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‘A Piece of Torture’: Guantanamo Prisoner’s Diary Describes Brutal Transfer from Bagram

ACLU graphic for “Free Slahi” campaign

[Editor’s Note: Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who remains in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, is the first prisoner to have a book written during his time in prison published.

How his “Guantanamo Diary” came to be published, along with various details on his capture, detention and legal push for release, were highlighted at this blog previously.

The Dissenter will now continue to call attention to some of the more stunning passages in his book and focus on the section of Slahi’s diary on his brutal transfer from Bagram to Guantanamo.]

*

“Several guard came at the gate with a bunch of chains, bags and other materials. The guards started to call us one by one and asked the detainee to approach the gate, where he got chained.” “[REDACTED]” shouted one of the guards.”

“I proceeded to the gate like a sheep led to her butcher. At the gate, a guard yelled, “Turn around!” which I did. “Both hands behind!”

Slahi writes one guard grabbed his thumb and bent his wrist. “When you fuckin’ move, I’m gonna break your hand,” one guard said.

“Another guard chained my hands and my feet with two separate chains. Then a bag was put over my head to blindfold me. The gate was open and I was roughly picked and thrown over the back of another detainee in a row.”

As Slahi recalls, “Many detainees didn’t exactly understand what the guards wanted from them. They got hurt. For some reason, I was lucky to have been blindfolded. For one, I missed a lot of bad things that were happening around me. For two, the blindfold helped me in my daydreaming about better circumstances. Thanks Allah, I have the ability to ignore my surroundings and daydream about anything I want.”

About thirty-four detainees were in the group being transferred.

…When we were put in a row, were tied together with a rope around everybody’s upper arm. The rope was to tight that around my arm the blood circulation stopped, which led to numbing my whole arm. We were ordered to stand up and were pulled to a place, where the ‘processing’ continued. I hated it because [REDACTED] kept stepping on my chain, which hurt me badly. I tried my best not to step on the chain of the man in front of me…

This is how detainees were being treated before they were even put on an airplane.

Slahi adds:

…The processing was painful and it lasted til around 4 pm. I don’t remember exactly the sequence but following security measures took place. The strategy behind the painful and degrading procedure was to neutralize the detainees and make them so weak so that [they] can never be able to anything for one and for two the government takes advantage of every opportunity to hurt the detainees and eventually get them talking.

The rough justice took place when detainees got moved from a place to another because the MPs can always claim that the detainee hurt himself or tried to assault the MPs. And guess whom is going to be believed? I always took the pain and never reported anything because I deeply believe that MPs were given orders to hurt me and I didn’t want to satisfy their bosses…

Slahi describes how “the party started with dressing the passengers.”

…I got a headset preventing me from hearing. It hurt so much. I had so painful headaches because the set was so tight so that I had the top of my ears bleeding for a couple of days. My hands [were] now tied to my waist in the front and connected with a chain all the way to my feet. They connected my wrist with a six-inch hard plastic piece and made me wear thick mittens…

…Every once in a while one of the guards took off one of my earplugs and whispered a discouraging phrase. “You know, you didn’t do any mistake. Your mom and dad did the mistake when [they] produced you.” “You gonna enjoy the ride to Caribbean paradise.” I didn’t answer any provocation pretending not to understand what he said . Other detainees told me about their having been subject to such humiliation but they were lucky. They understood no English…

The guards put a pair of goggles on Slahi.

…On my eyes, they put really ugly blindfolding thick glasses, which were tied around my head and over my ear. They are comparable with swimming goggles. To have an idea about the pain, put some goggles and tie them tight around your head. Stay so for a couple of hours. I am sure you would remove them. Imagine you have those same goggles tied around your head for more than forty hours…

Slahi has a sciatic problem. It is painful for him to be in any one position for a long period of time. When he was loaded into a truck to be brought to the plane for transfer, he was loaded into the truck face down.

The truck arrived and backed up to the airplane:

…I started to hear human bodies hitting the floor. Two guards grabbed a detainee and threw him toward two other guards on the plane and shouted a code. The receiving guards shouted back confirming the reception of the package. When my turn came, two guards gabbed me by the hands and threw me toward the reception team…

…Another team inside the plane dragged me and fastened me tight on a small seat and straight seat. The belt was [so tight] I could not breathe. The air condition hit me and one of the MP was shouting, “Do not move. Do not talk,” while locking my feet to the floor. I didn’t know how to say “tight” in English.

I didn’t know how to say “tight” in English. I was calling, “MP, MP, belt…” Nobody came to help me. I almost got smothered. I had a mask over my mouth and my nose, plus the bag covering my head and my face, not to mention the tight belt around my stomach: breathing was impossible. I kept saying, “MP, Sir, I cannot breathe!…MP, SIR, please.” But it seemed like my pleas for help got lost in a vast desert.

After a couple minutes, [REDACTED] was dropped beside me on my right. I wasn’t sure it was him, but he told me later he felt my presence beside him. Every once in a while, if one of the guards adjusted my goggles, I saw a little. I saw the cock-pit, which was in front of me. I saw the green camo-uniforms of the escorting guards. I saw the ghosts of my fellow detainees on my left and my right. “Mister, please, my belt hurt,” I called. When the shoutings of the guards faded away, I knew that the detainees were all on board. “Mister, please belt” A guard responded, but he not only didn’t help me, he tightened the belt even more around my abdomen.

Now I couldn’t endure the pain; I felt I was going to die. I couldn’t help asking for help louder. “Mister, I cannot breathe.” One of the soldiers came and un-tightened the belt, not very comfortably but better than nothing.

“It’s still tight.” I had learned the word when he asked me, “Is it tight?”

“That’s all you get.” I gave up asking for relief from the belt.

However, Slahi continued to have trouble breathing:

“I cannot breathe!” I said, gesturing to my nose. A guard appeared and took the mask off my nose. I took a deep breath and felt really relieved. But to my dismay, the guard put the mask back on my nose and my mouth. “Sir, I cannot breathe . . . MP…MP.” The same guy showed up once more, but instead of taking the mask off my nose, he took the plug out of my ear and said, “Forget about it!” and immediately put the ear plug back. It was harsh, but it was the only way not to smother. I was panicking, I had just enough air, but the only way to survive was to convince the brain to be satisfied with the tiny bit of air it got.

The plane finally arrived in Cuba.

After I don’t know how many hours, the plane landed in Cuba. The guards started to pull us out of the plane. “Walk! Stop!” I couldn’t walk, for my feet were unable to carry me. And now I noticed that at some point I had lost one of my shoes.

After a thorough search outside the plane, the guards shouted, “Walk! Do not talk! Head down! Step!” I only understood “Do not talk,” but the guards were dragging me anyway. Inside the truck, the guards shouted “Sit down! Cross your legs!” I didn’t understand the last part but they crossed my legs anyway. “Head down!” one shouted, pushing my head against the rear end of another detainee like a chicken.

A female voice was shouting all the way to the camp, “No Talking,” and a male voice, “Do Not Talk,” and an Arabic translator, [REDACTED], “Keep your head down.” I was completely annoyed by the American way of talking; I stayed that way for a long time, until I got cured by meeting other good Americans. At the same time, I was thinking about how they gave the same order two different ways: “Do not talk” and “No talking.” That was interesting.

By now the chains on my ankles were cutting off the blood to my feet. My feet became numb. I heard only the moaning and crying of other detainees. Beating was the order of the trip. I was not spared: the guard kept hitting me on my head and squeezing my neck against the rear end of the other detainee. But I don’t blame him as much as I do that poor and painful detainee, who was crying and kept moving, and so kept raising my head. Other detainees told me that we took a ferry ride during the trip, but I didn’t notice.

After about an hour we were finally at the promised land. As much pain as I suffered, I was very happy to have the trip behind me. A Prophet’s saying states, “Travel is a piece of torture.” This trip was certainly a piece of torture. Now I was only worried about how I was going to stand up if they asked me to. I was just paralyzed.

Guards threw his body outside the truck. He would soon go through intake at Guantanamo, and, as much as Slahi hoped it would get better, there would be more torture.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

‘A Piece of Torture’: Guantanamo Prisoner’s Diary Describes Brutal Transfer from Bagram

ACLU graphic for “Free Slahi” campaign

[Editor’s Note: Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who remains in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, is the first prisoner to have a book written during his time in prison published.

How his “Guantanamo Diary” came to be published, along with various details on his capture, detention and legal push for release, were highlighted at this blog previously.

The Dissenter will now continue to call attention to some of the more stunning passages in his book by focusing on the section of Slahi’s diary, where he describes his brutal transfer from Bagram prison in Afghanistan to Guantanamo.]

*

“Several guard came at the gate with a bunch of chains, bags and other materials. The guards started to call us one by one and asked the detainee to approach the gate, where he got chained.” “[REDACTED]” shouted one of the guards.”

“I proceeded to the gate like a sheep led to her butcher. At the gate, a guard yelled, “Turn around!” which I did. “Both hands behind!”

Slahi writes one guard grabbed his thumb and bent his wrist. “When you fuckin’ move, I’m gonna break your hand,” one guard said.

“Another guard chained my hands and my feet with two separate chains. Then a bag was put over my head to blindfold me. The gate was open and I was roughly picked and thrown over the back of another detainee in a row.”

As Slahi recalls, “Many detainees didn’t exactly understand what the guards wanted from them. They got hurt. For some reason, I was lucky to have been blindfolded. For one, I missed a lot of bad things that were happening around me. For two, the blindfold helped me in my daydreaming about better circumstances. Thanks Allah, I have the ability to ignore my surroundings and daydream about anything I want.”

About thirty-four detainees were in the group being transferred.

…When we were put in a row, were tied together with a rope around everybody’s upper arm. The rope was to tight that around my arm the blood circulation stopped, which led to numbing my whole arm. We were ordered to stand up and were pulled to a place, where the ‘processing’ continued. I hated it because [REDACTED] kept stepping on my chain, which hurt me badly. I tried my best not to step on the chain of the man in front of me…

This is how detainees were being treated before they were even put on an airplane.

Slahi adds:

…The processing was painful and it lasted til around 4 pm. I don’t remember exactly the sequence but following security measures took place. The strategy behind the painful and degrading procedure was to neutralize the detainees and make them so weak so that [they] can never be able to anything for one and for two the government takes advantage of every opportunity to hurt the detainees and eventually get them talking.

The rough justice took place when detainees got moved from a place to another because the MPs can always claim that the detainee hurt himself or tried to assault the MPs. And guess whom is going to be believed? I always took the pain and never reported anything because I deeply believe that MPs were given orders to hurt me and I didn’t want to satisfy their bosses…

Slahi describes how “the party started with dressing the passengers.”

…I got a headset preventing me from hearing. It hurt so much. I had so painful headaches because the set was so tight so that I had the top of my ears bleeding for a couple of days. My hands [were] now tied to my waist in the front and connected with a chain all the way to my feet. They connected my wrist with a six-inch hard plastic piece and made me wear thick mittens…

…Every once in a while one of the guards took off one of my earplugs and whispered a discouraging phrase. “You know, you didn’t do any mistake. Your mom and dad did the mistake when [they] produced you.” “You gonna enjoy the ride to Caribbean paradise.” I didn’t answer any provocation pretending not to understand what he said . Other detainees told me about their having been subject to such humiliation but they were lucky. They understood no English…

The guards put a pair of goggles on Slahi. (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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