Here's the backstory: Al-Afghani used to have a profile on the dating website Match.com, until Fox News called his lawyer for an interview and asked Match for comment. His profile was suddenly taken down. And though it’s not clear what role — if any — Fox played in the incident, al-Afghani seems to blame the network for dashing his hopes for online romance.
"What the hell!!! Fox News pulled the plug on my Match.com profile? Maybe their anchors will write me. They [are] good to look at but not much upstairs," al-Afghani wrote on Dec. 16 in a batch of letters that have since been declassified and shared with Refinery29 by his lawyer, Carlos Warner, with al-Afghani's permission.
Al-Afghani, who is the last known detainee to arrive at Guantánamo, is one of 15 "high-value detainees" still at the controversial site. He has been described by the U.S. as a senior member of al-Qaida and a "senior aide to Osama bin Laden," but has never actually been charged with a crime. Yet nor has he been cleared for release, which places him in a state of legal limbo, with little hope of getting out anytime soon.
In the meantime, al-Afghani meets regularly with Warner, a federal public defender from Chicago who has represented him since 2009. In prison, he stays up to date on U.S. culture and trends. For example, al-Afghani wrote that he was pleased about TV star Caitlyn Jenner's transition "because people are born how they are." But he was perplexed by her political leanings: "How is she a Republican? They want to take her rights away." He has also told Warner that he is a fan of "Gangnam Style" and would like to make his own version, but "cannot because of my [shackles]."
We realized that a lot of those [dating-website] questions were classified. Rahim said, 'How can my [astrological] sign be classified?'
Captured by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2007, al-Afghani was tortured by CIA interrogators before arriving at Guantánamo the following year, according to a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2014. He shares the daily realities of life at the prison: "I only see the sun when I am brought to a cage to run in small circles, or when I come to see you." He explained that because of this, he is getting fatter, since it's hard to exercise. He writes that he passes time in Camp 7 watching television. His choices include Russia Today, Saudi TV, and Arab satellite channel Al Mayadeen. He throws in that he enjoys America’s Funniest Home Videos, "even though some of the videos are fake."
To learn more, Refinery29 spoke with Warner. (We also reached out to the Department of Defense for comment on the contents of the prisoner's letters, but didn't receive a response at the time of publication.)
"Around 2010 or so, which was before Tinder launched their app, Rahim was asking, 'How do people date in the United States?' I said, 'Well, in the usual way, but now they do a lot of it online. There is online for everything.' I told him about the biggest [online-dating websites], which at the time were Match.com and Plenty of Fish. [Rahim] said, 'Why don’t you put me on there?' I said, 'That will be interesting.'"
He doesn't have internet access, is that correct?
"He has no access."
Which dating site did he want to start with?
"We started with Plenty of Fish, because it is totally free. So we go through Plenty of Fish, and their questionnaire is asking questions like his exact birth date, his [astrological] sign, where was he last. And we realized that a lot of those questions were classified. Rahim said, 'How can my sign be classified?' [Ed. note: Information about Camp 7 is highly classified. It’s off-limits to journalists and said to be similar to a "super-max" prison in the U.S.]
"So then, we put him on Match.com, and they send you your daily matches every day. I would print those out and bring them to [Guantánamo], and we were laughing and laughing about them."
Al-Afghani wrote that he was pleased for TV star Caitlyn Jenner's transition 'because people are born how they are.'
"Well, last summer, I was explaining to him how Tinder works and the swiping. And then, I realized that this guy has been detained for so long, he doesn’t even know what a smartphone is. Tinder was too complex for him to understand. And then, Ashley Madison came up."
Is he married?
"Yes, he has two wives — although, from what I understand he is estranged from one."
Al-Afghani often writes about the news, including comments that the Fox News anchors are said to be good-looking. Has he watched it?
"He’s never seen Fox News, but we talk about Fox News a lot and he wrote a letter years ago that said something like, 'If you are fair and balanced, you wouldn’t have to say it every five minutes.' I think we told him that they have very attractive anchorwomen on, but they are not necessarily the best trained journalists."
Does he listen to music?
"Yes. I brought him a lot of music in the past. He is very interested in it. Rahim was writing to Amanda Palmer for a while. He was getting a lot of her music. I would bring CDs of music, and they would go into the [Guantánamo] library and he would get them that way. Plus, he does get Rolling Stone, because I bring it to him."
When will you see him next? What will you bring him?
"I plan on visiting him again in April. He has a new military lawyer who just visited with him last week. I will bring him all sorts of media, mostly magazines, to last him a few months. I will also bring necessities to him, like honey and other non-perishable food [items], socks, T-shirts, and underwear. It is sad that I have to bring these necessities, but that's the state of affairs in Guantánamo today."
Ed. note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.