Why I Fight Against Torture, Part Three
Several days ago, I shared with the firedoglake community the story of my husband, Dan who was a Vietnam vet who survived torture.
Yesterday, I shared the first part of the story, of Murat Kurnaz, who was born in Germany of Turkish descent. He spent five years as a detainee.
Today, I continue Mr. Kurnaz’s story, with excerpts from his book "Five Years of My Life". These excerpts are from his time at Guantanamo.
He was young, around my age, maybe nineteen or twenty. He lay on the ground making soft noises.
He didn’t have any legs. His wounds were still fresh.
I sat in my cage, hardly daring to look, but every once in a while I had to look in his direction. The stumps of his legs were full of pus. The bandages wrapped around them had turned red and yellow. Everything was bloody and moist. He had frostbite marks on his hands. He seemed hardly able to move his fingers. I watched as he tried to get up. He crawled over to the bucket in his cage and tried to sit on it. He had to go to the toilet. He tried to raise himself up with his hands on the chain-link fence, but he didn’t make it. He couldn’t hold on with his swollen fingers. Still, he tried, until a guard came and hit his hands with his billy-club. The young man fell to the ground.
Every time he tried to hoist himself onto the bucket, the guards came and hit him on the hands. No one was allowed to touch the fence – that was an iron law. But a young man with no legs? They told him he wasn’t allowed to stand up. But how could he have done that without any legs? He wasn’t even allowed to lean on the fence or to crawl onto the bucket.
The bandages wrapped around Abdul’s stumps were never changed. When he took them off himself, they were full of blood and pus. He showed the bandages to the guards and pointed to his open wounds. The guardsw ignored him. Later, I saw how he tried to wash the bandages in his bucket of drinking water. But he could hardly move his hands, so he wasn’t able to. And even if he had, where would he have hung them up to dry? He wasn’t allowed to touch the fence. He wrapped his stumps back up in the dirty bandages.
Abdul wasn’t the only prisoner who had parts of his body amputated. I saw other such cases in Guantanamo. I know of a prisoner who complained of a toothache. He was brought to a dentist, who pulled out his healthy teeth as well as the rotten one. I knew a man from Morocco who used to be a ship captain. He couldn’t move one of his little fingers because of frostbite. The rest of his fingers were all right. They told him they would amputate the little finger. They brought him to the doctor, and when he came back, he had no fingers left. They had amputated everything but his thumbs.
The general’s goal was to completely deprive us of sleep, and he achieved it.
Days and nights without sleep. Blows and new cages. Again, the stabbing sensation of a thousand needles throughout my entire body. I would have loved to step outside my body, but I couldn’t.
I know longer knew what block I was in. Sometimes, I would start quivering for no reason. The movement of my hands, arms, and legs seemed to be taking place in a dream.
Sometimes I heard ringing sounds that weren’t there. Other times I heard a low hum in my ear that refused to go away.
When I could no longer get up, they sent in the IRF team, who said they would hit me for as along as it took for me to get up and go with them to the next cell. But I was too weak. All I could feel was a buzzing in my head like a siren. They picked me up, and my knees buckled. During the last days of this treatment, they had to carry me around. They’d take me from one cage to the next, then to Jack, and then to another cage. I can only remember bits and pieces of this.
In the end they gave up – probably because it was simply too much work for the guards to carry me around all the time. Over time, it was as if they were the ones getting punished. I was allowed to sleep, and when I woke up, the other prisoners helped me calculate how long this treatment had lasted. Three weeks. I went three weeks without sleep. At this point, I weighed less than 130 pounds.
I was put in a solitary confinement cell like any other, fitted out with corrugated metal sheeting. I had never been to India, and I was surprised that it wasn’t cold. I immediately realized that something was wrong. There wasn’t any air! The air conditioning unit over the door wasn’t humming, and that was the only supply of air here. They had turned off the air conditioning.
Suddenly the peephole opened. Tear gas streamed into my cell.
"Quiet! You’re not allowed to talk!"
August 24th, 2006: Kurnaz is released and flown to the US Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. He remains under surveillance of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution until December 2006.
January 23, 2007: The EU Parliament’s Special Investigations Committee Concerning the CIA releases its final report, which includes Kurnaz’s descriptions of being tortured. The report states:"As early as 2002 the intelligence agencies of the US and Germany concluded that Murat Kurnaz had no connections to either AlQaeda or the Taliban, and did not represent a terrorist threat.
These are not okay ways to treat fellow human beings, and make no mistake, these are fellow human beings.
The people who were responsible MUST be held accountable, legally accountable.
We must show those in Washington that we will accept nothing less.
I am in the beginning stages of bring together the people and organizations who can help to organize a March for Accountability.
If you are interested, please email me at the address in my profile.
Thank you for doing the hard work of reading this diary.
I will bring another story of what the detainees have actually been through tomorrow.
Standing for justice and accountability,