In May this year the government of Bulgaria agreed to accept Abu Bilal as part of the resettlement initiative taken on by several European nations for those prisoners unable to return to their countries of origin for fear of further arbitrary detention and abuse. Like almost all of the other men there he was never charged, tried or convicted of any crime.
Instead, he remained in legal limbo for the best part of a decade after being handed over for a financial reward by unscrupulous bounty-seekers in Pakistan. Abu Bilal is a Syrian national of Kurdish origin and is from a very poor family.
His first month of freedom was spent in hospital recovering from the ailments and abuses of Guantanamo.
Although Abu Bilal is grateful for being released, the problems he faces in his new environment are manifold. In addition to not speaking the local language he has been housed in an area where there is almost no Muslim – or Arabic speaking community. This has only added to his isolation.
By the grace of Allah however, he was in communication with family members in Syria and a few weeks ago got married with their assistance – over the phone. Abu Bilal receives a minimal amount of financial support from the Bulgarian authorities but has nothing at all to help him start a new life with a family that, after all this time, he can finally do. His wife is due to join him after Ramadhan, in sha Allah.
Cageprisoners has been speaking with Abu Bilal who has requested support from all members of the community to assist with helping him start a new life. He said:
“I thank Allah for bringing my suffering to an end – after so many years of hardship and suffering. I can never forget those left behind and I support all your efforts in trying to work for their freedom. May Allah accept it from you in these blessed days of Ramadhan. I also ask that you remember those of us who have been released from Guantanamo and that once we’re freed there are still many hurdles to cross. Readjusting to a new life is one of them.”
In these last days of Ramadhan, when Muslims will be competing with one another in doing good deeds, many will choose to pay their zakah, give extra sadaqah and help those in need. Abu Bilal and others like him are often only faceless names and numbers forgotten by the world. In fact, to be forgotten one had to have been known and Abu Bilal, for the last eight years was only known by the prisoners in Guantanamo.
Cageprisoners director, Moazzam Begg, said:
“We, the former Guantanamo prisoners, are often contacted by people in Abu Bilal’s situation in order to help and, it is our honour to do so. But we cannot do this without the support of the community. People have responded to appeals for support of former Guantanamo prisoners very positively in the past. I pray that in these last nights of Ramadhan when we are searching for laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power), people’s generosity will be even more forthcoming in sha Allah.”
Help Abu Bilal build a new life by sending your donations via electronic transfer to:
ACCOUNT NAME: GUANTANAMO JUSTICE CENTRE
ACCOUNT NO: 20052499
SORT CODE: 601837
IBAN NUMBER: GB97NWBK60183720052499
BIC CODE: NWBKGB2L
or via Paypal by clicking here
(please ensure to use the reference 'Bulgaria')
Alternatively you can send a cheque made payable to 'Guantanamo Justice Centre' and post it to:
27 Old Gloucester Street
We are aiming to reach a target of £5,000 by 'Eid ul-fitr, in sha Allah. May Allah reward you with the best for your support.
"Whoever strives to relieve the distress of the widow, the distressed and the needy he is as the one who fasts continually during the day and prays during the night." Bukhari
Click here to read more about Abu Bilal.
Watch Binyam Mohamed (below) talking about the setting up of the Guantanamo Justice Centre for the welfare of former prisoners: