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Marriage Classes at Guantánamo

2022-06-08 | 🔗

Mansoor Adayfi was only 19 when he arrived at the prison camp at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Growing up in a tiny village in the mountains of Yemen, “I didn’t know much about the world,” he said. “Now my world was Guantánamo.”

For a period during his 14 years there, he and his fellow detainees organized informal classes for one another. There was a cooking class, taught by a former chef. In a marriage class, they learned about love. They shared their views on how men should treat women, they discussed what it would feel like to meet the person you love, and they even simulated an engagement and wedding celebration. “I have never been in love, but now I could feel its sweetness,” Mansoor said.

Today, we listen to Mansoor’s essay and then hear an update from him. Since Guantánamo, he said he has experienced one of the best moments of his life — and one of the most painful. He talks to our host, Anna Martin, about what he would now teach others about the art of love. 

Mansoor Adayfi is the author of “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo.” You can find more information on today's episode here

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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is designed to destroy it. It's called taking marriage class at guantanamo, it's red by eduardo ballerina, until I was thirty five, the most significant relationship I'd had as an adult, was within a guy It wasn't easy to meet. Anyone where I was all of my twenties and nearly half of my thirties at the prison camp one tonne bay naval base in cuba, hmm, when I arrived. I was put in an isolation cell where huge fan the blue day and night, making deafening noise to prevent us from talking to each other.
Even when we went outside for recreation. We were not allowed to talk to the other detainees, but outside we did meet new friends the cats banana rats, tiny birds and iguanas that they came through the fences, king to share our meals. I had a good friendship with a beautiful young lady, Anne aguano. She was so elegant. She used to come every day at the same time, and we would have lunch together when I went on a hunger strike no food to give her, and I was ashamed to stand there without food as she came up to me. Sometimes The gods punished us for sharing our meals with the animals, but they couldn't stop me from talking to her. She was a good listener. As the years passed, our friendship grew into a strong bond.
Finally, after seven years of isolation, I was moved into a communal block. Where I could talk with my fellow detainees. I was born in a tight village in the mountains of yemen and was only nineteen when I came to guantanamo, I didn't know much about the world the world to me was my village. Now my world was guantanamo until I was, I thought I'd been born from my mother's knee. I learned in school, where babies really came from but there was no dating in my society, so my knowledge remained theoretical. The same was true for most of us at guantanamo, very few of us had been married. Or knew much about the relations between men and women. Even so, when someone
Tell a story about a woman. All of us would listen talking about women was our favorite topic, not in a bad way as muslims. We are forbidden to talk about women in a bad way, but we talked about whim. Because it relaxed us, we were surrounded by men, but we imagined loving women One of the older married detainees so that the single detainees were desperate to know about women, so he decided to teach us were used to arrange classes and learn from each other anything that could be taught. For example, a former chef, not a cooking class. He would say now well I'd the onion to the hot oil, imitating the sound of frying onions because of,
we had no onions or oil or stoves. It would make jokes asking the students to please taste the dishes to test if they had enough salt or if they felt the meat was right. Even though there was no salt or meat hmmm. I didn't like that class. It just made me hungrier, on our first day of marriage class, our teacher began by asking each of us to say what we thought about how men should treat women. We agreed that men should have absolute respect for women, but many of the students said men always were and always would be superior to women. Then the teacher asked if you were a woman, How would you answer my question? How would you want men to treat you at first, we started laughing imagining
each other, as women look at men saw with hair all over his body. One detainee shouted at me you would scare all of the men, if I were a woman. Another said I would make you all dream cry and spend all of your money, but none of your ugly faces would touch a single hair of mine. Are teacher, led us joke for awhile, but then said answer my question. Ladies, I said that if I were going to choose someone to accompany me for the rest of my life, I would want a wife who was better than me. One of the students tried to embarrass me by saying so, will you let your wife be in charge? Should men just be
donkeys serving women. I argued that men have been thought to be superior throughout history, but look where we are now war follows war. Without end men never give birth to a single soul by only take lives. I said that all of us, guilty or innocent were sitting around guantanamo talking about marriage instead of experiencing it because of what men had done. As we kept meeting for marriage class, our teacher taught us about loving and being loved. He described what it would feel like when we talk to the woman we loved. They told us how we would act on our engagement day and then we had an entire class dedicated to the biggest day in our lives, the marriage day. We pretended that one of the students.
Getting married and we held a traditional yemeni wedding celebration, We sang and danced as if it were a real marriage. I have never been in love, but now I could feel its sweetness. Just like the cooking class. The marriage class made me hungry. I felt there was a missing part of myself and that part was a wife and family for a while. I had, in my cell a photo from a friend of his ten year old daughter
I made a frame of scraps of cardboard with flour surrounding it and hung the photo on the war. Whenever visitors came into myself, I would tell them she was my daughter when they look surprised that I had a blonde daughter and started asking more questions about the mother. I would say I had never met her, but still I had a daughter just the same, I gave her an arabic name, a man which means hope. One night the guards came in and pepper, spread us and tore down everything and ourselves they through
way. My hope after many years of not being able to speak to my family, I was finally allowed phone calls with them. There was talk of perhaps trying to arrange a marriage for me and I was tempted to accept this hope, but in marriage class we had discussed the problem of forced marriage in some countries. The idea of girls being sold like sheep hurt me, and so I declined the possibility of such an arrangement. On the last day of marriage class. Our teacher told us to always remember how we had answered his first question about how men should treat women. We all had different answers now,
he had made his point. He wished us happy marriages and good lives with love and in two thousand sixteen, after being detained from more than fourteen years, I was released from guantanamo but I wasn't allowed to go home to yemen. Instead, I live in serbian. I am lonely I haven't yet found a woman to be my friend and my wife and teach me the art of love even have an iguana anymore. But thanks to my friend the beautiful iguana, I learned how to take care others. She reminded me how to connect with life. While I was behind the fences of prison and thanks to my marriage class, I know I will one day be a good husband and loving father.
The the. I love spelling my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together I mean sitting next to each other playing individual. I am not cheating. Sometimes when I open up scowling d, and I see that you have completed a few words on your own. I feel a little betrayed inside, we may have happened again. I have one and who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was getting nervous had ascended to my parents or something
That is why I would like first funny together and I wish her out of it. I got it. J, j c k, p, o t, yeah yeah. I'm same as the sky. The digital puzzles editor for the new york times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at n y times dot com, slash games, woo, I heard you payments or how are you it's good to talk to you nice, to see you too so mentor? I wanted just thank you for taking the time to talk to us today after reading your essay? I couldn't wait to have a conversation with you yeah. Thank you so much so. At the end of your essay you that you, after being released from guantanamo, you move to serbia, were you still are yes and
right that you're you're still look. And for a woman to love. Yes, yes and you wrote this essay in two thousand and eighteen right, so it's been a few. Years in those years. Have you found that women have you found someone to love, gonna garage. We do that a lot in this podcast or you have to cry. Oh well, why tell me what what's on your mind? Basically, yes, it found a woman that a dream about. While you found it, you found the woman. You were doing asked. Yes, you know it was one of the best moment of my life for fund somewhere, that you use your strove, whipped, schuyler after rubbish, you they're the ones in love. I got good that by one of the family and it was one of the best feelings ever I have experience in my life because for the first time ever, but I'm still dear essay publishes and
Amelie gets in touch, and you start talking to the family you're as muslims and founders of tradition when they engage in the discomfort and she because she cannot take decision unless I lost her father and mother approved of, but the handler. In my case, I think it was. It was very positive, but I couldn't trouble hm. You know The only thing I couldn't get with like the troubled up here, so you were talking through the family and the thing that you. Really wanted was to meet her in person with the families permission us, but you can't get a visa in that way, but at the same time said the fees as the travel document or passport this one, a bill we are faced like the guantanamo unable to travel, is key to that list.
Two: I wasn't able to get married right. You were unable to visit the family in person and then is more able to to get married. They waited for me for a long time. I give a shit that, and I cannot say the you can't say any more yeah understood.
Then my friend one of the worst pain I ever experienced in my life, you open your heart, your soul and that touch your soul when you miss that it's gone it devastated, because I was pressured in the black side of attrition guantanamo, but that never healthy meat as much as was hurt and devastated that wow. So you were tortured, but that didn't hurt as much as heartbreak yeah. Ah, yes, cause guantanamo. You know someone beat you physically mentally wherever, but it would never broke your soul, your spirit, your so
when you lose that person and it just I'm not over it. Yet so I'm trying did you learn about heartbreak in your marriage classes at guantanamo? Was that a topic you covered? No? No! No! I wish I was. I did the I hear this go on your voice, and I I promise had been there to you, say you're not over this breakup yet, but tell me You were now to teach a class on heartbreak. The pain and then also the the sort of healing that can happen after what Would your lesson be There was no one there to guide you in my life because you have experienced. I start reading researching your researching what to do with the broken heart. You not yes submissively how to He'll have to move on. What would you do and what did you learn? What did the internet tell you?
Sometimes these advises. You know that things actually the thing sixty eight it will. What tell me some things you did like I'll. Try to find some one of the other party. One leg is one of the worst buys try to find another girlfriend. Other language are like to find someone dry like a rebalance were like a revamped. Oh, my like yeah, that's not great, how ya doin what else? What are some other things that you read to deal with? The other things like you know you have to? We have to move on your like it is within you, you'd start within you. It starts with the new, but form I honestly like what confessed to me a lot lot. This is my may fit, is loving worth it if the end of love hurts so much. You know pain. Also part of us, so is it forced to seek to be loved yes, source non slip, source of but
You know we do not have to create the destiny. We live the destiny. Basically, you do your best unit for you and if you don't want to think about losing someone, your life, you know but if you think logically rushing there was on it, it had been, but we don't want to think even think about it. Why? Because at that point we want things to be in that direction and we work everything in that direction, but like what happened so then we're not ready for it, you're, not ready for heartbreak when it happens. Yam. Yes, yes, and it next time it takes you the time, one of the factors to heal, to move on and so on and try to find yourself somewhere else. There is my alike. I believe I will find someone, maybe even after we shall. I have confidence, you'll find someone else book, job,
No, when you are talking about feeling sad post, gap going online and searching what do I do with a broken heart? I've been there like five times before in my life in a thick mean they get such a common experience in here's the thing Google does not give us good response. I have so enjoyed this conversation mints. Thank you so much thank just so much anna take care. Oh modern love, is used by Julia, bilateral and HANS buteux, its edited by Sarah saracens. This episode mixed by dan Powell and the modern lift music is also by dan Powell
original music by marian Lozano and ruin me mister digital products, by muhammad, you blondie and a thing two ryan wagner and anna diamond at autumn. Turn love. Column is edited by dan jones and melee is the editor of modern love projects Martin, thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-09.