and reading from it in a low, yet steady voice. I always wondered in myself about what he was reading, but never dared to ask. One of my colleagues once told me that he had the 'Gamalmania' before, a phase of fascination that everyone's been through at some point, having said that he had to remind me that he's a terrorist, and a man who hates everyone who opposed him and would kill me in any time given. After I left my colleague, I looked at Gamal from a distance, he looked back with that same smile, and then walked to where he usualy sits. It was almost hard for me to see him as someone who'd kill, but at the same time, I was trained to detached my feelings and any emotions I might have for someone in that prison, these were the orders and that was the law.
I was a fresh-meat at that time, easily impressed, and easily intimidated. I've seen many faces, and known many people during that time, but if you ask me why I only remember Gamal's distinctive face, I won't have a specific answer, all I can say is that, by time, I knew things that most people don't know, or don't bother to know about him, and the likes of him. Gamal was human, flesh and blood, he wasn't a monester, eating human remains and dinking blood at night. He was a human being, the thing that some people working here tend to over-look.
One day, as I was walking back to my office to finish some paper work concerning the new comers for the prison, I heard a low voice or someone, saying something in a steady and an unhesitant voice. The voice was coming from the office of the head officer of the prison. I stopped, turned back a couple of steps, and took a small peak inside. Now that I come to think about it, I know why Gamal's face stayed with me all these years, even when he's dead. It was that day when I saw him broken that changed everything. He was sitting there, his face coverd wih blood, his hands and body shivering, looking down with closed, wet eyes, and reciting something I could't understand. I stood there watching, not knowing what to think or what to do. His clothes were torn, and his leg was bloody. I was taken at first by the scene, but then I was even more shocked to see Gamal cyring, he always seemed like he didn't even know that word, it didn't belong to his dictionary. But as I looked further, it all came to me. I found the book he always held in his hands, thrown carelessly on the floor, and looked like it was stepped on by one of our 'boots'. I never knew what that book was, but the way Gamal always held it, reminded me of how a mother hold her little child, lest someone hurts him or take him away. As I was standing there, someone appraoched me from behind. I starlted, and looked back, it was the head officer.

"Did you need something?" he said to me with a little yellow-ish smile.
"No, sir. I just thought I heard something, so I went to check up and see what was up"
"Nothing interesting there. Just another one of the sheep. I had to go for a drink, to have the energy to continue"
"Yes, sir"
"It's all for the good of our country. It's all for the good of the world, you know"
I looked at him, remebering Gamal's face and said firmly "Yes, sir".
I couldn't sleep that night, I kept thinking about what I saw, and about our head officer. It was almost surreal, that the next day, I had to go to Gamal's cell first thing in the morning to see that I wasn't dreaming. He was sitting there, in the darkest corner of his cell,holding his ruined book near his chest, and leaning towards the wall. He was asleep, but the marks of the beating and the bruises were very those who wanna see. I reached for him, and gently woke him up. He opened his eyes in pain, and looked up at me with his brown eyes, and attempted to get up. I offered him my hand, he looked at me and had a shadow of a smile on his face.
"It's okay, I can get up" He said, as he leaned on the wall, and got up.
"Are you....okay?" I asked hesistatingly
"I'm fine..alhamdo lelah" I didn't understand these last words, but I assumed it was a word equivalent for 'I'm fine'.
He paused a minute then he looked back at me with a somewhat serious face.
"You were standing there...last night, at the door"
I looked at him in surprise, as I didn't even know he was conscience then. I didn't know what to say, which was strange, cuz I'm an officer, he has no power over me, and yet I'm afraid to say that I was there and saw it all and done nothing about it.
"What door?" I said
He looked at me for a few seconds...then the little smile on his face was back..
"I was probably seeing things...I'm sorry to bother you"
I looked at him, and went speechless. I put the plate, with the food on, and got out of the cell.
I spent the next few days, convincing myself that it was all 'for the good of the country' and 'the good of the world', I kept on repeating what my collegue once told me, about how Gamal is a terrorist, how he's held here to prevent any more killing, and how he'd kill me anytime given.
The picture of Gamal, sitting there on that chair, broken and shattered kept hunting me all the time since. I kept asking and wondering with myself, what more can they possibly want from someone who'd sentenced to death? What more are they hoping to achieve from someone who has nothing left to lose?. I sometimes dispised myself for feeling sorry for him, reasoning that by telling myself that he's a killer. A cold-blooded killer. These words were like pain-killers, they can ease the pain of the horifying picture in my head for a while, but sooner than later, it all comes hunting me all over again.
Gamal now had only two days to go. I went to his cell to get him his day's meal, when I found him sitting on his I bed, looking at the floor, and lost in his own world. Like a little kid, entering the study of his father, I knocked on the iron door, to notify him that I was there. He looked up at me, then looked down once again.

"I'll come again tomorrow to get you ready for the execution day, do you have any questions?"
"Don't I get a last meal or something?" he said in a jokingly
"Not" I said with a little smile, that I soon wiped away, as the head officer was heading towards us.

"What's going on here?" said the head officer
"I was serving him his meal...sir" I said, as I stood tight and looked straight ahead.
"I want him in my office, he can have his meal later" said the head officer, as he walked away.
I felt a small chill running down my neck, as they took Gamal to the head's office. As that picture came to my mind again, I felt the urge to stop them, and take him away from them, but then, I managed to convince myself...Gamal was a killer, he was a terrorist, and that him being locked away and tortured was for the good of the nation and the good of the world.
The next morning was the last morning Gamal had on the face of the earth. I went to his cell, got him his morning meal, and waited till he finished it, cuz then I had to shave his head, for he was getting the electric chair.

"You know, if you need a final special meal, I can manage to get you one..secretly" I said as I prepared the brazers for the shaving process.
"Thank you" he said with a warm smile.."I'm fine with what you get me" he said, while I thought about the little slices of dried bread, and the little cold soup, and wondered, which part of that was he 'fine' with. I went on shaving his head, while he was reciting in the same manner, the same things he always recited.

"What is it that you're always reciting?" I said, as I knew this was probably my last chance of knowing.
"It's Koran, Muslims' holy book...I recite verses from it, it keeps me peaceful"
"Are you...scared?" I said, hesistatingly
"From being executed you mean? no, not really" he said, then he paused a second then said in a steady voice,
"I'm being executed for believing in something, and standing up for it, and protecting it...I'll die with a smile on my face, cuz I know that I've done something to be proud of, something that might make God pleased with me...what more can a man ask for"
"You mean killing people? is that what will make your God proud" I said in a serious tone. As much as I liked Gamal's personality for some twisted reason, I couldn't stand him saying that killing people was something that should make him proud.
"So that is my crime? killing people" he said in a tone, as if he finally knew the answer to something he always wondered about.
"You're a threat to national security" I said, elaborating.
"Whose national secutiry" he asked in a sarcastic way.
"United States security" I said the first thing that came to my mind...."for starters" I added.
"Yeah, of course, The United States" he said in a low voice. And that was pretty much the last time me and Gamal spoke to each other.
Later on that night, the execution was carried on. As his guard, I was present during the whole process. As they sat him on the chair, they took away the book from his hands. It looked like as if they were taking a part of him with it. Then right before they place the black sack on his head, I can almost swear that I saw a shadow of a smile on his face, as he looked on at something, I didn't know what it was though.
Gamal died, and with his death there was a certain void left in my soul, and in the prison. Then it hit me...I never really knew what Gamal did for living, why he was really locked up for, and what did he really do. All I knew about him, was the information provided by my superiors. I couldn'd dare to ask for a clearance to see Gamal's file, or either I'd be questioning thier reasons in prisoning him. But after he died, I was finally allowed into Gamal's real world, before he got into prison.
As I sat down, reading his file, something snapped in me. A few tears ran from my eyes, and I sobbed. It was the first time for me to cry in a very long time. But reading that file, knowing Gamal and his 'crime' was something that will forever stay with me. In the file, it was written with a black, bold font:

"Gamal Abdel-Hameed Khan was found a threat to national security, due to his field-work as a journalist in Falooja. His reports were found utterly dangerous, and required drastic measures against his presence in Iraq. It's under the military laws, that we placed him in this prison in Guantanamo, untill further notice"
It was the first time for me to realize that Gamal never even been to American, the country he's accused of being a threat to. I stared at the papers for a long while, rememering Gamal's final words about standing up for what he believed in.
Ever since my eyes came across that file, I resigned from the prison post. I'm now considered a national securit threat myself, for I've been organising protest marches against the Guntanamo prison and it's violations to the international prisoners protocol. It's ironical how Gamal's death changed so many things in me. Everyday I visit the memorial I built for him after leaving the prison. The stone on his grave had a writing on it, that I chose, for I couldn't find any better words to describe him:

"Here lies a brave, honest man. Gamal Khan"



Post a Comment