MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — A megaphone-blaring salesman rattled past the house, and the man the U.S. military once called a “high threat” member of al-Qaeda’s global terror network put his fingers in his ears and grimaced.
“What is that noise?” he asked. “It happens all the time.”
It’s been three months since Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab and five other former Guantanamo Bay prisoners moved into a four-bedroom house in Uruguay’s seaside capital, and the surroundings are still bewildering.
Dhiab is a Syrian, and he spent 12 years in Guantanamo. Now he lives in Montevideo with three other Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian, all former prisoners at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba. In a week’s worth of long and candid conversations, he acknowledged that the transition to life in a Latin American capital has not been easy.
The first days of feel-good images — the spruced-up men waving from their balcony, welcoming neighbors bringing gifts of yerba mate — have given way to a more uncomfortable limbo. It’s been hardest on Dhiab. The marks of a dozen years in a cell and the hunger strikes he held there show in his gaunt 43-year-old frame, his beard flecked with gray. He hobbles around on crutches, still wearing the Army green T-shirt and sweat pants given to him in Guantanamo. The infamous orange uniform — a Bob Barker brand 65-35 poly-cotton blend made in El Salvador — hangs in his closet for safekeeping.