I don’t know the Arabic for it. But in English Mohammad Bwazir’s response to discovering he was leaving the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay after 14 years in captivity was “Nothing doing. I’m staying put.”
Bwazir, a Yemeni prisoner, was one of three detainees told recently by the Pentagon that they were being transferred to the Balkans. While the other two men shipped out Thursday, Bwazir declined to leave the facility, preferring the comfort of his cell instead.
The 35-year-old Bwazir essentially refused release because he didn’t want to be sent to a part of the world where he has no family. Nevertheless, if Gitmo Bay were the hellhole Barack Obama has talked it up to be, why would a prisoner elect to remain there?
Obama has made clear that one of the goals he hopes to achieve in his last year in office is to close the prison, as he pledged to do by the end of his first year, insisting repeatedly that it is a recruitment tool for terrorists. But Congress has blocked his efforts, and even the Pentagon has pushed back on Obama’s Gitmo priorities.
The name of country in the Balkans Bwazir was supposed to go has not been released, but his lawyer, John Chandler, said it’s a country “I’d go to in a heartbeat,” adding: “He’s been in Guantánamo so long that he was terrified about going to a country other than one where he had family.” Despite trying to encourage Bwazir for months, Chandler was unable to persuade the detainee to leave the facility.
Bwazir, who is known for hunger strikes, did not want to go to the Balkans, but also understood that he couldn’t just head to war-torn Yemen. Instead, Bwazir requested the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia or Indonesia.
The State Department did not release the name of the country Bwazir could have gone to, either, owing to “sensitive diplomatic discussions.” Still, Ian Moss, chief of staff to the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, told The Miami Herald that Bwazir is still approved for transfer.
Moss did not provide a timeline for Bwazir’s expected transfer.
The White House has recently sped up the pace of transfers from the facility to catch up with the list of 17 detainees approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December. Two detainee transfers this week brings the total prison population down to 91. There are no more detainees currently on the “approved and pending” list. To empty the prison, the White House has said that it is working on a plan to present to Congress on how exactly hardened detainees would be sent to the U.S. for indefinite detention. The detainees would be classified as military prisoners.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.