Zinneera is the wife of Shaker Aamer, who has been tortured, abused and held without charge for over twelve years in Guantanamo Bay. She lives in London with their 4 children, the youngest of whom has never met his father.
Left without their father and husband, unable to visit him and even be comforted in the knowledge of his safety, Zinneera and her children are enduring an experience that none of us could ever imagine. Over the years, she has had some very serious breakdowns. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker’s dead. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker is divorcing her. She’s had some sad periods in mental hospitals, and she has periods when she simply packs the kids into the car and goes off to stay with her aged parents, and they look after her until she recovers. She constantly worries about if “if he hears, will he think I’m a good wife?”
Mrs Aamer said “there was no colour in her life” since Shaker left, but said she believes she will see her husband again.
“I feel very upset and sad in this illness. I cry a lot and the children tell me to be patient and to believe that he is coming back very soon. I think of my children and if Shaker was home life would have been a lot better. My children do not believe the news stories but we believe we will see him at home, because he was cleared for release two years ago and we don’t understand why he is still there.”
Her youngest son has never met his father. “I am nine-years-old and I’ve never met my daddy. At school I get bullied a lot, they say bad things about my daddy and I become very upset and cry.”
Despite being bullied, his son pushes through and in 2011, aged 9, he pleaded with President Obama,“I feel sorry for my dad because he gets tortured. I’ve never seen him and I want to really see him and only you can let him free. So please let him free, I want to play with him, so let him free.”
Shaker has been allowed only a handful of Skype attempts to his family in London but due to poor connection they’ve often failed, offering his children and wife only a short glimmer of relief and comfort.
Unfortunately, for Zinneera and her family the future is grim. Left alone to fend for herself and her children, Zinneera faces extreme difficulties. Essentially a single mother, she bears the burden of all responsibility for her children and household. On top of all of this, she has to deal with the thoughts of her husband being tortured and on hunger strike in solitary confinement on a daily basis, not knowing when or if he will return to her
This is a reality that no one could ever imagine.
HHUGS has been supporting Zinneera for the past seven years. At HHUGS we try to fill the hole in their lives by providing the emotional, practical and financial support they need to continue life. Our support has included regular counselling sessions to help Zinneera deal with the significant impact of her husband’s detention on her mental health. We step in to provide monthly shopping vouchers, educational support and tuition fees for the children . We have provided relief and solace in the form of coffee mornings, Iftars and Eid parties, and recreational activities for the children.
Update: Shaker Aamer has since been released from Guantanamo in October 2015 and reunited with Zineera and his children.