Ravil Mingazov is a Russian Muslim who was held without charge or trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for 15 years.

Mingazov was released from GITMO in January 2017 and transferred for resettlement to the UAE where he expected to rebuild his life. However, this was not meant to be as he was imprisoned immediately upon arrival. He remains in a UAE prison more than 6 years after his transfer, suffering abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the authorities.

Mingazov is now at imminent risk of being forcibly repatriated to Russia, where he is likely to face religious persecution and further torture and mistreatment. This has sadly been the experience of several prisoners repatriated to Russia after Guantanamo.

Who is Ravil Mingazov?

Ravil Mingazov was born in Kamchatskaya, Russia, in December 1967. His family later moved to Naberezhyne Chelny, Tatarstan. He is ethnically Tartar. 

In his youth Mingazov trained to be a ballet dancer and was part of a number of dance troupes. In 1987, at the age of 19 he was conscripted into the Russian army, where he served as a private, performing for the Russian Army Ballet Troupe.

Following this, he served as a warrant officer in a passport control office for approximately 8 years.

He served voluntarily as a regimental supply officer in the army until 2000.

Mingazov’s niece told CAGE what she remembers of her childhood experience with Mingazov:

“I remember Ravil as a very kind and noble person. Since my aunt and he lived in another city, we often visited them. My family and I resided in a small town, so our travel and stay with them was always joyful.

Ravil was very hospitable and always treated us like family. He is a very friendly person and he had a great disposition towards us and was very supportive of family ties. After so many years, he always asks about us and mentions each of us in his prayers. He was also very hardworking and was very helpful to his community. I remember how we all went to the zoo together and watched the animals, it was very fascinating, since we are from a small town, for me such trips were very memorable. Many years later, the Red Cross organised a video call for us. Ravil, after so many years of imprisonment, did not lose his positive disposition and was very happy, smiling and friendly when he saw us again. We remembered some moments from the past and remembered that trip to the zoo. We remembered the wolves we saw in cages. And suddenly he said that he now has become like one of those very wolves that we saw once in cages. It was very painful to hear.”

(IMAGE: Ravil and his niece)

Religious persecution in Russia

Mingazov began practicing Islam in the late 1990s, during his time in the army. He married and had a son, however faced fierce hostility and discrimination regarding his new found Muslim practice.


(Ravil and his son, Yusuf

At work, he was denied requests for halal food and time for worship, which brought him into direct conflict with his superiors in the army. He was also denied permission to travel, was surveilled by the KGB and had his home ransacked.

The intensity of pressure on Mingazov and the persecution he faced, forced him to eventually leave his home in 1999, in search of a safer country to live in for his family – one where he could freely and comfortably practice his religion.

Mingazov travelled to Tajikistan in late 2000 and then eventually into an Uzbek camp in Afghanistan where he lived and worked as a manual labourer. 

With the onset of the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, Mingazov fled to safety in Pakistan. He was taken into a refugee centre in the city of Faisalabad.

Arrest & transfer to Guantanamo

In March 2002, while at the refugee centre, the Pakistani police conducted a raid on the property, making multiple indiscriminate arrests.

Mingazov was arrested during this raid and taken first to a prison in Lahore and then Islamabad.

Shortly afterwards, in May 2002, he was handed over to US forces who transferred him to Bagram airbase and detention facility in Afghanistan, where he faced severe torture and abuse.

Moazzam Begg, who was held with Mingazov in Bagram, said:

“Ravil is a deeply principled and courageous individual. I spent several weeks next to him in a cell where we spoke in hushed tones – in broken English, Arabic and Russian – because speaking aloud was an infraction of the rules. Despite this, I remember Ravil standing up and shouting at the soldiers who were throwing copies of the Quran around. He knew they would punish him by shackling his hands to the ceiling above his head whilst covering it with a hood but that did not deter him. 

I’ve heard about him from many prisoners since my release and everyone speaks of him with such deep love and respect. 

Having recently met his son Yusuf – who Ravil last saw in 1999 – I see so many traits of his father: dignity, courtesy, courage and hope.”

In a bid to escape the horrific abuse he was suffering at Bagram, and believing that his circumstances would improve there, Mingazov requested to be taken to Guantanamo Bay.

In June 2002, at the age of 33, Mingazov was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mansoor Adayfi who was imprisoned with Mingazov said: 

“I met Sa’eed (Mingazov) in Guantanamo Bay for the first time when we were protesting in 2003. He was a very polite and sensitive person. He joined us on the hunger strike actions we took to protest our detention. He was targeted by the guards because he tried to convince other brothers to join us. 

He had learnt Arabic in Guantanamo and he spoke it well, he tried to teach the other brothers Russian. I had never heard of ballet dancing before, but he taught us some ballet moves for fun. It was very funny, brothers in long beards learning how to do ballet. One brother told him ‘this dancing is for young skinny, athletic women, not a 200lb man trying to dance like this”. 

He spent 15 years held without charge or trial.

Yusuf, Mingazov’s son told CAGE:

“I don’t remember much about my father. But I mostly know about him from my mother, he would tell her how she should raise me. To teach me manners, help those in need, to give to others, those who are disabled and elderly to support them. She said he wouldn’t hurt a fly, if there were insects in our home he wouldn’t kill it but remove it, without harming it. He was a very gentle, kind and smart person. I have heard the same good things about him from many people, beyond just my family, such as his friends in Russia also. When I began to speak to him through the Red Cross, I would find the same characteristics in him. In those conversations, he would try and teach me, almost as if to compensate for the things he missed in my childhood.” 

(Yusuf with his grandmother, Ravil’s mother)

Release from Guantanamo

In 2015, while Mingazov was still held in Guantanamo, an application was made to the Home Office for him to be repatriated/reunited with his family who had been granted asylum in the UK. This application was rejected.

In 2016, following a writ for Habeas Corpus, Mingazov was cleared for release as a free and innocent man. He was transferred from GITMO to the UAE in January 2017 under a ‘resettlement agreement’. This transfer was intended to be a temporary arrangement (for a period of 6 months) following which Mingazov and others held with him would be released and integrated into Emirati society.

Abuse in UAE prison & repatriation to Russia

While the majority of the other men were released and sent back to their home countries (namely, Yemen), this never materialised for Mingazov.

Mingazov remains in an undisclosed location in the UAE, 7 years after his release from Guantanamo. During this time, he has faced torture, been held in solitary confinement and has been deprived of basic medical care.

Mingazov has only been allowed sporadic phone calls to his mother and son. These calls last approximately 1-3 minutes. In one phone conversation Mingazov described how he had been held isolated in a small cage and refused anything to drink during the month of Ramadan.

Mingazov’s mother and extended family still live in Russia. His mother was most recently able to meet him in the UAE, earlier this month – her first visit in three years and only her second time seeing her son since his release from GITMO 7 years ago.

Mingazov last spoke to his son Yusuf over a year ago.

Worryingly, in July 2020, the UAE first announced their intention to forcibly repatriate Mingazov to Russia, despite the risks to his life and wellbeing. The decision was widely condemned by both the UN and the US.

UN experts noted that Mingazov’s repatriation to Russia would represent a violation of international law, and in particular the principle of refoulement: the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to face persecution.

In spite of the condemnation, the UAE has recently reaffirmed their intention to forcibly send Mingazov to Russia. He is now at imminent risk of forced repatriation to a country where he could be subjected to torture and death.

Call to action

  • CAGE calls for the immediate release of Ravil Mingazov and his safe transfer to the UK to be with his family.


  • Take action now, write directly to Tina Kaidanow (Senior Representative of Guantanamo Affairs) asking her to intervene in Ravil’s case, to secure his safety and unite him with his son and family in the UK. 




(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)