Interview: Rabiye Kurnaz On Son Murat’s Detainment

23 years ago, on January 11, 2002, the first prisoners were imprisoned in the US Guantánamo prison camp. Murat Kurnaz from Bremen was also taken there a short time later, where he was mistreated and tortured. His mother Rabiye Kurnaz, together with the lawyer Bernhard Docke, fought for his release for years.

Ms. Kurnaz, Your Son Murat Kurnaz Was Imprisoned in Guantánamo From February 2002 to August 2006. Do You Still Remember That Time Today?

Of course, you can’t forget something like that. The fear for Murat, the bitter news about torture, all the media hype – it was all very stressful. There was also the worry that I might never see him again. And I also had to take care of my two other sons.

How Did You Find Out That Your Son Was Taken to Guantanamo?

That’s what the police told me. At that point I had no idea what Guantanamo meant, where it was located, what kind of prison it was. Also, we didn’t know where and why Murat was arrested. The allegations against him were all unknown.

Together With The Lawyer Bernhard Docke, You Fought For Your son’s Release for Years. Did you Think Your Mission Would Ever be Successful?

At first I thought if I hire a professional now, Murat will be back soon. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be and how long it would take. The legal issues were complicated and I only gradually understood them. I was outraged that the US government disregarded all human rights.

Do You Still Remember The Moment When You Found Out That Your Son Murat was Actually Coming to Germany in August 2006?

Yes, but I couldn’t believe it until I hugged Murat again. Because there was already a so-called sham release. We were informed that Murat was allegedly extradited to Turkey and traveled there in anticipation. However, it turned out to be a hoax. What a bitter disappointment!

Director Andreas Dresen Documented Their Use in The Award-Winning film “Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush”. Did You Like The Movie?

Yes, I find the film very successful. The actress Meltem Kaptan played me well, my sons recognized her as their mother. I feel honored by the film, but I always get sad when I’m confronted with this dark time. I have always turned off news about Guantanamo and have not asked Murat about the details of his imprisonment. I couldn’t read his book – I wanted to protect myself and not become even sadder.

What do You Think of The Fact That Prisoners Are Still Being Held at Guantánamo?

It is outrageous that the US government has not dismantled Guantánamo. And it’s outrageous that the torturers went unpunished. The German government, which should have helped Murat sooner, was also a great disappointment. All the more important are organizations like Amnesty International, which actively promote the observance of human rights. Thanks again for the support.


October 2001

On October 3, 2001, 19-year-old Murat Kurnaz traveled to Pakistan to learn more about Islam at a Koran school. But he is rejected and travels around the country. The Afghan war begins on October 7th.

Nov 2001

Kurnaz is arrested by the Pakistani police in Peshawar and sold to the US Army for a bounty. He is held prisoner and tortured first in Kandahar (Afghanistan) and from the beginning of February 2002 in Guantanamo.

Sep 2002

Kurnaz is interrogated in Guantánamo by German officials who are convinced that he is innocent. The US signals that they want to release Kurnaz, but Germany does not want to let him enter the country.

October 2004

In August 2004, the Bremen authorities revoked Kurnaz’s residence permit. In October he has contact with his lawyer for the first time since his arrest.

Aug 2006

In October 2005, Germany again refused Kurnaz’s entry. In January 2006, Chancellor Merkel pleaded with US President Bush for Kurnaz. On August 24, 2006 he will be handed over to the German authorities.

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