The Meaning of Freedom
Hussein al Merfedi was never charged with a crime. He is one of hundreds of detainees who spent over a decade in Guantanamo Bay Prison. In 2014, Hussein was transferred to Slovakia, thousands of miles from his family, friends, and support network.
As President Obama endeavors to close the prison before his term ends, an increasing number of detainees are being transferred to third-party countries. Former detainees are given little to no financial or job support, are far from a familiar culture and religious community, and family in their new homes.
Though they have been released from prison, former Guantanamo detainees now must build their lives from scratch, often suffering discrimination and isolation in their new homes. While some have succeeded in building a new and successful life, many others have not. Living alone and isolated, the former detainees have been released from Guantanamo into a new kind of prison: one of solitude, intolerance, and doubt.
Hussein stands at the window of his new apartment in Zvolen, Slovakia. He was released from Guantanamo in 2014 after spending over ten years in GTMO, much of it in isolation.
Fog covers Zvolen, a small town in central Slovakia. Hussein was transferred here because US government policy does not allow Yemenis to return to their home countries under the current circumstances.
Slovak citizens look at Hussein as he exits the train station. While they are not hostile, he is one of the only Muslims and Arabs in the small town.
Hussein lays in bed with a migraine on Christmas morning. He has been plagued by his constant headaches since his time in Guantanamo, attributing them to torture.
"Remembrance for the morning, Remembrance for the evening", titles one of the only papers Hussein has from his time in Guantanamo.
Snow falls outside Hussein's first apartment, provided to him by the International Organization on Migration, the group responsible for his transition back into society.
Hussein walks with his translator through the hospital for a check up.
Hamza, also a former detainee, demonstrates using Hussein, how Slovak police broke into his apartment one day during Ramadan.
A pillow still covered in plastic sits on Hussein's bed in his first apartment.
Hussein talks to other former detainees on the two-hour train ride to Martin, the only town near by with a mosque for Friday prayers.
A Slovak family is seen on the train. Hussein has always wanted a family of his own, but Muslim women are a rarity in Slovakia, and "Even if I found one, they would never marry me now that I've been in Guantanamo."
A Slovak village is seen through the mist and trees - a far cry from Hussein's home town of Aden on the coast of Yemen.
Hussein eats lunch at the kebab shop, owned by one of the only other Muslims in town.
Hussein feeds his songbird, given to him to care for by his psychiatrist. "But I don't really like it because its in a cage. I don't like seeing anything in a cage."
Soviet-style apartment blocks rise up near Hussein's home in Zvolen.
Taking the back roads, Hussein walks to downtown Zvolen. "I'd rather walk here, away from the crowds."