Thursday, July 05, 2007

'You have to have been a prisoner to know how good freedom is'

The past 16 weeks were just the very worst that you can imagine of my life, like being buried alive, removed from the world.
Sixteen weeks of solitary confinement with difficult, unpredictable people who did talk occasionally about killing me. It was hard to see how it would end.
It became almost hard to imagine normal life again. I literally dreamt many times of being free, and always woke up back in that room.
The great fear is the fear of being forgotten... It's a battle to keep your mind in the right place. You've got to believe somehow, some day, some way, it's going to end. You will not grow old there.
They were often rude and unpleasant. They did threaten my life a number of times. There was one 24-hour period when they seemed to get very angry and chained me up but that only lasted 24 hours. They were even occasionally friendly. One of the guards would let me go through and watch his television. But it was very grim.
On Tuesday night, when they took me downstairs and said you're going to Britain, they had actually said that once before when they moved me to another prison, so I was really fighting the desire to believe that it was all about to end.
And even when I was in the car, I thought at first 'They are just moving me again'. Suddenly the car screeches to a halt, they drag me out and sling me towards more gunmen.
But then I recognised one photographer and I thought, this looks better. And then round the corner there's my old friend who I'd worked with for three years. And it was over. And it was the most extraordinary moment of my life, as they say in journalism.
I think I'm OK. It was an extraordinary level of stress and psychological pressure for a long, long time, and obviously difficult to keep your mind in the right place, a constant battle. If you have ever been a kidnap victim, you know, the thing you don't want is to be just left behind, buried alive and the world just goes on without you.
And any kidnap victim will tell you that the single most important thing is the fear that you'll go on without them, and they're going to be forgotten about, incarcerated, lying in their wretched cell.
It just feels unimaginably good to be free - maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind for some time to know how good it is just to be able to do those basic, basic things that freedom allows; like get a haircut, to drink what you want to drink, to walk through doors you want to walk through; to speak to the people that you love, or friends and so on. You want to do everything at the same time; read books, go to the movies, go to the beach, sit in the sun and eat and talk.


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