GUANTANAMO ISN 242
YEMENI NATIONAL DETAINED FOR 19 YEARS
WITHOUT CHARGE OR TRIAL IN GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
Name: Khalid Qassim
DOB: 21st January 1977
Held: in Guantánamo without legal process since May 1, 2002
Current Status: Khalid remains in Guantánamo, without trial, as a No value Detainee (NVD), a ‘forever’ prisoner
Last updated: 25th October 2021
Khalid is a Yemeni national who, as a young man, travelled to Pakistan for his first trip outside of his native land. He was sold to the U.S. by the Pakistani authorities for a bounty, in 2002, on the basis that he was somehow mixed up in extremism.
Khalid is surely one of the most delightful and talented detainees in Guantánamo. His true talent lies in his art. Since we were first able to get art supplies into him, he has created some spectacular works.
Detention in Guantánamo
Khalid was 24 years old when taken into custody by the U.S. and he is now a man of 43. It remains a total mystery how Khalid could have remained in Guantánamo for 19 years. At its height, there were over 100 “no value” Yemenis in the prison. Today there are just 10. Khalid is not, nor has he ever been, a threat to the U.S., yet he has slipped through the cracks. Understandably, Khalid has also suffered from severe depression during his time in Guantánamo, leading to more than one serious attempt at self-harm. Khalid has taught himself English while in U.S. custody yet the essence of his talent lies in his art.
We have managed to get many of his artworks out, but now, just as Khalid’s work has become ever more expansive and brilliant, the U.S. military has started refusing to release his pictures, perhaps because they illustrate his fundamental humanity. Khalid has used extraordinary mediums to make up for his lack of supplies. He uses a lacquered Guantánamo T-shirt in lieu of a canvass, and gathers up stones from the ‘Rec Yard’ to make some of his pieces. One brilliant illustration of the madness of the prison is his large white NO on a black background, made from stones glued onto the backing. This was censored because it was clearly a negative comment on the official response to every request for help in the prison. Khalid simply turned it upside down, signed the bottom right corner, and it was released as the word ON. The military has refused to release one of his most recent artistic comments on the prison, and all that has escaped is a description. There is an 18th Century Ship of the Line sailing out of the small bay, towards the bright rising sun on the horizon of the sea. The ship is fully underway, her sails filled by the wind, but she is straining to the right as if she was anchored unable to move. That is not the cause. The left lower quarter of the picture depicts the right shoulder of a doctor in white scrubs, with his hand vertically upwards, bare from the elbow. The hand is holding one of the 110 cm forced feeding tubes used in Gitmo, and there is blood dripping from his hand. One end of the tube drops downwards half way to his elbow. The rest of the tube is wrapped twice around his hand, and then stretching out towards the ship. It is metaphorical, as it never reaches the ship, but it is clearly what is holding the ship back. (Oil on lacquered Gitmo T-shirt; 100x60cm)
Plans for the Future
One project we hope to carry forward is a show of Khalid’s work, along with contributions from artists interpreting the works that have been censored. We also plan litigation on his Intellectual Property as it is unpardonable that the U.S. military should refuse to give him his own pictures. Khalid has a Periodic Review Board scheduled soon and we hope he will be cleared for release. Now that there is a possibility of further releases to Oman, we hope he will be able to go there, as his ravaged homeland may not be an option.