At Christmas, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Is Reunited With His Family by Andy Worthington

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by Andy Worthington
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
25 December 2009

On December 21, the following article, written by Kevin Cullen, was published by the Boston Globe. It brings up to date the story of Oybek Jabbarov, an innocent man from Uzbekistan, held in Guantánamo for nearly eight years, who was finally freed in September and given a new home in Ireland. As I reported at the time, Jabbarov had been cleared for release by a military review board in 2007, but was unable to return home because of fears that he would be tortured if he was repatriated. It took almost three years for the US State Department to find him a new home, but even after being freed it seemed that Jabbarov’s life had been irredeemably ruined through his lost years in Guantánamo, because he had no idea where his wife and two young sons were, and no way of knowing if he would ever be reunited with them. In his article, Kevin Cullen explained what happened to Oybek Jabbarov’s wife and sons, and I can think of no better way to mark Christmas than to cross-post his article.

A Holiday Reunion
By Kevin Cullen

A while back, Michael Mone Jr., a Boston lawyer, flew down to Cuba to prepare a client for life after eight years locked up in Guantánamo.

“I think I would like to go to Texas,” Oybek Jabbarov said.

Mone looked at his client and said, “I don’t think they’re going to let you go to Texas.”

One of the guards at Guantánamo was a friendly soldier from Texas who had somehow convinced Jabbarov he’d be just another good ol’ boy from Uzbekistan if he resettled in Texas.

Mone and his dad, a great lawyer named Michael Mone Sr., had other ideas.

Their forebears came from Ireland and the Irish were among the few who backed up calls for Guantánamo to be closed with a pledge to take in released detainees.

Oybek Jabbarov was a refugee, looking for work and a way to get his pregnant wife and 2-year-old son down to Kabul, when a pair of Afghan mercenaries found him sitting in a teahouse.

US forces in Afghanistan were handing out bounties for “foreign fighters” and Oybek fetched a healthy sum.

He was never charged with anything.

It took eight years to figure out that the only thing Jabbarov posed a threat to was the integrity of the Constitution.

Mike Mone Jr. convinced Jabbarov he would get a fresh start in Ireland.

Mone convinced the Irish government, too, and three months ago the plane touched down in Dublin.

Jabbarov had his freedom, a nice place to live. But he didn’t have his family.

“My wife,” he told Mike Mone Jr. “My sons. My sons.”

He had never seen his younger son.

The younger Mike Mone explained the situation to people in the Irish government, and he didn’t have to explain it twice.

They started looking for the family.

Jabbarov’s wife and kids had been moving around central Asia for years, trying to survive, trying to get him back.

There was the family friend who was in contact with the wife and sons, and he had a cellphone and Mone talked to him.

Then the Irish government talked to him.

The guy with the cellphone handed it to one of Jabbarov’s sons, the 10-year-old, and he asked his father in Ireland, “When will I see you?”

“Soon,” Jabbarov replied.

“When I see you,” the boy said, “will you have a bicycle for me?”

For the last two months, Jabbarov talked to his wife and sons every other day, and each time his son asked if he could have a bike.

Last week, the Irish government sent a plane for his family.

Jabbarov was outside the international arrivals gate at Dublin Airport, pacing.

The glass doors parted, with a whoosh.

He embraced his wife. He kissed his boys.

They drove back to their house in the west of Ireland, and when the boys walked in the front door they saw two shiny bicycles in the hallway.

The boys rode their bicycles under a dull Irish sky. Jabbarov texted his lawyer in Boston: Call me.

Mone’s phone call was answered by a little boy’s voice that asked, “Is this Mr. Michael?”

The conversation quickly shifted to laptop computers, with video and audio, and Mone sat in his 16th-floor office on Federal Street, watching two little boys squirm on their father’s lap.

“How is your wife?” Mone asked.

“She’s happy,” Jabbarov said, “but she doesn’t know how she can keep this big house clean.”

“My wife says the same thing,” Mone said.

Michael Mone Jr. was sitting there in his office, watching a father and two little boys 3,000 miles away make up for eight lost years and it dawned on him, this remarkable thing, this incredible thought: Christmas is for Muslims, too.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.