Ravil Mingazov was born in Russia in 1967. He became a ballet dancer with several dance troupes. Conscripted into the Russian Army at the age of 19, he first served in the Army ballet troupe. After his conscription ended in 1988, he served voluntarily until 1996 and later returned to the military in the food supply section, where he took over a program that was in bad shape and transformed it into a model program, “the best in all the Army's.” In recognition of his achievement, he said that the General gave him a watch.
Ravil states that his trouble began when he converted to Islam while still in the Russian Army, amidst general intolerance towards Muslim soldiers. When Ravil’s requests for fair treatment, such as halal food and time for worship, fell on deaf ears, he sought assistance outside the Army—from his mayor and from a political party. His commanders retaliated, and the KGB stepped up its surveillance and harassment, ransacking Ravil’s house.
Ravil, now married to a Muslim woman and the father of a young child, weighed his options. His request for a passport was denied for reasons that were not explained to him. He then decided to travel to a Muslim country where he would be free to practice his faith. He left his wife and child behind, planning on sending for them once he had located a hospitable place for them to live.
Sometime after he reached Afghanistan, the U.S. invaded. Mingazov fled with other refugees to the Tablighi Islamic Center in Lahore, Pakistan, where he stayed from January to March 2002. In March, three days after Ravil moved to a house for Muslim refugees in Faisalabad, Pakistan, Pakistani police arrested Mingazov and 16 other residents because, unknown to them, someone staying in the house was believed to have had some connection to Abu Zubaydah. The men were brought to a prison in Islamabad, Pakistan. After one month there, Ravil was turned over to U.S. custody and held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, slammed into the ground, hung by his arms, and deprived of food and sleep.
Ravil was so afraid to return to Russia that he fabricated stories about himself--that he had attended the al-Farouq training camp and that he had listened to Usama bin Laden--in order to be sent from Bagram to Guantánamo. A Red Cross representative assured him he would enjoy humane treatment there in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Mingazov’s fears of repatriation are well-founded. A report by Human Rights Watch documents the treatment that seven other Russians who were imprisoned at Guantanamo received upon their return to Russia in 2004. All were detained, beaten, and harassed, and one of the men was ultimately killed.
At his Administrative Review Board hearing in 2006, Ravil tried to correct his record. To date, the U.S. has never charged Mingazov with any crime.
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