Premiering this Thursdayon Al Jazeera, Growing Up Guantanamo is the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Asadullah Rahman, who spent 17 months detained in Guantanamo Bay as a terrorist when he was just ten years old. He was the youngest to have ever served time there.
In 2004, Sonia Verma was the first journalist to find Asadullah, travelling to his remote mountain village to interview him.
“I remember that day so clearly,” says Sonia. “He spoke in perfect English, described everything that had happened to him over the past few years. I was shocked that such a young boy had been to Guantanamo Bay,but even more surprising was that it had been, in some ways, a positive experience. In Guantanamo, he’d been taught English, math, chess. He was the only person in his village to know about dinosaurs, that the world was round. He wanted to become a doctor one day; he wanted to go to America.”
Ten years later, Sonia returns to Afghanistan to find the 22-year-old Asadullah. This is no simple task. As her friend Graeme Smith put it, “You only had a name. A first name, which is like looking for a guy called John in New York City.”
The two other children Asadullah was detained with in Guantanamo have both joined the Taliban, but when Sonia finds Asadullah, she discovers a young man who has just married and is expecting his first child, who is trying to rebuild his life after a childhood lost first to local warlords, then to the US, and then to the Taliban after his return.
Growing Up Guantanamo screens as part of Al Jazeera Correspondent, a special documentary series in which the network’s correspondents explore subjects that touch on a diverse range of modern obsessions, or stories that matter to them. The films reveal events or experiences that have marked their lives or professional careers.
“I first arrived in Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11 to cover a war involving some of the world’s great powers, one that’s still having a devastating impact on the ordinary people who live here,” says Sonia. “Over the years, I’d return to Afghanistan again and again. But there was one story, one person, I’ll always remember. Asadullah Rahman.”
Growing Up Guantanamo screens on 8 and 12 October at 2000GMT, 9 and 13 October at 1200GMT, on 10 and 14 October at 0100GMT, on 11 and 15 October at 0600GMT.
For more information, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeracorrespondent/.
Kevin Kriedemann & Joy Sapieka
AL JAZEERA MEDIA NETWORK
+27 83 556 2346 (Kevin)
+27 73 212 5492 (Joy)