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International Red Cross via Rahim family/AP

Kicked off Match.com, Guantánamo lifer is worried about his weight

With access to television and magazines, Gitmo detainee offers wry comments on American pop culture from behind bars

“What the hell!!! Fox news pulled the plug on my match.com profile?” wrote Guantánamo prisoner Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani to his lawyer, Carlos Warner, on Dec. 16, 2015, in a letter seen by Al Jazeera. His “ready to mingle” account on Match.com, a popular dating website, was suspended last year, although there’s no reason to believe Fox News played a role in the decision. Ever the optimist, Rahim told Warner, “Maybe their anchor women will write to me.”

Rahim is a platinum prisoner, one of 15 men held at Guantánamo Bay’s Camp 7. It's a top-secret lockup run by a U.S. Army unit once said to have be called Task Force Platinum. The place is reserved for high-value detainees, former CIA prisoners previously held in black sites, including the men accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. Rahim has not been charged with any crime. In fact, not much is clear about him except that he is the last known prisoner to arrive at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba and that he’s a fan of “Gangnam Style.” And that he has no prospect of being released in the foreseeable future.

The U.S. has made accusations and allegations of troubling affiliations about him in a court filing, including that he is said to have overseen groups of fighters in Afghanistan. The detainee and his lawyer dispute these. “I think the only fact that has been confirmed is that he was captured by [Pakistan’s intelligence service] and tortured,” said Warner. “To sort the facts out, he must have a trial.”

In a letter to Warner, Rahim says that during the early 1980s, he traveled between Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-backed insurgency against the Soviet occupation. He says he lost his jobs in the flour trade and in an anti-narcotics bureau when the Taliban took power in 1996 and began “working with Arabs.” He moved to Pakistan after 9/11 and was arrested in Lahore in 2007.

If little is known of Rahim, even less is known about the camp where he resides. Warner hasn’t visited it. Wells Dixon, the lawyer who represented Majid Khan, who pleaded guilty to being a money courier for Al-Qaeda, was also unable to answer questions about the site. “I’m not allowed to answer those sorts of questions — sorry,” Dixon wrote when queried. 

But some of Rahim’s observations in his letters to Warner, a federal public defender who made them available to Al Jazeera, offer fascinating insights into prison life at the controversial detention facility.

In a letter titled “Day in the life Camp 7,” Rahim discloses that he has a television and can watch RT (formerly Russia Today), Saudi TV and Al-Mayadeen and that he likes “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “even though some of the videos are fake.”

He also reads Time and Rolling Stone, according to his letter, dated before Rolling Stone’s long report on Guantánamo, “America’s Shame,” in which he is mentioned.

Camp 7 has been in the news lately, because of a recently discovered Pentagon program of pervasive surveillance of prisoners, including their conversations in the facility with their lawyers. In 2014 the Pentagon sought $69 million from Congress for Camp 7, reporting that it was “increasingly unsustainable due to drainage and foundation issues.” There was also a political flap over the use of female guards to escort the prisoners, which some detainees said violated their religious beliefs.

Warner told Al Jazeera that Rahim has no issue with the guard staff and has not been involved with the litigation involving female guards. “He has never complained to me about women,” Warner said.

Rahim does, however, complain about how hard it is for him to stay in shape in the camp. He does pushups — 300 to 500 a day. “I only see the sun when I am brought to a cage to run in small circles or when I come to see you,” he wrote to Warner. “This is [sic] made me fatter.”

Basic necessities are hard to come by in the prison, Rahim reports. “Whenever I ask for something I am told, have your lawyer bring it.” These requests include fiber, medicine and milk for his stomach. “I told [prison officials] you are my lawyer not a piggly wiggley [sic].” Piggly Wiggly, America’s first self-service grocery store, prides itself for “bringing home the bacon for millions of Americans.” (It’s a metaphor, of course; his diet is strictly halal.)

He’s also concerned that his Silver Springs bottled water has an expiration date. Rahim’s water has a use-by date in 2017, and he could still be at Guantánamo then. The idea of people buying water is perplexing to the prisoner. “What’s wrong with people today?” blaming the “melliniles [sic]. They all look like wimpy lumberjacks.”

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