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IPFS News Link • Governors

Americans, Beware What Belies the Smile of Ron DeSantis

• by Mansoor Adayfi

In 2021, just as my memoir – Don't Forget Us Here, Lost and Found at Guantanamo – was about to be published, I was on Twitter and saw a photo of a handsome man in a white navy uniform. It was Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida. I do not remember what the post was about – probably something about him clashing with President Joe Biden over COVID policies. But I remembered his face. It was a face I could never forget. I had seen that face for the first time in Guantanamo, in 2006 – one of the camp's darkest years when the authorities started violently breaking hunger strikes and three of my brothers were found dead in their cages.

After finding a Miami Herald article in which DeSantis bragged about his service at Guantanamo and confirming that my memory is correct, I sent his photo to a group chat of former detainees. Several replied that they too remembered his face from Guantanamo. Some said seeing his face again triggered painful memories of the trauma they suffered during their imprisonment. I understood. Even after spending the previous few years working on my memoir, which meant reliving everything I had been through at Guantanamo, seeing his face again triggered a lot of pain in me too.

When I first saw DeSantis, I was on a hunger strike.

In 2005, almost all prisoners in the camp started participating in a hunger strike to protest against torture, inhumane treatment, and being held indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. By 2006, news about our hunger strike was finally getting out. We were feeling hopeful.

One day, as we continued our strike with the hope that change is just around the corner, a naval judge advocate general (JAG), whom I later learned to be DeSantis, walked the blocks with other new arrivals. He stopped and talked to us, explaining that his job was to ensure that the camp was abiding by the Geneva Conventions and that we were being treated humanely.

I remember him asking why we were still on hunger strike. We told him to look around. Camp Delta was constructed from metal shipping containers, divided into cages with wire mesh. In the summer, the cages were like ovens. In the winter, they were cold and wet. They were loud with huge fans and the echoes of all the men's voices. Then there was the persistent harassment by guards, desecration of Qurans, non-existent medical care, systematic torture, and being completely cut off from the outside world.

We told DeSantis we were on hunger strike because we wanted to know why we were being imprisoned. Because we wanted a fair judicial process to prove our innocence. He took notes. He promised to register our complaints.

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