Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 5th 2017 Contents T&T’s Muslim history. I pointed out
my travel records—for seven years I
was studying in their area and I never
went to any conflict zones.
“I made it clear I have no interest
in such things. It was on our doorstep
there—people crossed the border
into Iraq or Yemen— but I didn’t. I
asked why I was detained. It felt like
because some T&T nationals went to
Isis, I was being punished for them.”
He was shocked by what an inter-
rogator told him:
“A Saudi study showed about 70
per cent of their population sup-
ported Isis. The interrogator said
they had a ‘big eye’ on the university
where I was and they ‘hunted’ it for
Isis people. He said they got 1,500
riyals (Saudi currency) for every
person they got.
“So it’s how they make money and
an Islamic university like mine was
the perfect target. Some university
scholars had warned us about be-
ing targeted in this ‘hunting ground’
where students could get trapped.
“And Saudi Arabia is the heart of
the Muslim world so you could meet
people from many war-afflicted
States. So my advice is: stay out of
there even if you’re studying. You
could easily fall into entrapment.”
Mohammed, who got to see and
speak to his wife at times, would be
taken to another detention centre
Inmates included scholars, politi-
cal prisoners, and people who fought
“It seemed normal for people
to be held for two years plus. You
know you cannot keep a person in
solitary for more than a month before
it affects them mentally. But at one
point, I was in solitary for two and
The worst moment
He was flown to another prison
in Aseer where what he describes as
psychological torture began.
“They’d keep us under extremely
bright lights 24/7.
I stayed under those lights for
eight months straight. Some guys
had been under them for years.
“When they eventually dimmed
the lights, I felt a physical change in
my entire body.
“Your system isn’t made to handle
glaring bright lights day and night.
Solitary was very bad, but those
lights were the worst. Thank God I
make it through.”
There were no exercise times.
With the oily food served, Moham-
med said, “You could easily become
“There was a handful of West-
erners—Americans and Canadian.
Nobody knew T&T, but a lot knew
Brazil. One guy asked if I was from
“Fellas in rooms next to us had
friends who were executed—their
heads were chopped off—we knew
when they took them out.
“One man who spoke to me in
Arabic would tell me ‘they come for
you....’ Sometimes there were guys
who might have been in there for
something small but because they
got tortured, they make you admit
to things. You couldn’t get a lawyer—
everything was run by the Ministry
of the Interior.”
His worst experience?
“...At 2 am one night, I heard a
man bawling down the place. He’d
just been tortured and they brought
him back. It was chilling. The others
read verses of the Q’uran to calm him
Mohammed was then flown to
Riyadh where conversations with
his wife were stopped..
Intelligence officers questioned
“They were running tests (not dis-
closed) on me. By the second session,
one of the guys told me, ‘That’s it,
you’re not going to come back here.
Hopefully you’ll be going home.’”
Mohammed was flown back to
Qassim, then Medina and Jeddah.
Removed from “solitary”, he was
put into a group room “...among
Syrians and Yemenis. They used to
dance in the room.
Then one day, authorities came
and said I was ‘flying’ that day and
they were ‘finishing my affairs’ now.
“That was the best moment of
my life! A Sudanese guy hugged me
and said it was great. They asked if I
wanted anything. But other people
had told me not to ask. One guy had
asked for shoes and they made him
stay five more months.”
The authorities took him for a
medical check-up before he was
Seven non-uniformed men took
him to the airport. He was not hand-
“One asked if I’d try going to Syr-
ia. I said I was going T&T and not
“In my mind, I was like, ‘hell, I’m
never coming back to Saudi Arabia
He returned home via Turkey,
Bogota and Panama—to a two-hour
interview with T&T Immigration.
Mohammed said he has not seen
Government’s proposed anti-terror-
But he understands the difficulties
the “western world” has in accept-
ing that Prophet Muhammed had a
military and political life as well as
a spiritual one.
However, after his experience he
is not encouraging anyone to ‘study
anything in the Middle East”.
“T&T is a nice place, let’s stay out
of fighting any war and live peace-
fully. The way things are going, you
have to keep your distance. I see a
lot of western countries becoming
like Middle Eastern ones and people
not being able to live normal lives.”
He acknowledged he may be under
surveillance. “But I’m no terrorist—
what I am, is happy to be home.”
news For breaking news, call 225-4465 Exts 2032, 2033 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, February 5, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Tariq Mohammed warns Trinis about Middle East:
Don’t go there
“Clear my name...” That’s the ap-
peal to the police and Government
from Islamic studies scholar Tariq
Mohammed who was detained in
Saudi Arabia for 16 months since
Despite being questioned about sus-
picion of terrorism, Mohammed—a stu-
dent at the University of Medina—was not
charged with anything and was released.
He arrived home last December.
Detailing his time under interroga-
tion in several Saudi jails, where he was
in solitary confinement and made to with-
stand bright lights 24/7 for eight months
straight, Mohammed has one messsage
for T&T nationals: “Mine was a horrible
experience. I wouldn’t encourage anyone
to go to that side of the world—even to
Mohammed added yesterday, “You
could fall victim to entrapment. T&T is a
nice little island, let’s just stay neutral and
enjoy it. I thought I’d never return home.”
Mohammed’s family delivered letters to
the Commissioner of Police and National
Security Ministry on Friday, bidding to
have his name cleared so he could find a
job, take care of his wife and two babies,
and return to normal life.
Mohammed, 31, the son of 106.1FM
announcer Shamoon Mohammed, is the
nephew of attorney Nafeesa Mohammed.
He said, “I was wrongfully held in the
Middle East. I need some sort of clearance
to avoid being stigmatised and to let the
country know I’m no terrorist. I never was
and have no inclination to be.
“I’ve never done anything in my coun-
try or any other State and I’m no threat in
either direction. I hope I get justice since
some have said things about me.”
Mohammed’s nightmare began in 2015,
his final year at the university where he
had been pursuing Isalmic studies for
seven years. He and his family had lived
in Saudi Arabia, returning home annually.
After his last visit in May 2015, he was
interviewed by Special Branch police but
was not arrested or told not to travel.
He and his family left in August 2015
to return to Saudi Arabia. Their Turkey
stopover was part of the route normally
selected by the university.
On arrival in Saudi, they were sum-
moned off the Turkish Airlines flight
He related: “People were telling us ‘sign
here’ and ‘sign here’, which we did. But
apparently, the signing facilitated my
handing myself over to authorities. I was
separated from my wife. But we remained
calm. They took me to a place in Medina
which I realised was a political prison.”
Mohammed did not know then that
he would be seeing the inside of different
prisons for the next 16 months.
Hunting ground for Isis
In the first of the many interrogations
that ensued, authorities did not make it
apparent they were interested in terror-
“They said they were doing investiga-
tions and I’d be ‘going home soon.’ Later,
I was grilled for hours for six days.
“They asked me about Isis, seeking gen-
eral opinion. They wanted to know about
T&T people who went there (Isis). I told
them the situation was known to T&T
authorities and to look at the amount of
coverage on T&T media.
“They asked me about situations in-
cluding that July 2015 jailbreak (at the
Port-of-Spain prison). I explained I had
been in Jumu’ah (Friday prayers) at the
Real Street mosque then.
“They seemed very alarmed and
shocked by how a small place like T&T
had such a high percentage of nationals
going to fight with Isis. They didn’t know
Tariq Mohammed, left, on arrival at Piarco International Airport last
December, greets his baby who was born while he was detained in
Saudi Arabia. His wife, Saudah, reurned to T&T last year and the baby
was born soon after.
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