The Return of Moazzam Begg

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Follow Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo prisoner, on his first visit to Pakistan since he was abducted from his house by American and Pakistani forces in 2002. Moazzam, a British Pakistani citizen, talks his first-hand account of incarceration in Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba, the world's most notorious prisons where he was held for three years without trial or charge. Moazzam’s controversial decision to revisit the scene of crime in Islamabad, made his family and friends worried, but he was determined to confront his past, present and future. After his release, Moazzam started to expose brutal behavior of the US government in Guantanamo and other detention facilities. He also brought to the fore the issues of the UK Muslim community as well as UK and US acts of terrorism.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam begg:When I realized Americans were present i knew that this is .. Something completely.. I never believed for one minute that I could be held in the way ... when i was handed over to the Americans ... only at this point did i begin to feel despair ... there is no way out of this - this was all a response to September the 11th and these people have gone crazy they've gone mad”

SOUNDBITE [English], various voices: “Many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American ... i believe that this was not an act of desperation rather an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us ... let no one be any doubt the rules of the game are changing ... to be involved in torture or conspiracy to torture - we do not torture and we do not render to countries that torture ... that there were cia ... even in a case where an enemy combatant might be acquitted the united states would be irresponsible not to continue to detain them until the ... the war on terror will be ongoing until the day that we ... a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the united states ... we will not falter and we will not fail.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Gareth Pierce, International human rights lawyer: “I’ve had calls from Moazzam before at airports or before or after he's been stopped since he came back from Guantanamo. i also had a call from his father within hours of Moazzam being kidnapped in Pakistan in 2001. Anything could happen. My advice would have been of course don't go, don't go to somewhere that was so dangerous for you before where the world has not changed and there's still danger. his family for the first months of his kidnap there took action in the courts in Pakistan - Habeous Corpis - and every single ministry put in an affidavit denying they knew anything about his having being captured - so what happened to him wasnt subject to any external inquiry or supervision. he just disappeared and if he did then he could do so again.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Sally Zaineb Begg, wife of Moazzam:” I was worried about him going back to where we, you know, initially left each other without saying goodbye. i was worried because i thought to myself, you know, all these bad things are going to go back into his head where you know, how they grabbed him in the house, how they made him kneel down and handcuffed him and put a gun to his head. I didn't see any of that but he told me about it and i just thought he's going to go back and he's going to remember all these horrible things that happened in that house.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam begg: “My father in particular arm he is not happy with the idea of me going. he thinks that it is unsafe. he thinks because of me, the personal character and the baggage that goes with being a former Guantanamo prisoner will make it unsafe.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Azmat Begg, Father of Moazzam: “I was very much fearful, worried about his safety. I was not very happy that he was going to Pakistan because of the simple reason that he was not treated right in Pakistan and i had all my fears that he might again get in to trouble.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Saghir Hussain, Human Rights Lawyer: “Moazzam is obviously a very chatty, very talkative person. I remember when he was about to land in Islamabad suddenly you could see Moazzam feeling the emotion of coming back to the place where he was kidnapped from. A place where he had actually called home, wanted to settle down as home once he had left Afghanistan. and it was particularly emotional for him as he told me because he had a non Pakistani wife who he had persuaded to settle down in Pakistan with him saying that the people of Pakistan are very generous, very hospitable. Then of course the experience that he went through. and it's all these thoughts, i think, that were going through his mind and also the longing and the plans that he originally had to settle down here with his family and how they were shattered by the actions of the Pakistani security services. along with that and just a general sort of reaction of coming back home really was i think a very, very interesting spectacle for me to watch.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam begg: “One of the thoughts that was going through my mind being in an airplane now descending into Islamabad airport as opposed to the one that i was on last time when i was in Islamabad was my first encounter with us soldiers. and that was on the plane that i was put on to the c130 military transport plane, put onto the floor of the plane with my legs shackled, my hands shackled behind my back, a hood placed over my head and a strap across them. I realized that there was a, somebody to the left of me. another prisoner of Libyan origin and at this point despite the flashes of the .. what were evidently American soldiers taking trophy pictures which i could still see despite the hood. an American soldier had heard me speaking to the person to my left and he came over and put a knife to my throat. the person to my left in fact had said to me 'brother it is time for prayer, the time for prayer has come. Shall we pray?' The American soldier said to me that 'if you speak again I’ll slit your throat'. at this point the person on the left to me said 'allahu Akbar' and he raised his hands in the traditional sort of way of prayer. and that's how we and i performed my first prayer in American custody.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Sally Zaineb Begg, wife of Moazzam: “ I always say to my husband before he leaves the house, I always make sure that he's happy with me and I’m happy with him and I always ask him to forgive me and he does the same because then maybe I’ll not see him again. It's what we always do when he goes anywhere and we ask each other to forgive each other, you know i just let him go and say don't forget to make dues for me and the kids and off he goes.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “In Pakistan now you can be disappeared and there is no law, and there is no one to complain to, and as a result of this Pakistan and its policy of accepting and allowing drone attacks up in the North West is no longer safe. The last time i was here i was with my wife and children and i didn't see them ever again for the next three years. And Pakistan was a place we could happily have lived had there been some honesty, some security, some justice.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Interviewer's voice: “Well there's lots of security now.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “Yes, a different sort of security now. it's quite bizarre to see Pakistan like this, to see soldiers everywhere, bomb blast barricades, to see clearly safety .. if they thought that they were protecting Pakistan with the policies that they used which handed people like me and others over, huh, what's happened now is that they are reaping the whirlwind. I’m sure this is the place where shopping… shaker and i used to come to”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Interviewer's voice:Are we getting near?”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “Yeh, we're getting very close .I remember this station. That's the mosque i used to pray. Yeh, that's where i had my Shalwakhameez made just down there.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Interviewer's voice: “Can you remember the house number”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “I can't remember, but I remember what it looks like. i remember exactly where it is. Yes I remember this park, definitely … the house is back there … that one there … it was next to an opening space. They parked one car they opened the gates; they drove in another car into there so no one would see me being taken out of the house. They closed the doors, took me off the ground and bundled me into the vehicle.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Interviewer's voice: “And how are you feeling now”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “Like the weather, feeling like the weather .I wonder if any of these people who live here know anything about what happened that day.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Sally Zaineb Begg, wife of Moazzam: “I saw a Pakistani man dressed in uniform with a kalashnikov in his hand and i thought they’re just raiding the house they'll just check the house out and then they'll let him go but it wasn't like that.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “You have to twist, twist it, open it, open, open the door. You can actually hear the squeak of the door. and it's actually the same color, i thought it was the place next door, but it's actually the same color as it was, it hasn't changed, the color hasn't changed. and this where i would open the door from and that was it they walked straight in, barged straight in and the gun goes straight to the head right here. it's unbelievable…the first red cross message that i wrote to my wife was to this address. I’d assumed that she'd stayed here. I’d hoped i would get released and still come back here. and one of the Pakistani agents, i told him to go to my house and to check if my wife was ok and i was very worried about her and .. he didn't go for a while and then two weeks later he said he went to the door knocked on it, nobody answered and then he realized there was a padlock on it and they'd left and gone.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Sally Zaineb Begg, wife of Moazzam: “That night I went straight away to Islamabad. I went to a school in Islamabad and I stayed there for two days and they kept moving me from one place to another to another. Eventually they sent me to Karachi and I stayed there for a whole month until i made arrangements for me to fly over to Muscat, Oman where my brother is, and i went there. and then from there i made my way to England. I think a month later, I realized that he's not going to come back. they told me that he's been handed over to the Americans. i was told that he'd been handed over to the Americans so i knew he wasn't going to come back.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “They lifted my hood in the vehicle and I saw these two Americans and I remember one clearly, he was wearing an afghan cap and he produced a pair of handcuffs and he said 'I was given these cuffs by one of the wives of one of the victims of 9/11 to go and capture the perpetrators' and I said 'well wouldn't she think that your an idiot for having caught the wrong person.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Gerry Conlon, Guildford four: “I have been very fortunate to come to know Moazzam Begg and regard him as a friend. a man who is out trying to help other people who are in a similar situation such as himself. Me and Moazzam recently spoke at a large meeting at a university in London and our cases are so similar. when Moazzam heard about the Alsatian dogs being put in the cell on leashes and then jumping and putting their paws on my chest and their saliva dripping from their mouths onto my chest. Moazzam was physically taken back by this … the treatment that we received we received at the hands of the British police, the British special branch and I’ve no doubt the secret services is reminiscent of what's happened to hundreds if not thousands of innocent people who've been caught up in this so-called war of terror, being abused, taken from their homes, flown to various parts of the world to be tortured. My case is exactly the same as the people who've been kidnapped in foreign countries and found themselves in a foreign prison in Guantanamo bay … the burning desire to help other individuals who've been in similar situations to himself, regardless of what they've may be thought of him.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “And so we learned about the birth of our own sons through this manner, through the cells, through the cages of Guantanamo through the whispers of soldiers who were not allowed to talk to us for fear of fraternization with the enemy. at least I, several years later was released and was able to be reunited with my son. i saw him.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “In a place where i saw people being stripped naked, being punched and kicked, being thrown into the toilet. i saw them rip the Qur’an and throw it into the place used for defecation and urination. i saw people being beaten to death while they were saying "allah, allah" .I saw some terrible abuses of human rights i heard the sounds of woman screaming they led me to believe was my wife being tortured next-door.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “When i met with the family of Aaafia Siddiqui i told her mother in particular that i had experienced being separated from my own children and i knew as a father what it was like to be separated from my children and that for her as a mother, even though I’d experienced it i felt i could not imagine what she was going through, because there's a particular relationship a mother has with her children and being a father is one thing but being a mother and separated from your children is an entirely different matter.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_24:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Moazzam Begg: “And for her to be separated in this way, to have no closure, to know that the detaining authority is in essence the same one, it's the same us government that held me and it's the same us government that is holding Aafia Siddiqui. I remember those screams i used to hear in bagram of a woman led to Aafia's case becoming, through the likes of imam khan and Yvonne ridley, through the likes of ordinary people, one that ignited a nation, my most prized possession in Guantanamo and out of Guantanamo has been my Qur’an. it was my companion during my years held there. I remember just recently my wife, she'd picked up the Qur’an - we've got many Qur’ans, it looks similar - and she put it somewhere and i was looking frantically for this Qur’an; where is it? i said 'please don't keep that out of my sight, or my awareness because that was my companion. you can't understand what that means to me … for me in Guantanamo everything's unfamiliar. People are unfamiliar, their language, their accents, the clothing, the food, the air, everything ... except for those words in the Qur’an. They’re the same words that I used to read as a child. And they are the same words whether it’s a Saudi published Qur’an in Guantanamo. That was the only thing familiar to me. When I was reading the verses that Aafia had underlined i was trying to figure out what was going through her mind when she did underline those particular verses and what that Qur’an must have meant to her then and indeed whatever Qur’an she has now must mean to her; it will be her only solace, i believe.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Gareth Pierce, International human rights lawyer: “He wasn't going back to visit a graveyard of experience. He was going back and finding he could get through it, things to be done, he could do things and it was all right. he sees his job to go into the future and try to sort things out and it's an extraordinary thing.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Gerry Conlon, Guildford four: “We have endured a nightmarish experience that no human being should ever be put through. and the people who have done this not only to Moazzam and myself but they're the people who are doing this to defenseless people around the world, they should be brought to justice and charged for crimes against humanity.”

   

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