Out of Mind, by Harper’s Staff

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From interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch researchers in Pakistan and Vivian White, a reporter for the BBC, with recently released prisoners of Camp X-Ray, the United States detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In recent months, several U.S. officials have admitted anonymously that investigators use sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique and that detainees are often forced to spend long periods of time in painful positions. In December 2002, U.S. military doctors ruled the deaths of two Afghans in U.S. custody at Bagram air base homicides. The United States currently is holding about 650 suspects at Guantánamo Bay.

alif khan
They put cuffs and tape on my hands, taped my eyes, and taped my ears. They gagged me. They put chains on my legs and chains around my belly. They injected me. I was unconscious. I don’t know how they transported me. When I arrived in Cuba they put me on a bed with wheels. We went to a big prison, and there were cages there. They built it like a zoo. Each container housed forty-eight cages. Everyone was in his own cage. There was room to sit but not enough to pray. My joints were damaged. The light was very bright, and it was on all the time.

We were not allowed to speak to the people in other blocks. If we talked to them, the guards would take our bedding and blankets, and they wouldn’t give them back for three days. We would just have our towels to sit on. They interrogated me two or three times a day. The chains were on me all the time. They would put a hood on my face and tape my eyes shut. Then they would take me for two-hour-long interrogations. They didn’t let us sleep night or day. They banged the walls with sticks, making lots of noise. The lights they used meant that we could not see. The Americans would make me kneel with my hands above my head. One of them would be standing in front of me, while the other pointed a gun at me. We were made to kneel for two or three hours. If we moved our face to the side they would make us stay for another two hours. If we moved just slightly it would increase to three hours. We would become unconscious.

Two men in cells next to me went crazy. They tried to kill themselves. Everything was taken from the cell except for their underclothes and a shirt so they couldn’t try to strangle themselves again.

k.m.
We were arrested by Northern. Alliance forces in October 2001. They loaded us onto trucks and brought us to Mazar-e-Sharif where we were loaded into containers. There were about 450 prisoners in the containers, and because there was no air and it was so hot, about fifty people were dead by the end of the drive. We were imprisoned in Dasht-e-Layli and fed badly; six pieces of bread for seventy people. A month and a half passed like that, and no one even carried out a minor interrogation of us.

Then one day fifteen of us were loaded onto a helicopter. There were no seats, and all the handcuffed prisoners were forced to kneel with our hands behind us and our bodies bent over our legs. It was difficult to remain in that position, and if we fell to the side or moved, the armed men would kick us with their army boots in our backs and kidneys.

When the helicopter landed at Kandahar air base, someone threw me down the stairs. In Kandahar we were not allowed to talk with one another, and if we did we were beaten. If we moved we were beaten. If we fell asleep we were woken up, and if we covered our head with our bedcovers we were beaten. Soon they changed the punishment for talking. They would take all the prisoners out of the tent and make us lie down on the ground for some time. It was cold, and some of the prisoners were badly affected by the cold. We did not take a bath or shower in Kandahar. Eighteen days after I arrived, I was taken out of the tent and shackled. My hair, beard, and mustache were shaved, my head was covered with a dark bag, and my hands and feet were shackled to my waist with an iron bar. I was loaded onto an airplane by four soldiers. When the airplane landed, they threw me off the plane. My nose started bleeding when I hit the ground.

My cell was about six and a half square feet. We were given two containers, one for drinking water and the second to use as a toilet. We were not allowed to talk, pray, or call for prayer.

I saw one man beaten for praying; his throat was pressed against the wall until he fell unconscious, and he was taken to the hospital. They gave us pills that made us feel numb or made us drunk. I saw one person try to commit suicide by drinking shampoo. A Pakistani wrapped his bedsheets around his neck, but he was rescued by the guards.

s.m.a.
In late October 2001, I was arrested by Northern Alliance forces. We were taken to Kandahar. When we landed, an American Army man kicked me hard in the back and threw me blindfolded down the stairs onto the ground. I was imprisoned in Kandahar for a month and a half. Then one morning I was blindfolded again and put on an airplane. We landed in what I later understood was Cuba. Soldiers came and dragged me to a cell, which was as big as two beds put next to each other. They took off my blindfold and shaved my beard and hair. Once a week I was taken out for a walk, and once a week I would take a shower.

I was interrogated again and again, and they always asked the same questions. I was exhausted and tired of living like that. I started hearing noises and seeing ghosts.

Other countries torture prisoners with electric shocks, but they tortured me with injections. After I received an injection, my eyes would remain fixed upward, and my muscles would get stiff. I would stay like that for a day and sometimes longer, until I was given another injection, which would relax me, and then I could move my eyes and muscles again. Sometimes they would give me pills after the first injection. I saw other prisoners receive injections as well.

I tried to commit suicide three times there. The first time was during Ramadan, a year after my imprisonment. I hung myself with my blanket, which I fastened around my neck from the ceiling bar of my cell. When I regained consciousness I was in a hospital.

They took my blanket, bedcovers, and other things that they thought I would use for committing suicide.

I tried committing suicide again two months later. The injections were the reason I did it. This time I tore my blankets into thin threads and hung myself again. After I was found and hospitalized, they started injecting me every day.

The third time I tried committing suicide was eighteen days before I was released. I myself saw twenty prisoners try to commit suicide, and I assume one died, because he never showed up again.

I spent a month in something called Container Camp, where people who had broken the rules were sent for punishment. It had a cold environment, and cold air was always blowing. Sometimes I was freezing cold, but we were denied blankets except during the night.

Finally, on May 8, 2003, I was released. I want the U.S. government, who did not apologize at the end, to pay at least the cost of my drugs and treatment since my release.

a.k.
I was arrested at a checkpoint in Pakistan by Pakistani police. In the prison at Peshawar, the Americans interrogated me through translators, asking questions about how I got wounded and where Osama and Mullah Omar were.

I was there less than a month, and then I was taken to Kandahar. Two American soldiers put me on an airplane with no seats, and we were made to kneel with our bodies bent forward. over our legs and our hands behind our backs. Military men pulled us from the airplane and put us in a room. There I was beaten by the Americans. They made me lie on a table with my face down while two people held me, one at my neck and the second at my feet. Both pressed me down hard on the table, and two others beat me on my back, my thighs, and my arms with punches and their elbows.

Before we were taken to Guantánamo, they took samples of our beard hair and measured our heights and recorded our voices. Then they shaved my head and beard and mustache and blindfolded me and covered my ears and mouth. They put us on an airplane. When we landed a Pakistani translator explained that we were not allowed to talk, and we were to use buckets instead of a toilet.

We could not pray during the first ten days. Then a series of strikes began. It lasted three months, and finally they allowed us to pray openly and talk with one another. During those three months we had a difficult time. Guards used gas on us. They would throw a bottle of gas and we would feel like we were suffocating. Sometimes they would end up taking unconscious prisoners to the hospital.

The other method that the guards used to make us quiet was injections. Guards would enter the cell with sticks and masks, and two or three of them would hold a prisoner while one of them injected him in any part of his body. Immediately after the injection, the person would faint. Then he was put into isolation. Twice they injected me and took me to the isolation room, a dark room with cold air blowing.

I saw other prisoners who were beaten until blood was running from their heads. Another thing that I saw was many handicapped prisoners in Guantánamo along with dozens of teenage prisoners.

I was there for eighteen months and was taken for interrogation plenty of times. The questions were the same, and there was intimidation during the interrogations. I was threatened with electric shocks if I did not tell the truth.

After eighteen months I was released. There were five prisoners who were handed over to Saudi Arabia for interrogation. I have told all of my story to you, though I was warned not to do so by the American officer who released me. He told me to hold my tongue and not say anything about what happened in Guantánamo.

Anyhow, I told you most of the things I had not shared with others. In case of running into trouble I expect your help and assistance if there are problems as a result of my interview.


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