By Dana Simmons, American Red Cross
During the First Gulf War in 1991, Abdullah Almubarak was put in prison and in a refugee camp. More than 30 years later at age 64, he is living in San Diego, California and recently received Attestation of Detention from the local American Red Cross on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
When the war started, Abdullah turned himself in. “I was scared of the government when they got power,” said Abdullah. “I said, ‘I’m a soldier take me with you.’” His first place of detention was Al Artawiyah in Saudi Arabia. About a year and a half later, he was moved to a refugee camp called Rafha Camp, which was also in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah shared that there were about 6,000 individuals at Rafha Camp and they lived in three-bedroom tents. The individuals at the camp received food at 7 a.m. and would have to split it up into three meals and prepare it. Abdullah shared that he worked alongside 11 other men to prepare his food for the day.
“Some people at the camp went to school and some people worked with cleaning up,” said Abdullah. He shared that the living conditions weren’t always ideal and there was often violence that took place at the camp.
“The United Nations and the Red Cross would come by and ask people if they need anything,” said Abdullah. “They would come every two months or so.” The ICRC aims to secure humane treatment and conditions of detention for all detainees, regardless of the reasons for their arrest and detention.
Abdullah recently received ICRC Attestation of Detention. This document shows that, according to ICRC records, he was visited and registered by an ICRC delegate when he was at Rafha Camp. Abdullah’s friend living in Seattle, Washington recommended he reach out to his local American Red Cross for the documentation after receiving it himself. “Maybe a year I was thinking about reaching out,” said Abdullah. “I'm glad I did that. Thank you for your help.”
Benefits of the ICRC Attestation of Detention
In the aftermath of the First and Second Gulf Wars, the government of Iraq worked to establish a process by which certain groups of Iraqis who had to flee the country due to the First Gulf War could obtain financial reparations to compensate for their loss of land and income. In order to obtain this compensation, Iraqis must present proof of displacement to the Iraqi authorities. An ICRC Attestation attesting to time spent as a detainee or prisoner of war is one of those forms of proof, which may enable Iraqis to obtain reparations from their government. This Attestation can be obtained only if the ICRC interviews and registers the individual while in a detention camp.
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