This is the story of brother Abdul Salam Zaeef and the horific treatment he and Many brothes faced at the hands of the american soldiers. As to what followes is not for the faint heated. The brother took the time out to write his story, the least we could do is read it.
When we arrived in Peshawar I was taken to a lavishly-fitted office. A Pakistani flag stood on the desk, and a picture of Mohammad Ali Jinnah hung at the back of the room. A Pashtun man was sitting behind the desk. He got up, introduced himself and welcomed me. His head was shaved—seemingly his only feature of note—and he was of an average size and weight. He walked over to me and said that he was the head of the bureau. I was in the devil’s workshop, the regional head office of the ISI.
He told me I was a close friend—a guest—and one that they cared about a great deal. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, since it was pretty clear that I was dear to them only because they could get a good sum of money for me when they sold me. Their trade was people; just as with goats, the higher the price for the goat, the happier the owner.
In the twenty-first century there aren’t many places left where you can still buy and sell people, but Pakistan remains a hub for this trade. I prayed after dinner with the ISI officer, and then was brought to a holding-cell for detainees. The room was decent, with a gas heater, electricity and a toilet. I was given food and drink—even a copy of the Holy Qur’an for recitation—as well as a notebook and pen. The guard posted at the door was very helpful, and he gave me whatever I requested during the night.
I wasn’t questioned or interviewed while being held in Peshawar. Only one man, who didn’t speak Pashtu and whose Urdu I couldn’t understand came every day to ask the same question over and over again: what is going to happen? My answer was the same each time he asked me. “Almighty God knows, and he will decide my fate. Everything that happens is bound to his will”.
All of the officials who visited me while I was detained in Peshawar treated me with respect. But none of them really spoke to me. They would look at me in silence but their faces spoke clearer than words could, humbled by pity and with tears gathering in their eyes. Finally, after days in my cell, a man came, tears flowing down his cheeks. He fainted as his grief and shame overcame him. He was the last person I saw in that room. I never learnt his name, but soon after—perhaps four hours after he left—I was handed over to the
It was eleven o’clock at night and I was getting ready to go to bed when the door to my cell suddenly opened. A man (also with a shaved head) entered; he was polite and we exchanged greetings. He asked me whether I was aware of what was going to happen to me. When I said that I knew nothing, he said that I was being transferred, and that it
would happen soon. So soon, in fact, that he recommended that I should prepare straight away by taking ablutions and by using the toilet. Without asking for any further details, I got up and took my ablutions.
Barely five minutes had passed when other men arrived with handcuffs and a piece of black cloth. They shackled my hands and the cloth was tied around my head covering my eyes. This was the first time in my life that I had been treated in this way. They searched my belongings and took the holy Qur’an, a digital recorder and some money I still had with me. As they led me out of the building, they kicked and pushed me into a car. None of them had said a word so far. We drove for almost an hour before they stopped the car. I could hear the sounds of the rotating blades of a helicopter nearby. I guessed that we were at
an airport where I would be handed over to the Americans. Someone grabbed me and pulled an expensive watch that I was wearing from my wrist as the car drove closer to the helicopters. The car stopped again, but this time two people grabbed me on each side and took me out of the car. As they brought me towards the helicopter, one of the guards whispered into my ear. Khuda hafiz. Farewell. But the way he said it, it sounded like I was going on a fantastic journey.
Even before I reached the helicopter, I was suddenly attacked from all sides. People kicked me, shouted at me, and my clothes were cut with knives. They ripped the black cloth from my face and for the first time I could see where I was. Pakistani and American soldiers stood around me. Behind these soldiers, I could see military vehicles in the distance, one of which had a general’s number plate.
The Pakistani soldiers were all staring as the Americans hit me and tore the remaining clothes off from my body. Eventually I was completely naked, and the Pakistani soldiers—the defenders of the Holy Qur’an—shamelessly watched me with smiles on their faces, saluting this disgraceful action of the Americans. They held a handover ceremony
with the Americans right in front of my eyes. That moment is written in my memory like a stain on my soul. Even if Pakistan was unable to stand up to the godless Americans I would at least have expected them to insist that treatment like this would never take place under their eyes or on their own sovereign territory. I was still naked when a callous American soldier gripped my arm and dragged me onto the helicopter. They tied my hands and feet,
sealed my mouth with duct tape and put a black cloth over my head. That was in turn taped to my neck, and then I was shackled to the floor of the helicopter.
All this time I could neither shout nor breathe. When I tried to catch my breath or move a little to one side, I was kicked hard by a soldier. On board the helicopter, I stopped fearing the kicking and beating; I was sure that my soul would soon leave my body behind. I assured myself that I would soon die from the beatings. My wish, however,
The soldiers continued to shout at me, hit and kick me throughout the journey, until the helicopter finally landed. By then I had lost track of time. Only Allah knows the time I had spent between cars, helicopters and the place where I now found myself. I was glad when the helicopter landed, and allowed me to hope that the torment had come to an end, but a rough soldier took me and dragged me out of the helicopter. Outside, a number of soldiers beat and kicked me. They behaved like animals for what seemed like hours. Afterwards, the soldiers sat on top of me and proceeded to have a conversation, as if they were merely sitting on a park bench. I abandoned all hope; the ordeal had been long and I was convinced I would die soon. Still I saw the faces of the Pakistani soldiers in my mind. What had we done to deserve such a punishment? How could our Muslim brothers betray us like this?
I lay curled up for two hours on the ground and then they dragged me to another helicopter. It appeared to be more modern than the last one. The guards tied me to a metal chair, and throughout the flight I was not touched. No one told me where I was being taken, and the helicopter landed some twenty minutes later. Again, the soldiers grabbed me and led me away. It seemed like a long way; I was still blind-folded, but I could hear that there were many people in the vicinity. They pulled me up to my feet and an interpreter told me to walk down the staircase in front of me. The stairs led inside and the noise of the people above slowly faded. There must have been six flights of stairs before we stopped and the black bag was pulled from my head. The duct tape was ripped off my face, and my hands were untied.
Four American soldiers stood around me and to my left I could see cells—they looked more like cages—with people inside. The soldiers brought me to a small bathroom, but I couldn’t shower. My limbs and body throbbed with the pain of the beating I had received earlier in the day during the torment of the helicopter flight. I felt paralysed and had little sensation in my arms or legs. I was given a uniform and led into one of the cages. It was small, perhaps two metres long and a metre wide, with a tap and a toilet. The walls were made out of metal bars with no seals. Before they left, the guards told me to go to sleep and
locked the door behind me. Alone in the cage, I reflected on the last few days. How did I end up in this cage? Everything was like a dark dream, and when I lay down and tried to get some sleep amid the aching of my bruised body, I realised that I no longer knew whether I was awake or asleep.
The next morning I looked out from my cage and saw a soldier guarding the door. There were three other cages around mine, all covered in rubber. It dawned on me that I was in a big ship, one of the ships used in the war against Afghanistan off the Pakistani coast. I could hear the loud rumble of the ship’s engines throughout the night and morning, and I was sure that this was one of the ships that had launched missiles at Afghanistan.
I barely moved my eyes—not daring to look around—out of fear. My tongue was dry and stuck to the top of my mouth. On the left side I could see a few other prisoners who were together in one cell. A soldier came with some food and another prisoner was brought onto
the ship. The men ate their breakfast and stood together. We were not permitted to talk to each other, but could see one another while the food was handed to us. I eventually saw that Mullahs Fazal, Noori, Burhan, Wasseeq Sahib and Rohani were all among the other prisoners, but still we could not talk to each other.
A soldier entered my room and handcuffed me to the bars of the cage. They searched my room and afterwards I was interrogated for the first time; fingerprints were taken and I was photographed from all sides. They wrote up a brief biography before bringing me back to my cage. I found that I had received some basic items in my absence: a blanket, a plastic sheet and a plate of food—rice and a boiled egg. I had not eaten for a long time, and returned the empty plate to the guard who stood in front of my cage. I had just lain down to rest when I heard another soldier coming with handcuffs. Shackled once more, I was brought to the interrogation room. This time I was asked about Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar. They asked me where they were, what their current condition was, and then about some key commanders of the Taliban forces—where they were hiding, what had happened to them and what they were planning. 11 September came up only once, and then only in a very brief question. They wanted to know if I had
known anything about the attack before it happened. These were the main things I was asked in the dark and small interrogation room on the ship.
The Americans knew—I was sure—that I had little to do with the things that they asked me about. I had not been informed, nor did I have any previous knowledge, of the attacks on the United States or who was responsible for them. But just as these things happened to
me, thousands of others were defamed, arrested and killed without a trial or proof that they had been complicit or responsible. On the ship I thought that I would never see my friends and family again. I thought they would never know what had happened to me.
No one should be in such despair, especially a Muslim, but I had to remember the Soviet invasion, and the behaviour of the Russians in Afghanistan. I thought of the destiny of those sixty thousand Afghans who were just devoured by the Soviet monster. They were gone forever; no one returned alive, and no one knew anything about them. For the first time, I could feel what those people must have felt, deep in my bones. I wanted my spirit to join them and to be finished with this anguish. I wanted to escape the cruelties of those vicious animals, those barbarous American invaders.
After five or six days on the ship I was given a grey overall, my hands and feet were tied with plastic restraints and a white bag was put over my head. I was brought onto the deck of the ship along with the other prisoners. We were made to kneel and wait. The restraints
cut off blood to our hands and feet. Some of the other prisoners were moaning because of the pain but the soldiers only shouted and told them to shut up. After several hours we were put into a helicopter and we landed three times before we reached our final destination. Each time we landed the soldiers would throw us out of the helicopter. We were forced to lie or kneel on the ground and they kicked and hit us when we complained or even moved. In the helicopter we were tied to the walls or the floor, most of the time in a position that was neither kneeling nor standing. It was torment, and with each passing
minute the agony grew. On our penultimate stop when I was thrown to the ground, one of the soldiers said, “this one, this is the big one”. And while I could not see them, they attacked me from all sides, hitting and kicking me on the ground. Some used their rifles and others just stomped on me with their army boots.
My clothes were torn to pieces and soon I was lying naked in the fresh snow. I lost all feeling in my hands and feet from the restraints and the cold. The soldiers were singing and mocking me. The USA is the home of Justice and Peace and she wants Peace and Justice for everyone else on the globe, they said over and over again. It was too cold to breathe and my body was shaking violently, but the soldiers just shouted at me telling me to stop moving. I lay in the snow for a long time before I finally lost consciousness.
I woke up in a big room. I could see two guards wearing balaclavas and holding large sticks in their hands in front of me. My body ached all over. When I turned my head I saw two more guards behind me in each corner of the room, both pointing pistols at my head. They were all shouting at me. “Where is Osama? Where is Mullah Omar? What role did you play in the attacks on New York and Washington?” I could not even move my tongue. It had swollen and seemed to be glued to my upper palate. Lying in that room, in pain and being
screamed at, I wanted to die. May Allah forgive me for my impatience! They left when they noticed that I could not answer; then other soldiers came and dragged me into a run-down room without a door or a window. They had given me some sort of clothes but still it was too cold and once again I lost consciousness. I woke up in the same room. A female soldier was guarding the entrance and came over to me.
She was the first soldier that was nice and behaved decently, asking me how I was and if I needed anything. Still I could not talk. I thought I was in Cuba at first, having lost all sense of time, but when I saw that the walls were covered in names and dates of Taliban I realized that I was still in Afghanistan.
I could hardly move. My shoulder and head seemed broken and the pain rushed through me with each heartbeat. Silently I prayed that Allah would be pleased with me and that he protect other brothers from the ordeal I was going through. When it became dark I called for the female soldier to help me. I asked her if I was allowed to pray. She said that I was.
My hands were still tied so that could hardly perform tayammum. I was still praying when two soldiers entered the room. They let me finish my prayer before they asked me if I felt better, if I was cold or needed anything. All I said was alhamdulillah. I dared not complain,
and I knew they could see the bloody bruises on my face, my swollen hands and my shaking body. They asked me about Sheikh Osama and Mullah Mohammad Omar but I had nothing to tell them. My answer did not please them, and I could see the anger in their faces. But even though they threatened me and tried to intimidate me, my answer
stayed the same and they left.
I had not eaten for six days because I was not sure if the military food rations they gave me were halal. For nearly one month they kept me in that small run-down room, and all I had for food was a cup of tea and a piece of bread. The soldiers would not let me sleep. For
twenty days I lay in the room with my hands and feet tied. I was interrogated
On 24 January 2002, six other prisoners were brought into my room, most of whom were Arabs. They stayed for a few hours before they were taken away again. They returned the next day and I asked them what had happened. They told me that Red Cross10 representatives had come to to inspect the camp, register prisoners and collect letters for their families. They said that they did not know why they were being hidden away. We talked some more, and food was brought, the first time I had had enough to eat.
In the following days we were moved several times. Each time we would be blindfolded, made to kneel and sit in uncomfortable positions for hours. On 9 February we were transferred out of Bagram and flown down to Kandahar. Once again we were tied up, kicked and beaten, dragged through the mud and made to wait outside in the cold. Many of the prisoners screamed and cried while they were abused. The same happened when we arrived after the brief flight. I was hit with sticks, trampled on and beaten. Five soldiers sat down on me while I lay in the cold mud. They ripped my clothes to shreds with their knives. I thought I would be slaughtered soon. Afterwards they made me stand outside; even though it was extremely cold I felt nothing but pain. They dragged me into a big tent for interrogation. There were male and female soldiers who mocked me, while another took a picture of me naked.
After a medical check up I was blindfolded again and dragged out of the tent. The soldiers rested on the way, sitting on me before bringing me to another big prisoner tent that was fenced off with barbed wire. Every prisoner was given a vest, a pair of socks, a hat and a blanket. I put the clothes on and covered myself with the blanket. It was cold in the tent and other prisoners were brought in one after another. Interrogations went on all day and night. The soldiers would come into the tent and call up a prisoner. The rest of us would be ordered to move to the back of the tent while they handcuffed the prisoner and led him out. The soldiers would abuse prisoners on the way, run their heads into walls—they could not see—and drag them over rough ground.
A delegation of the Red Cross came to the camp to register us and gave each prisoner an ID card. We were all suspicious of the delegates and believed that they were CIA agents. The Red Cross was trying to connect the prisoners with their families, arranging for letters to be exchanged and providing some books. They also arranged showers for us. Each prisoner got a bucket of water and was forced to take his shower naked in front of the other prisoners. We were allowed to shower once a month. No water was provided for ablutions. We received bottled drinking water from Kuwait and sometimes prisoners would use it to wash their hands and face, but as soon as the guards noticed the prisoner would get punished. I was held in Kandahar from 10 February till 1 July 2002. We were repeatedly called for interrogation. The tactics of the Americans changed from time to time; they would alternate between threats and decent treatment or they would try to cut deals with us. I was asked about my life, my biography, my involvement in the Taliban movement
and so on. But the discussion always returned to Sheikh Osama and Mullah Mohammad Omar. Often an interrogation that began in a humane and decent way would end up with me being grabbed and roughly dragged out of the room because I did not have any information about the life of Sheikh Osama or the whereabouts of Mullah Mohammad Omar.
There were twenty people in each prison tent. The camp in Kandahar was better than Bagram. We were allowed to sit in groups of three and talk to each other; there were more facilities in general. All in all I believe there were about six hundred prisoners in the Kandahar camp. They conducted night-time searches, rushing into each prison tent and
ordering all prisoners to lie face-down on the floor while they searched us and every inch of the tent. They brought in dogs to go through the few belongings we had, and to sniff up and down our bodies. There was no real food; all we were given was army rations, some of which dated back to the Second World War. Many were expired and no one could tell if we were allowed to eat the meat that was in the rations, but we had no choice: we had to eat the food or we would starve. The situation improved in June when we were given rations that were labelled halal. The new rations tasted better, and they weren’t out of date any more. We were also given some Afghan bread and sweets, a real luxury. Helicopters and airplanes landed day and night close by and the constant noise kept us awake. Many of the soldiers would also patrol during the nights, shouting and waking us. Three times each day all the prisoners would be counted. We were all given a number; I was 306. Until the time I was released I was called 306.
When I was taken to Bagram, every day I hoped that it would be my last. I only had to look at my shackled hands and feet, my broken head and shoulders, and then I would look at the inhuman, insulting behaviour of these American soldiers; I had no hope of ever being free again. When I met the six prisoners11 who were being hidden from the Red Cross in Bagram, I understood that there was something going on out my side. I did not see any representatives of the Red Cross at Bagram because the Americans had also hidden me from them, but when I was transferred from Bagram to Kandahar, I saw the Red Cross on the second day after I arrived. They did not have a Pashtu translator with them, just an Urdu speaker whom they had taken from their Islamabad office. He was not Pakistani himself, but he could speak fluent Urdu. They had Arabicspeaking staff as well. For Pashtu they had three people who hardly could speak the language at all: Julian, Patrick, and a German who had spent a lot of time in the Peshawar area. It was the first time that I had been able to tell my family that I was alive. I was given a pencil and paper, and a soldier sat in front of me while I wrote. When I was finished I gave the pencil and the paper back to the soldier. I did not receive any letters from home when I was in Kandahar, and nobody gave me any information about my family, about what had happened to them after I was arrested. There were lots of Red Cross representatives going back and forth, talking to us through barbed wire. They were asking questions about our health and other problems. They told us that whatever we said would stay safe with them, and that they would not tell the Americans. But we were suspicious. We thought they might be lying; we could not
trust them and we were not open with them. We did not tell them what was in our hearts. We could not complain about the situation, because right in front of their eyes the Americans were taking us to interrogation, they were dragging us along the ground, sometimes with two or three soldiers sitting on top of us. The Red Cross delegates saw this,
but they were unable to help. The Arab detainees told all of the brothers to be careful in what they said. According to them, there were many American spies masquerading
as Red Cross delegates, tricking us while pretending to help. But in any case we had nothing useful for the Americans. We had nothing to do with any spying. The only sensitive issue was complaints, and the fact that many of the brothers had given false names and addresses when they were captured. So now they could not give new names and addresses to the Red Cross, so their letters were being sent to the wrong places. It was hard for them to tell the truth to the Red Cross, because they were afraid the information would get back to the Americans. I had the same suspicions when I was in Guantánamo.
We did not understand the level of assistance we were getting from the Red Cross while we were in Kandahar. But I did know three things they were doing: first, they were connecting us to our families with those letters, which was very important. Second, they gave us four Qur’ans per each set of twenty people. Third, they arranged for us to take our first shower in four months, even if it was a communal, naked, and very embarrassing shower. They also gave us clean overalls. According to the Red Cross, all of these things were done at their suggestion.
Our guards changed shifts twice a day and many of the low-ranking soldiers misbehaved, bearing ill-will towards Muslims. Every time they would appear, we had to stand in a row looking at the ground, and if the number of a prisoner was called he had to say ‘welcome’. Any prisoner who disobeyed these orders was punished. Every day all prisoners were lined up outside and made to stand in the sun. There were about twenty tents that held eight hundred prisoners. Not all soldiers were the same, but some would command us to
stand there for half-an-hour before they took the attendance register and almost two hours afterwards. No one was allowed to sit down or stand in the shade, no matter what his condition. May Allah punish those soldiers!
The guards inspected the tents inside and outside along the barbed wire every day. One time a soldier found a piece of broken glass outside on the ground. He was one of the meanest soldiers, and upon discovering the piece of glass he gave it to me and asked where it had come from. I tossed it back to him and said that I did not know; we had brought nothing with us. The glass must have been here before, I told him. The soldier kept repeating his question. “Don’t talk. I will fuck you up”, he screamed at me. I was forced to kneel with my hands behind my head for several hours; from time to time he would kick or push me to the ground. There was no point in complaining about the behaviour of the soldiers; it would only make the punishment even worse. I will never forget the treatment I suffered at the hands of these slave rulers. Kandahar prison camp had several sections. Next to the ordinary prison tents, one of the old hangars—previously a workshop for air planes—was now being used for the prisoners. Most prisoners feared it as a place of extreme punishment. Several times I saw prisoners being transported to the hangar bound with metal chains. In another separate location they deprived prisoners of sleep, holding them for months on end. The camp was guarded by six watchtowers and patrols, on foot and with vehicles, which took place all day and night. There are too many stories from the time when I was a prisoner in Kandahar. One day a new prisoner was brought to the prison tent where I was detained. He was a very old man. Two soldiers harshly dragged him into the tent and dropped him on the floor. He was ordered to stand but neither could he stand nor was he able to understand the men. He seemed to be confused; other prisoners told him to stand up but it was as if he could not distinguish the soldiers from the prisoners.
On the second day when he was called for interrogation and had to lie down to be tied up, he did not understand again. None of the other prisoners were allowed to help him; we were told to move towards the far end of the tent. Soon the soldiers let their passions loose and kicked him to the ground. One of them sat on his back while the others tied his hands together. All the while the old man was shouting. He thought he was going to be slaughtered and screamed, “Infidels! Let me pray before you slaughter me!” We were shouting from the back of the tent that he was just going to be interrogated and that he soon would be back at the tent, but it was as if he was in a trance. I cried and I laughed at the same time. There was so much anger in me as I watched the old man being dragged
outside. When he came back I sat down to talk to him. He said he was from Uruzgan province and that he lived in Char Chino district. He told me he was 105 years old, and eventually he was the first man to be released from the Hell of Guantánamo. In the camp we would pray together in congregation. One morning while I was leading the morning prayer, we had just started performing the first raqqat when a group of soldiers entered our tent and called the number of an Arab brother to take him for interrogation. The
brother did not move, but continued with his prayer as is commanded by Allah. He was called a second time. By the third time, the soldiers rushed in, threw me to the ground, pressing my head into the floor, sitting on me while two others grabbed Mr Adil,12 the Arab brother from Tunis, and dragged him out. There was no respect for Islam.
Every day prisoners were mistreated in the camp. A Pakistani brother who had a bad toothache had only been given Tylenol by the medic in the camp. Eating was painful and difficult for him, and he could not manage to finish his food in the thirty minutes allocated for each meal. When the soldier came to collect his plate, he asked to be given more
time because of his teeth. The soldier took him to the entrance and hit him in the mouth while the rest of us watched helplessly. After we saw how they treated the Pakistani brother, we decided to go on hunger strike. Word spread quickly and soon the entire camp
had stopped eating. When the camp authorities came to find out what the reason for the strike was, we informed them about the abuses of the soldier and that we would no longer tolerate them. We were promised that incidents like this would be prevented in the future and we stopped the hunger strike. Even though we were subject to harsh conditions,
this was the first hunger strike to have taken place under the American invaders’ custody.
The next day Mohammad Nawab,13 who was very ill and could not stand up, was beaten and kicked. The soldiers had come to inspect the tent and ordered the prisoners to move to the back. Mohammad Nawab had not moved; he had remained in bed. When the soldiers
saw him, a group of them started to beat and kick him before they dragged him to the end of the tent and dropped him at our feet. I should mention that not all American soldiers behaved in this way; some were decent and respectful and did not join their comrades in
the abuses. Some abuses were worse than others and affected everyone in the camp. One afternoon I woke up to the sound of the men crying. All over the camp you could hear the men weep. I asked Mohammad Nawab what had happened. He said that a soldier had taken the holy Qur’an and had urinated on it and then dumped it into the trash. We
had been given a few copies of the Qur’an by the Red Cross, but now we asked them to take them back. We could not protect them from the soldiers who often used them to punish us. The Red Cross promised that incidents like this would not be repeated, but the abuses carried on. The search dogs would come and sniff the Qur’an and the soldier
would toss copies to the ground. This continued throughout my time in Kandahar. It was always the same soldier who acted without any respect towards the Qur’an and Islam.
There were many other incidences of abuse and humiliation. Soldiers were conducting training with the prisoners as guinea-pigs: they would practise arrest techniques—all of which were filmed—and prisoners were beaten, told to sit for hours in painful positions. The number of such stories is endless.
All the while the interrogations continued. One night, when I had already been in Kandahar for several months, I was called for interrogation. I was asked if I wanted to go home, told that they had not benefited from my detention and had found no proof that I was involved beyond my dealings as Ambassador. They were planning to release me, they said. They would arrange for money, a phone and anything else I needed. After all this they told me the condition for my release: all I had to do was help them find Sheikh Osama and Mullah
Mohammad Omar. Any time I would choose detention over this kind of release. I would not dare to put a price on the life of a fellow Muslim and brother ever!
I interrupted them and asked them what the reason for my detention was. They said that they believed I know about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, their financial branches, and about the attacks on New York and Washington. I had been arrested to investigate all these allegations. Given that they had not found any proof of what they had accused me
of, they must see that I was innocent, I said. I had been arrested by the Pakistani government, and should be released without any conditions. For three days they talked about financial aid and a possible deal if I would agree to their terms, but I turned all their offers down. Once again their behaviour changed. They threatened me and my life, again.
The next day a group of soldiers came to our tent throwing a bunch of handcuffs towards a group of prisoners. After they put on the handcuffs, they were tied together and led away. We all wondered what was happening. Some believed that we were being released; others speculated that they might get transferred. But they all were brought back a few hours later. Each and every one was shaved—their beards, hair and eyebrows. Every single hair was gone. This was the worst form of punishment. In Islam it is forbidden to shave one’s beard. It is considered a sin in the Hanafi14 faith. It is better to be killed than to have one’s beard shaved. I was in the next group that was led away to the barber. I asked the barber not to shave my beard; he replied with a hard slap to my head. I did not open my eyes
for several minutes while the pain rushed through me. Later, when a doctor asked me what had happened to my face and I complained about the barber, I received another slap from the doctor, telling me I should not complain about the American invaders.
During one interrogation session, I was asked if I knew Mr Mutawakil and there were several other questions relating to him. Finally I was asked if I wanted to meet him. I doubted that he had been arrested and asked where he was and how I could meet him. A few moments later he entered the room. He had brought me a packet of Pakistani
biscuits, but my hands were tied and I was unable to eat them. Nor was I allowed to take them with me. We talked for ten or fifteen minutes and then he left again. In the short meeting I learnt that I would soon be transferred to Cuba. Mr Mutawakil did not say much more about that. He knew that Allah knew best what would happen to me. The next day I was interrogated again. I was told that I would be transferred to Cuba on 1 July. The interrogator added that those going to Cuba would spend the rest of their lives there and that even their bodies might never find their way back to Afghanistan. This was my
last chance, he said; I had to make a decision to go home or to be transferred to Cuba. Once again he stated the conditions for my release. If I were to go home, I would have to work with and help the American intelligence agencies in their search for Al Qaeda and Taliban
leaders, remaining their slave for the rest of my days. May Allah save us from committing such a sin! Even though I was given a day to think about it, I replied immediately:
“I am not more talented or important than any of the brothers detained here. I accept the decision made for me by Almighty Allah. I have not committed any crime, and so will not admit to any crime. It is now up to you to decide what to do with me and where I shall be
transferred”. After this interrogation I hoped that the transfer would come soon.
On 1 July 2002 I was taken to the barber and shaved once again. Afterwards a group of soldiers came and threw chains at the entrance of the tent. One after another we were chained together to be transferred to Cuba. I was the fourth person in the row. Our hands and feet were bound and our heads covered by black bags, chained together in
groups of seven or eight people. We were brought to another waiting area; the black bags were replaced with black goggles and plugs were put into our ears. Before we were brought to the plane, we were photographed again, and given a set of red clothes and red shoes. Our mouths were covered with a mask and hands and feet bound with two different kinds of chains. Once in the plane, our feet were locked to a chain on the ground, and our hands were bound behind our backs and locked to the metal chairs. It was impossible to move, not even an inch. It was a painful position and soon after the plane took off some of the prisoners started to struggle with their chains, screaming and moaning in pain. They
remained chained in this position for the entire journey, and weren’t allowed to use the bathroom. We were locked into these positions four hours before the plane even took off and we still remained there three hours after it had landed. We spent close to thirty hours locked in those chairs. The chains cut off the blood supply to our hands and feet. After ten hours I lost all feeling in them. Our hands were so swollen that it was difficult for the American soldiers to open the handcuffs, which had sunk deep into the flesh. The airplane landed once during the flight before arriving in Cuba. Once off the plane we were ordered into rows while being screamed at in Arabic and English: “Don’t move. Stick to your place!” But after
thirty hours in chains, with hands and feet hurting, some moved and stretched. Seeing this one of the soldiers kicked and beat them. I myself was kicked three times. We were moved to the base and I was brought for a medical check-up. Then they took me to an interrogation room and chained me to a chair. A few moments later an interrogator came in—accompanied by a Persian translator. He introduced himself as Tom. He was assigned
to probe me, he said. I was too tired from the long and painful journey to talk and told him that I just wanted to be transferred to wherever I would stay from now on and that we could talk tomorrow if he wanted, but Tom insisted that we talk straight away. My mouth was dry, and I could hardly stay awake. Up until then everyone had been advising me to try to avoid being transferred to Cuba, but now that I had arrived I had nothing left to fear. I did not even care about the punishment anymore. Now in Guantánamo, we preferred death over life. Even though Tom insisted, I barely responded to any of his questions and so he finally left the room. I was brought to a small cage made out of a shipping crate. My hands and feet were unfastened and I was left alone. A food ration had been left for me in the cage but it was having water that made me most happy. It was the
first time in months that I had the amount of water necessary to perform my ablutions. I washed, prayed and went to sleep. I slept well, missing the night prayer, and woke up just before the morning.
My cage was in the Gold block of the Guantánamo prison camp. The soldiers treated us better than in Bagram or Kandahar, and we were allowed to talk to each other. Even though it was lonely in the cage, there still was a sense of freedom after the months imprisoned in Afghanistan.
The cages were four feet wide, six feet in length and were lined up next to each other. Each cage had a metal board to sleep on, a water tap and a toilet. There were no real walls, just metal mesh which separated the cages from each other. It was very uncomfortable having to wash and use the toilet in front of the other prisoners. There was a lo tof confusion among us. Some believed we were not in Cuba but on an island somewhere in the Persian Gulf, and others thought that it was just a temporary camp on the way to Guantánamo. We prayed in different directions since no one knew where Mecca was located.
We were visited by Red Cross representatives at the camp who said that they had been at the airport to ensure that we were not mistreated by the soldiers. “But in the bus they beat us like a drum”, I told them. “We were at the airport, but we were not on the bus”, said one of the representatives.
In those early days in Guantánamo, we got used to the Red Cross. They visited the prisoners individually, and spoke to them semi-freely, but still the prisoners were afraid of American intelligence equipment, and were very cautious when they were speaking. When a prisoner was to be taken to a Red Cross representative, the soldiers used a special rope to tie his hands. When we got there, they untied one hand, and there was usually tea, biscuits and juice on the table. They would interview us, and if a prisoner wanted to write home or to friends he could do so. The process changed as time passed. For one thing, the rope changed into steel chains, but the Red Cross still interviewed prisoners. They
also brought the prisoners letters from home and sometimes they interviewed prisoners in their cells. But for a long time there was no Pashtun translator. There were some Europeans who spoke some Pashtu, but mostly they could not understand us, and we could not understand them. There was a widely- believed rumour that there were spies among the Red Cross representatives, and we remained wary of them. I myself was suspicious and wondered whether they were spies. One day the translator from Germany came to me and looked at me as if he had seen me before. “What’s the matter? Why are you looking
at me like that?” I asked him. “You seem so familiar, as if I have seen you before somewhere”, he replied. “Of course. You may have seen me; I have seen you many times
while I was in the prison camp in Kandahar before I was brought here”, I told him. But he said that he didn’t think he had seen me in Kandahar. “Maybe I have seen you on television. Your face and figure are so familiar”. He asked me what my name was, and I told him that I was Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He looked surprised. “Oh, how are you?” he replied. Then without any real connection
he asked: “Mullah Dadullah? Do you know which block he is in?”
I was taken aback by his question. I had not heard or seen of Mullah Dadullah since I had been taken captive. I now thought he might have been captured and brought to Cuba.
“Is he arrested?” I asked him. “When did that happen? I did not know that he had been captured”. “Oh, he is not here?” he replied. “I don’t know”, I said. The Red Cross had a complete list of all the prisoners in Guantánamo; they knew who was here and who wasn’t, so his casual evasiveness in asking me about Mullah Dadullah made me suspicious. Among the prisoners in Guantánamo there were two men who had lost one of their legs. One was Abdul Rauf,1 the other was Suleiman. The Americans thought that one of them might be Dadullah, but neither of them was. The prisoners did not really think that all the Red Cross representatives were spies, but they thought that maybe the American intelligence
agencies had infiltrated the Red Cross and planted spies among the representatives. Even with all this suspicion, the best thing by far was the letters they sent and brought to us.
They also brought books to Guantánamo, but the Americans took them away. If we complained about our treatment, about the food, or about being ill, it only made things worse for us and caused more problems. For example, when we complained to the Red Cross delegates that we were not being given enough food, they passed our complaints
to the Americans, who got angry. The following week the menu would be even worse.
I remember I had a pain in my left lung and an earache. I was really suffering, and I asked the Red Cross to help me. Once the Red Cross representative examined me, and told the American doctors about my problems. But the doctors did not treat me; I didn’t get any medicine, nor was I examined. Every week I would complain about the pain and my health but no one helped me. On one occasion Badrozaman Badr was being interviewed by the
Red Cross in his cell. He was complaining about the situation and spoke in English. The soldiers outside the cell understood what he was talking about and even before he was finished, the NCO of the cell block came and commanded Badr to hand over all his clothes and possessions. Badrozaman said, “But I haven’t done anything. Why are you punishing
He said, “Don’t talk. Just give me the stuff”. He had to hand over all his clothes and other things in his cell in front of the Red Cross representative. The representative just stood
and looked at the scene; there was nothing he could have said or done. Once the interview was over and Badr was alone in his cell again, the sergeant returned. “Hey, crazy man! Who are you complaining to?” he said. “What do you think he can do for you?”
Then he gave him back his things. We did not complain to the Red Cross much after that. But everybody was still keen to go to their meetings. For one, it was a break, a different environment. We also all really enjoyed the biscuits and the juice. By the last two years of my stay in Guantánamo they had found two Pashtun translators. One was called Habib Kabir, and the other was called Arman. Both of them were Afghan. One of them had been living in Germany, the other in France. They were both good people, who showed a lot of compassion for the prisoners.
You could tell from their faces that they were suffering from our experiences. Habib came to us only once, and then we didn’t see him again for a while. ”I cannot stand seeing you like this”, he said. “When I enter the camp I am afraid I will have a heart attack”. He would help the illiterate. All day he would write letters for them to their families. Lots of the prisoners had no idea where their families were, and he would try to find this out and pass a message to them. Arman also helped to connect the prisoners with their families. He understood our problems, our language and culture, and we trusted him. While I was in Guantánamo I did not know how much work the Red Cross was doing on behalf of the prisoners. Only when I was released did I start to look into their activities; I realized how involved they were. The Red Cross tried to help us while we were being tortured by America, the land of the free that trod all over the law and human rights with her boots. I wish to thank the Red Cross and wish it every success for the future.
There were various different groups of soldiers working in the camp. Each group wore a badge with a different symbol. The three main groups at the beginning had either a tree, a cross or a moon on their badges. The group with the tree sign treated us the best. They did not discriminate between us, and treated us well. They served us enough food and at times they even brought us fruit. We were not disturbed during our sleep by them, and if a prisoner needed to see a doctor they would take care to relay the information as soon as possible. In turn we tried to cooperate as best we could with them. Sometimes when a
brother was very tired or disappointed, we would persuade him not to complain about the soldiers, because they were good people and we made sure to treat them with sympathy and respect as is written in the holy Qur’an. The soldiers with the cross sign were very strict, and made sure to enforce every rule and law of the camp. At times they were discriminating and abusive and we would often not get enough food to eat. Nevertheless, a few soldiers among them were good and decent people. The group with the moon-like sign, in contrast, was rude and discriminating. They never gave us enough food or even adequate clothes. During the night they would make sure to disturb our sleep. They were
quick to anger and to punish prisoners. There were three more groups, the key sign, the number 94 and the Spanish. The soldiers with the Spanish sign were the most polite and
respectful of all soldiers I met in Guantánamo; they showed great sympathy and compassion for us. We often talked and they would tell us the story of their ancestors who used to be Muslims. We would get additional food, soap and shampoo. They respected Islam, took care not do disturb us while praying and never mistreated the holy Qur’an.
At times they would tell us about what was happening in the world outside the prison. But they all disappeared and were replaced by red Americans.
The soldiers with the key sign were wild animals. They were still stationed at the camp when I was released. They were rude, had no respect for Islam and would go out of their way to make our lives as difficult as possible. They conducted night searches, disturbed us
whenever we slept. They falsely reported prisoners to the authorities and would abuse us and the holy Qur’an at times. The worst group of all, however, was the one with the number 94 on their badge. They abused the prisoners and the Qur’an; prisoners were punished for no reason by them. The animosities between group number 94 and the prisoners grew, and the prisoners in turn started to disobey them whenever they could. They would throw water at them, not answer their questions and be as uncooperative as possible. Finally, the prisoners decided that group #94 needed to be removed and announced that they would create more and more disturbances until they left. The authorities reacted by dismembering their group and putting the individual soldiers into different groups throughout the camp.
Every six months, soldiers would be transferred from Guantánamo, and bad soldiers would usually arrive in the new groups and good ones would leave. Some of the soldiers expressed their sadness about what was happening in the camp. They said that once they left they would talk to the international media and, with it, the rest of the world about
what was happening to us in Cuba. There was also a difference between the different soldiers and their ethnic heritage. There were red, white/Latino, black and Indian soldiers
serving at Guantánamo. The white/Latino soldiers were mostly polite and showed sympathy with the prisoners and most of them did not discriminate. The African American soldiers seemed to be always tired; mostly they slept or were eating. They seemed to have less education and many came from poor countries. Only a few of the African American
soldiers discriminated against us, but the ones who did so were the harshest and toughest. They sometimes scolded the white and red Americans, saying that they were selfish and cruel and that they were being insulted by them. There was mistrust between them and every time a African American soldier was talking to a prisoner or giving him something, he would look around. The red Americans, who hold all key positions within the government, are tricky and best known for their lies and frauds. The majority of senior soldiers were red, and they seemed to be better educated and have better financial circumstances than the African American and Latino soldiers.
The fourth group was the Indian soldiers; there were only a few of them. They are native to America and the real owners of the United States of America, living there long before it was discovered. Most of them now live in very remote rural areas of America and illiteracy is high amongst them; many are addicted to alcohol and drugs. They
were killed and persecuted by the first Americans, their land was taken from them and they were driven into the mountains. Even now they have little representation within the government and many of the soldiers still regard the other Americans as invaders and don’t agree with what the USA is doing. They consoled us about what was happening.
When I first arrived in Guantánamo there was only one camp consisting of eight blocks and a separate confinement ward. There were fortyeight cells, two walking sites, four simple bathrooms and twenty-four cells in the confinement ward. We were issued with red coloured cloth made out of thick material that gave some prisoners a rash. Every prisoner
was given two blankets, two water bottles, two towels, a small plastic carpet, a toothbrush and toothpaste, one holy Qur’an and a mask. A common punishment was for all these items except the plastic carpet to be taken away.
When the second camp was built and the general who had been in charge was replaced, the conditions for us changed. We were divided into categories and the punishments got worse. The number of cells increased to three hundred, the Qur’ans were taken away, we were shaved again and prisoners were increasingly abused during interrogations. The name of the new general was Miller; he was later transferred to Iraq and took over Abu Ghraib prison there. He established Camp Echo, a very dark and lonely place. There were different places for detention within Camp Echo, one of which was a cage inside an average
room with a bathroom in front of it. The room and doors were operated by remote-control and prisoners were monitored 24/7 with video cameras. Inside the room you could not tell whether it was night or day, and several brothers who were detained in these cells suffered
from psychiatric disorders afterwards. No one could hear you when you were screaming inside and were waving a hand in front of the cameras to get the attention of the guards.
No books, notebooks or any other items were allowed and the prisoner was left alone living with the four walls that surrounded him. Many prisoners suffered from psychiatric disorders after a few years in Guantánamo. Ahmad,6 who was from the west and had migrated to Britain, had been in Pakistan for religious studies when he was detained. He had been my neighbour in the Kandahar prison, where he was among the group of people who were wearing heavy metal chains all the time. Finally he broke down and started to suffer from some psychiatric disorders because of the difficult situation in detention. But instead of being helped he was punished over and over again and I remember him fainting several times. His condition got worse when he came to Guantánamo. At some point he was brought to the cage next to mine; all night long he would recite the holy Qur’an and poems. He would proclaim over and over again that the Mehdi (PBUH) would return this year. He was consoling himself. One day he hit a soldier with his food plate. He was transferred to Camp Echo and spent three years there.
Ahmad was well-educated but the detention made him lose his mind. The soldiers were well aware that he was suffering from the very final stages of depression, but he was still abused and not helped. There were numerous people who suffered from psychiatric disorders, like Dr. Ayman,7 Tariq or Abdul Rahman.8 The mad and psychotic are
forgiven in front of almighty Allah, but not by the American soldiers. I was detained in cage fifteen of Delta block and cage eight of Gold block in Camp Delta9 till the beginning of 2003. I was later moved to cage 37 in Cube block. From my cage there I could see the ocean and
ships passing by, but after a short while I was brought to a separate set of cages for detention where I spent a lot of time. In the beginning we were allowed to shower once a week and could walk in one of the exercise courts for fifteen minutes with hands bound. The time was later extended to thirty minutes, twice a week. Our clothes were changed weekly. For a long time we could not trim our beard or clip our nails. Later this too also changed and we could use nail clippers and razors once a week.
Military food rations were replaced by freshly cooked food for breakfast and dinner, and the following year lunch was also provided fresh. The soldiers who handed out the food decided how much each prisoner would get served but it was cooked in a manner that made it tasteless. It was served in small quantities and we were often hungry. Fresh fruit was served three times a day, which felt like a big privilege. We were allowed to pray five times a day and even the night prayer was announced. The soldiers played a tape for the Azzan and would imitate it themselves, but still we relied on the sun for the proper time.
Later we were even permitted to pray in congregation. Praying in separate detention rooms was more difficult. Often there was no way to judge what time it was, and prisoners had to pray whenever they thought was appropriate. When the third camp was built, our circumstances deteriorated. We were served less food, the quality worsened and punishment increased. Cube block was an example: newly made, the living conditions were
very hard. Prisoners were left to live in open cages in their underwear no matter what the season, not being able to cover themselves even for prayers. Very little food was served and the soldiers would abuse the prisoners. The toilet was visible to all and the cages weren’t big enough for prisoners to lie down to sleep.
In the winter it was very cold; prisoners would jump up and down just to get warm. One of the worst things was when the toilets became blocked. The smell of dirty water and faecal matter would blanket the whole block. We were not given toilet paper or water to clean ourselves after using the toilet; only our hands could be used, but could not be washed afterwards. The prisoner had to use those same hands to eat his food with afterwards. This is how those who claim to defend human rights made us live. Prisoners were made to live in Cube block for one to five months at a time. Those who could not control themselves stayed for longer. A separate block was built for psychiatric patients; most of the prisoners
detained there were suffering from severe depression and wanted to kill themselves. At the time I was there, there would be suicide attempts even on a daily basis. They were chained afterwards and given injections of barbiturates to calm them down; many of them became addicted to the injections.
But there was also violence among the prisoners. Some of the prisoners were believed by others to be spies and to be cooperating with the Americans; they were scolded and at times abused. Other prisoners would spit on them and they would ask to be transferred somewhere else. Many of them tried to hang themselves in their cell and then got
transferred to the psychiatric ward, which itself made things worse for them. Some of the spies were Afghan, and a number of them changed their religion and abandoned Islam. They would abuse the name of Allah and the holy Qur’an that was then taken away from them. There were people from Iraq and Yemen among them. Prisoners would be careful
and suspicious when one of those people was placed in the cage next to them and would thank Allah when they were transferred elsewhere.
All this happened in Camp Delta; the group of disbelievers even wore crosses around their neck and they grew in number each day. Many believed that this was a plot of the Americans to change our minds to abandon Islam. Two more camps were built; one was a good place with facilities and better living conditions. The other was another place for punishment. Camp Five was far away from the other camps, but word about this place soon spread, and even the interrogators told us that it was the worst place to live.
In reality, the conditions in Camp Five were not good, but the brothers could tolerate them. The rooms had no fresh air and no window, so there was no sunlight coming in. Each room was monitored with a video camera; there was a kind of cement-made bed, toilet and tap. The walls were made of concrete and the doors were remote-controlled. Only a Qur’an was allowed in these cells. Food was served through a small window in the door, but we were not allowed to face the window while the food was handed over. Often during the process food would be spilled on the floor, but no new food was provided. Walking outside in the sunshine once a week was a privilege. Medical treatment was only provided in severe cases and never seemed to cure their illnesses. Mullah Fazl was detained in Camp Five; he was suffering from a gastric disease and so asked for treatment for over one year but was only transferred to the hospital after he went on hunger strike and lost consciousness.
The conditions were extremely severe. The American soldiers often lied and deceived us, and there were many cases of abuse. Each brother who spent time in Camp Five looked like a skeleton when he was released; it was painful to look at their thin bodies. When Abu Haris returned from the camp, I did not recognize him; there was no resemblance between the man who had been taken away and the body that was returned. I was so scared by his appearance that sometimes I would even dream of him and would wake up screaming. May Almighty Allah release all Muslim brothers in good health and save them from the hands of the pagans and cruel people. Camp Five was often called Grave Five; it was like a grave for the living. Camp Four was made to hold prisoners who would soon be released
from Guantánamo. Prisoners were well treated and adequately fed; the idea was that they could regain their weight and strength and get back to normal again.
Prisoners lived communally at Camp Four; they ate together and prayed in congregation. Games and sports were allowed, prisoners could shower several times a day if they liked, and once a week a film was shown. Some elders had received school lessons. In addition to the normal meals, we were given dates, honey, cake, tomato ketchup and other things, while prisoners in other camps were dying just to get a loaf of bread. There was a football field, a volleyball court and a pingpong table, and we were permitted to exercise. Many journalists, senators and other visitors came to Camp Four; videos were made and
pictures were taken, but we were not allowed to talk with them. We were given white uniforms, and soap with which to wash them. At the beginning, when a prisoner was transferred to Camp Four, he and others thought that he would be released soon. Even the Americans would tell us that no prisoner would spend more than one month in Camp Four before being released, but the months turned into years for many in Camp Four. In the end not many of us were surprised; the Americans had often promised or said something that was soon after forgotten.
Once, after I had been moved from Cube block into different cages, a soldier came and told me to prepare myself to be interrogated. I was brought to a place I had not seen before and tied to some metal rings in the middle of the room. A group of Afghans entered and greeted me, sitting down in chairs around me. They introduced themselves and said
that they were a delegation from the government of Afghanistan. They started to ask the same questions as the Americans, and from time to time an American woman came in and gave them a note or whispered something in their ears. I doubted that they really were sent by the Afghan government, and thought that they might be part of a plot by the Americans to trick us. When I asked them what they had come for, they said that they were here to secure my release. I told them that this was nice to hear but that their questions felt more like being probed than anything else. They did not reply and left soon after. Most prisoners did not believe that these people were a delegation from Afghanistan, and abused them. Later I was shifted to Camp One, and then to Camp Four in June 2004, where I stayed until my release one year and three months later.
GRAVEYARD OF THE LIVING
During my four years in Guantánamo I witnessed and heard of many unbelievable events that took place in Camps One, Two and Three. The detainees faced many difficult situations that violated every international, constitutional, civil, Islamic and non-Islamic law. In 2003, at the beginning of the month of Ramazan, the month of fasting for Muslims, we were told that we would get some dates, honey and special bread. Even though these are small things, we still felt happy. On the second day of Ramazan, however, one of the soldiers mistreated us. There were forty-eight prisoners and three of us reacted, one person throwing water at the soldiers. The prisoner was immediately taken away and brought to a different cell for punishment. The day after it was announced that we would all be punished, that there would be no fresh food for thirty-four days and that water would not be served. We approached the senior officer, telling him that they should respect the month of Ramazan and that only one prisoner had misbehaved while now they were punishing all of us. His answer was negative: “this is the way of the military”, he said. “The group gets punished for the mistakes of any one member”. Another time a female soldier mistreated the holy Qur’an while searching a cell, throwing it deliberately onto the ground. The eventtriggered a strike among the prisoners; they would not change theirclothes, take a shower, help the soldiers in any way or even walk outside. The strike quickly spread, but instead of meeting the prisoners’ demand to punish the soldier for her actions, they reacted with force. Gas was fired into the cells knocking the prisoners unconscious. Soldiers rushed in and took each prisoner out. All items were taken from them and they were shaved. The entire building was full of noise, preventing anybody from sleeping.
Another time the prisoners detained in a separate block called Indiana started to shout Allahu Akbar and banged on their cages. At the time no one knew what had happened in Indiana block, but soon after I learnt that soldiers had beaten an Arab brother called Mashaal1 so severely that many believed he had died. All the prisoners were demanding information about brother Mashaal and threatened to create a crisis in the camp. The Americans first reacted by increasing security measures, but then announced that Mashaal was still alive but in a critical condition. Two months later, we found out that he had been completely paralysed. He could not sit or walk or move himself in any way. He could not even talk. He stayed in the hospital ward of Guantánamo for two and a half years. His condition did not improve and he was finally handed over to the government of Saudi Arabia. In Guantánamo, everything happened in reverse. Even though the conditions were difficult when I first arrived, everything seemed to get worse with time. Food was a constant issue and it took the authorities a long time to arrange for adequate and sufficient amounts of food. Even then, in Guantánamo everything was a business. Privileges and
treatment were solely dependent on the interrogators. If a prisoner was answering the questions of interrogators—satisfying their expectations, that is—then everything was possible: toilet paper, bottled water or even a transfer to Camp Four. Brothers who did not cooperate, on the other hand, were punished.
Mullah Fazal was punished for forty-one days because he did not answer the questions during an interrogation. During the nights he remained chained up in the interrogation room with the air-conditioning unit on full blast. The soldiers made sure to keep him awake. During the day they forced him to walk around so he wouldn’t fall asleep. Visitors were always brought to Camp Four, and never saw the real Guantánamo, just a few metres away. Many times the holy Qur’an was abused; the soldiers deliberately used it as a tool to punish us. More than once we collected all the Qur’ans and handed them back to the authorities because we could not protect them. But instead of taking them back, we were punished. Prisoners are the weakest people in the world. A detainee in Guantánamo,
however, is not even a person anymore. He is stripped of his humanity as each day passes.
Many recounted their experiences to me while we were locked up in adjacent cages. Mukhtar2 from Yemen and Yousuf3 from Tajikistan had been in Qala-ye Jangi,4 in Kunduz, among a large group of Taliban fighters who surrendered to the Uzbek militia. They thought that they had negotiated the surrender terms, and that they would not be
harmed. But the Uzbek fighters ignored their promises. The Taliban were beaten, and many were killed or tortured. Then they were pressed into metal containers, hundreds at a time, many in a severely injured state. At Qala-ye Jangi they were thrown onto each other, beaten once again and even forced by the guards to fight among themselves. They weren’t given anything to eat or drink. At the time they wished that they had been killed.
Yousuf Tajiki told me that while one soldier rummaged through his clothes, robbing him of anything of value, another noticed a goldcapped tooth at the back of his mouth. Yousuf pleaded with the man, and explained that the tooth was not made of gold, but he tried to rip it out. It was stuck deep in the jaw and the soldier got a piece of metal and tried again. He only let go of Yousuf when some other soldiers said that they also thought the tooth was worthless. Mukhtar was very young at the time, and started to cry when he talked about what had happened in Qala-ye Jangi. He said that they wanted to die, and had made a plan to attack Dostum’s soldiers. When their hands were unfastened they seized a few weapons and started to fight. Many were martyred in the six days they managed to hold out,
and then they were arrested once again.
Mohammad Yousuf Afghan said that the Taliban had recruited him from his village. When they were captured by Dostum’s militia, he thought that he would be sent back home. Instead he and others were lined up and beaten. The wounded and injured were shot or were drowned in pools of rainwater. The militia took everything they had with them: their money, sweaters, boots and even toothpaste. Some of his friends were beaten to death. They were forced into shipping containers. He said that there were about three hundred people in the container when it was sealed up. They were transported for four days; from time to time they stopped and the doors were opened. People would be pulled out and beaten without any reason and then forced back again. Finally the container was set down. The militiamen closed the doors for the last time and left. For three more days they were
locked inside. People were screaming for help. Some said that they saw the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). When the doors were opened again most of the prisoners had died and he had to climb over their bodies. A representative of the Red Cross was the first person he saw, but then he was blindfolded and brought to a prison in Jawzjan. Some 8,000 or so Taliban fighters surrendered, but of these only 3,000 were to survive captivity.
I had been in Islamabad trying to secure their release, and talked to Dostum several times, and he had assured me that the prisoners would be well treated. I even went to the United Nations to inform them about the prisoners, as well as the Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross. Abdul Ghani7 from Khushab in Kandahar province said that he was taken from his house and that he was accused of having launched rockets at the airport by the governor of Kandahar. He said that he had not launched any rockets, but, even so, was handed over to Allah Noor, a commander with a fearsome reputation who had been with the Communist regime. He was responsible for communications at the
military base in Lashkar Gah, but at this time he was in charge of Kandahar Airport security. Abdul Ghani was brought to Kandahar Airport, then beaten in a dark room with steel wires, but still he did not confess. Then they hung him upside-down from the ceiling, and beat him throughout the day. He could not bear the pain and finally confessed to the accusations.
He was given to the Americans. Many of the brothers who had been arrested in Pakistan told similar stories. The ISI or the police had captured them and if they could not pay a bribe, they were interrogated, beaten and abused. The interrogators would ask questions about Afghanistan, about which they did not know the answers themselves. In the end, they were all sold to the Americans. Many had never been to Afghanistan or had any involvement with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. There were journalists and teachers, shoemakers and merchants in Guantánamo. Many are still there. Pakistan was known among the prisoners as Majbooristan, the land that is obliged to fulfil each of America’s demands.
On one occasion I was taken from my cell for interrogation and brought to a room I had not seen before. There was a white chair in the middle of the room for me to sit on, next to a desk with some sort of machine. The guards unfastened my hands, which was unusual for an interrogation. An American came in accompanied by a Persian translator. They told me that the device on the desk was a lie detector machine. I was asked if I would agree to be questioned while being monitored by the machine; this way, they said, they would be able to tell whether I was telling the truth or not. I replied that they should have brought
me to the machine a long time ago, as it would have saved me from hours and hours of painful interrogations. The first question asked by the interrogator was, “who knows everything about you?” I said Allah, my creator. Then they asked me who else knows everything about me. I replied that I myself know everything about myself. Again they asked who else. “No one besides Allah knows everything about me”, I said. The American looked at me and said that he himself would discover every secret in my heart using the lie detector. I told him that he should not claim to be Allah. “Not even a father knows the heart of his son”,
I said. Then they placed the various wires on my body. The machine shows the temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, the amount of sweat on your fingers and other signs of excitement which then is used by the nterrogator to determine whether a person is lying or not. I was asked a number of very simple questions. The machine itself often creates excitement and fear for prisoners, and in reality it only shows how strong the heart of a person is. The strong heart wins, answers the questions quickly and doesn’t think for too long or you and the interrogator will start to have doubts. Most courts of law do not accept the findings of a lie detection machine as proof. It is merely a tool to scare the prisoners.
In a different interrogation session, without the lie detector, a map of the world centred around Afghanistan was placed before me. It had various lines and arrows on it, and the interrogators told me that it was a map showing the illegal trade in gold. They accused me of having taken part in the trade myself. Not only was I surprised, but it really made me wonder; how foolish are these people, I thought, wasting their time on meaningless issues like this. I noted that the map indicated that the gold route originates in Afghanistan. “So according to your map”, I said, “the gold is mined in Afghanistan and then sold throughout the world”. They said that I was correct; that was what the map showed. I told them that, “if you can prove that Afghanistan is producing gold, then I will be happy to accept any accusation you have against me”.
They did not reply but started to ask me some other questions instead. They gave me a questionnaire, the first question of which asked if I travelled to Peshawar each week. I told them that I didn’t. The second question asked for a reason why I went to Peshawar each week. Often the interrogators’ questions made no sense like this. The interrogations often appeared to be all over the place; there were questions about other prisoners, crimes, trips we had made, life experiences, parts of our careers, school time, madrassas, locations of
people, educational institutes, political figures, businessmen, mines and natural resources, religious and political conferences, political parties, social organization and culture, rural people, the tribes, regional differences, geography and so on.
At the beginning all questions were related to the current situation in Afghanistan, but later this changed completely. Questions were of a general nature or concerned with the country’s economy. Many questions were asked about natural resources or mines and their location. In particular I was asked many questions about oil, gas, chrome, mercury,
gold, jade, ruby, iron and other precious stones. I was asked several times about uranium, even though I had previously not heard that there was any in Afghanistan. Often when I said that I did not know or when I had no information, I was punished and put into an
isolation cage. There were countless questions about Islam, madrassas, religious institutions, famous scholars and religious conferences. Once an interrogator accused me of being guilty of an attack9 on a ship in Yemen, in which eleven Americans died. They said I had been in Yemen at the time. I was surprised, and asked them how I had reached Yemen. They said I had travelled to Iran, then onwards to Qatar, and from Qatar to Yemen. I asked if they thought I knew about the attack on the ship before I went there. They said that they thought I hadn’t known. I asked if I had taken the explosives for the attack with me. They said that they had no information about that. I asked them: “I did not know about the ship, where it was, or where it was going, so how could I have attacked it? How could I have travelled through Iran, Qatar and Yemen to an unknown location on an unknown mission?”
“Furthermore”, I said, “I have never been to Iran, Qatar or Yemen. If you can prove that I have been to any of these countries, then I will accept your accusations”. The interrogations were depressing, questions were repetitive and often these false accusations came from nowhere without any proof or any truth to them.
They were trying to wear us down. Punishment was followed by offers, promises of cooperation and then more punishment. A group of interrogators once came led by a man who looked like a magician with a French style of beard. He said that I had not been treated well so far and that he had come with good news for me. He said he would make
me a rich man. He would give me five million US dollars, a nice house and a car. I would be the richest person in Afghanistan, he said. I asked him why he would do all that for me. He said that I would be their very close friend. I would help them find the answers to their questions. I smiled at the interrogators and told them that I was already a very rich man, unimaginably rich.
“Alhamdulillah I have no need for your money. I have spoken the truth and have answered all your questions, and I will continue to speak the truth in the future. I do not know about this business of yours, and I will not be involved in it. All I need”, I said, “is my freedom”.
He said that I didn’t trust them and that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I told him that there was nothing to be trusted. “So thank you for everything you came here to offer today”, I said, “but all I need from you is to help me get released from here”.
The discussion lasted four hours and then they left. A few stayed behind. A short woman who called herself Angel came forward and asked me if I knew who she was. I said I knew that she was an American. She said that I had not understood much about her. She said she was in charge and that she held the real authority over me: my release, my life, and my punishment. Even though other people had already interrogated me, she did not trust or acceptwhat they had found out so far.
She would start all over again, and I would have to tell her the truth and behave with her. I asked what would happen when the next interrogator came. “Will he accept your information”, I said, “or will he again start from the beginning? How will we ever know our destiny here?” She cut me off and told me to be quiet. “Don’t speak unless you’re told otherwise”, she said. “I will teach you. I will strip you of all your pride”. At this point I lost my temper with her, and I said every word that came to mind. The discussion was over. They left, and I never saw them again. There was no rule in the camps. The interrogators that came and went behaved however they wanted, just like the other camp authorities
and even the soldiers in the individual blocks. There was no ruleMY
book; no way to know how one soldier would act. They did whatever they pleased, punishing us and abusing prisoners as they felt was appropriate. In the end, even when a prisoner complained or an investigation was conducted, only the soldiers would be consulted with the general idea being that they would not lie. Prisoners, even those involved, were hardly ever consulted, and whatever they said was presumed to be a lie if they were asked. I can’t even remember how many different interrogators I had over
the years that I was detained in Afghanistan and Guantánamo. Most of them wronged me, punished me in different ways and harmed me. May Allah take revenge for what they did to me in this world and the next.
In the outside world there was mounting pressure on America because of Guantánamo. After three years they introduced the Enemy Combatant Status Tribunal Review Board to deceive the world and the prisoners alike. Many of the prisoners were hopeful when they heard of it, even though in reality it was unlawful and unconstitutional. The board had bee convened to determine which prisoners were “enemies” and who, when accused, could approach Columbia district court for a trial.
The tribunal was made up of our interrogators. One would be judge, another the defender, and the third the prosecutor. All worked for the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies. All were trained interrogators; none of them had studied law, or understood it. It was only one of the games they played. I was brought to an interrogator who said that he was my personal representative. He was more rude than most of my previous interrogators, and demanded that I tell him all the facts about my detention so that he could defend me in front of the tribunal. I was suspicious about him and the tribunal and told him that I had
a few questions. I asked if he had studied any kind of law at school or university. He said no. I asked him about the tribunal board that was going to judge me: did they have any previous experience with law or tribunals? Again he said no. Then I asked him under which law—national or international—I would be judged. He said that there was no such law because none of the laws applied to the prisoners. The board would just announce its findings. Finally I asked him about the notice that we had all been given, that all prisoners had been proven “enemy combatants”. What law did that relate to, I asked. He said that he did not know.
Then I spoke.“It is good that you do not know the law, that the judge does not know the law, that there is no law under which I will be judged. There is no law here at all, and given three years ago they ruled without any law that we are enemy combatants, what is the need to ask me now, all of a sudden? You say you are my representative but I would have to agree to that, no? You are my enemy. I do not accept, nor agree, with any tribunal of this kind or visits made by you. I do not accept you as my representative. Do as you please now—punish me or not—but do not come here to meet me again!”
He said that it would be wise to cooperate with him because he would represent me in my absence anyway. I told him that I did not trust him, that I did not trust his tribunal and that he should do whatever he wanted. I for one would not allow anyone to make decisions
on my behalf. In the end, I had to scold him to get rid of him. The tribunal came and went. Another board, the Administration Review Board was put in place but I turned it down as well. I did not go before them, and they did not issue anything about me. We were all
accused of being enemy combatants, be it Al Qaeda or Taliban. We never really heard the reasons or saw the proof of these accusations. People in Guantánamo were detained for all sorts of reasons; often prisoners had no links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban whatsoever. They
would be accused of sheltering a Talib or offering food to them, or accused of knowing a famous mujahedeen or Talib commander. People were accused of having carried out attacks and explosions. Some had been captured because of false information; others had been wearing “the clothes of a mujahed”. One man was arrested because he was carrying
a mirror, another for having a phone, and a third for watching his cattle with binoculars. One of the prisoners said that they had taken him because his only form of identification was a 25–year old ID card from the time he had been a refugee. These were the facts and the proof of America. I heard many stories like these. There were former Taliban, a member of the present government, a shoe maker, a smith, a shepherd, a journalist, a money changer, a shop-keeper and an Imam of a mosque. Many old mujahedeen, and even their own interpreters, were detained
in Cuba. Some Pashtun brothers had been brought to Guantánamo because they had been in an Arab country and their visas had expired. Many of them spent three years in the prison before they were found innocent and released. They received nothing; no compensation for the time they had been robbed of, and nothing for the hardship they had
been put through. In the summer of 2005, the disillusionment and hardship cumulated
in a widespread hunger strike.Prisoners stopped eating or drinking, and at its peak 275 people were on strike, with some Arab brothers intending to continue till their deaths. The prisoners demanded a free and just tribunal and that their human rights be respected.
The strike continued for twenty-six days, and about two-thirds of the prisoners participated in it to some extent. The commander in charge of the camp, Colonel Bumgarner, announced that some points of the Geneva Convention would be applied to the prisoners’ rights and called for the strike to be stopped. Sheikh Shakir from Saudi
Arabia, who himself was on hunger strike and was well respected among the prisoners, was taken round to each individual to ask them to break the hunger strike.
Finally the strike ended. A body of six representatives was formed from among the prisoners to discuss the situation, and to offer suggestions on behalf of the prisoners to the American authorities. The group was made up of Sheikh Shakir, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, Sheikh Ghassan, Sheikh Sabir, Sheikh Abu Ali and me. We tried our best to find a quick solution in order to avoid arousing the suspicions of the other prisoners. We took great care not to fall into the traps of the Americans. Three meetings were held between the body of representatives and the camp authorities. The first took place on 7 August 2005. Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the senior official responsible for the camp, the camp commander and one other person participated in the meeting.
Bumgarner, a man of short stature, opened the meeting by saying that he respected the body of prison representatives; he wanted a secure prison and said that for that he needed us, since the other prisoners listened to what we said. He added that he would respect our
decisions and that he had contacted the Secretary of State for Defense, Mr Donald Rumsfeld, requesting that some of the agreements of the Geneva Conventions would be applied in the camp, the selection of which would be up to us.
We told them that they should immediately stop threatening and abusing the prisoners. For four years they had tricked the world into believing that they had detained terrorists without any proof, any law or any formal accusations being made, throwing us into cages. They accepted what they heard, and said that they would start treating us like human beings. But their words were lies: empty promises that never materialized. The representatives were taken away from the other prisoners and badly punished. No one knew where they were, and the difficult situation continued. The strike started again with
almost three hundred prisoners refusing to eat. Twenty pledged not to eat until they died.
Several hunger strikes took place in the camp, and were ended only after receiving promises from the Americans, but the one that started at this time lasted until the day of my release on 11 September 2005. Each day the number of participants increased; several became extremely weak and were close to death, fainting in their cages and cells, and being taking to the hospital for treatment. They were forcefed intravenously, but even while in the hospital they still tried to prevent the doctors from feeding them. They could no longer tolerate what was being done to them and chose death over life. The hospital was filled with starving patients. The doctors were so busy with the emergency cases that other patients had to wait to be treated. The doctor-in-charge refused to force-feed the prisoners, so five other doctors were brought. The problem continued until 19 January 2006. Where now is the United Nations, which so readily supported sanctions against twenty million Afghans, while now thousands of Muslims are detained, clamouring for justice, law and human rights? And for what?
On 11 May 2004, the sixteenth day of Ramazan that year, I was transferred for what I thought would be another interrogation. The room that I was brought to looked like an office, nicely furnished with a desk and a television set, and after I was guided into the room my hands and feet were untied–the first time they had been untied outside my cell since I had arrived in Guantánamo. After a short while an Afghan man came into the room accompanied by three Americans. I knew two of the Americans, both interrogators who had treated me very well in the past. The third American introduced himself as an officer in the new American Embassy in Afghanistan. The Afghan man said that he was a representative of the Afghan government; he seemed very kind but I was suspicious if he really was who he said he was. We talked for a while. He expressed his grief and sympathy for the prisoners and myself, and acted very differently from the first group of Afghans who had claimed to be a delegation. I met the man twice. For our second meeting he invited me for lunch. The food was delicious, with fresh fruit and Pepsi, and I felt respected. He promised me that he would try his best to secure my release from Cuba; in the event, it took another year before I was freed. I was eager to leave this graveyard of the living which the Americans had built.
After meeting with the delegate, I was visited once or twice a week by some other interrogators. For the first time I was treated like a human being; they asked me if I needed anything and would bring me anything I wished to eat. My life in the camp improved while that of others got worse. The little I got from the interrogators–perfume, shampoo and very good olive oil–I would share with the other prisoners.
The Afghan delegate had promised to return in a month, and I was waiting for him. The month turned into two and I began to have more and more doubts. I was disappointed. The interrogators just told me to wait for the delegate. He would come and I would be released, they said. Some months later, I was told by an interrogator that the Afghan
delegate would return the following week and that I would be released; he would take me back to my homeland. Before that, I would be transferred again. I did not trust them; the Americans had lied to me too often, and by then I could no longer tell if what they were saying was the truth or not. Many of the other prisoners laughed at me for even considering that I would be released, and some even swore that it was just another plot by the Americans.
The following week I was transferred to another place. It was a nice room, well furnished, with air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a TV set, and a separate bathroom. There was a tea and a coffee maker, shampoo and soap. For the first time in years I made myself a cup of green tea, which had been one of my biggest wishes while in the cages. Another interrogator came and told me that I had been released. He congratulated me and said that the General responsible for the region had come to see me, and he also offered his congratulations. Tomorrow, he said, the Afghan delegate will return and give me more information. Even though I was happy that I would be leaving, I had to think about my friends that I would have to leave behind, without any law and rule, without any respect for human beings. The delegate came and told me about my family and the current situation of Afghanistan; in turn I told him about the camp, the living conditions of the prisoners and what was happening all around us. I advised him to talk with the Americans and address these issues. I was transferred back to my previous cage the following morning. I was waiting for the Red Crescent delegation that visited all prisoners before
they were released. Suddenly, a group of Americans came to the cage. They had a video
camera and a Pashtu interpreter, and presented me with a note. I was told to sign the paper in front of me, accepting everything written on it in order to be released.
• The criminal confesses to his crime and thanks the government of
the United States of America for forgiving him and releasing him
from the prison.
• The prisoner was a member of Al Qaeda and the Taliban movement.
He will eliminate any links he may have with them.
• The prisoner promises that he will not participate in any kind of terrorist
• The prisoner promises never to participate in any kind of anti-coalition
or anti-American activities.
• If the prisoner violates the aforementioned terms, he will be re–arrested
and detained for the rest of his life.
Signature of the prisoner:
I was astonished to read the terms listed on this piece of paper. The group of soldiers and some senior officials were recording everything with their video camera as I listened to the translator. They handed me the paper to sign it, but I threw it back at them in anger.
“I am innocent, and not a criminal,” I said. “I never have, nor will I, accept any kind of accusations. And never will I excuse or thank the Americans for releasing me. If I have committed any crime, which tribunal or court has proved me a criminal!? “Secondly, I was a Talib, I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, but I have never been a part of Al Qaeda!
“Third, I was accused of terrorist activities, which I have never done. So how could I admit to doing something that I never did to start with? Tell me! “Fourth, Afghanistan is my home. No one has the right to tell me what to do in my homeland. If I am the owner of my house, how can someone else come and tell me what to do in it? “Fifth, I am still detained here, innocently detained. I can be arrested again, accused of any crime, so I am not going to sign any kind of paper.”
They insisted that I sign the paper. They told me that I would not be released if I refused, but still I did not sign it. Even if it would have meant that I spend the rest of my life in prison, I could never accept to confess to being a criminal. Many times they left and came back, but I still did not sign. Finally, they told me to write something myself instead of what was written on the paper. I was obliged to write something, so I took the pen and wrote the following: I am not a criminal. I am an innocent person. Pakistan and the United States of America have betrayed me. I was detained for four years without specific accusations. I am writing this out of obligation and stating that I am not going to participate in any kind of anti-American activities or military actions. Wasalam.
After that, I signed what I had written and they left me alone. I wondered if they would accept what I had written. After a short while a Red Crescent delegation came and congratulated me on being released. Soon, they said, I would be brought back to Afghanistan if I agreed. This was a strange question, I thought, and asked them what they
could do to help me if I did not want to go back. Would I have to stay here in prison for the rest of my life? They said that they could not do anything. It was all up to the Americans.
Indeed, they had no authority to help me, so I had no other option. Return to Afghanistan, or prison for the rest of my life… Afghanistan is my homeland; I love Afghanistan, but I just wanted to find out why they were asking me those questions about going somewhere else which was not in their authority. They were giving a legal framework to what the Americans were doing to prisoners. The Red Crescent delegation left.
I was moved to Camp Five to say goodbye to the prisoners. The brothers were taken out of their graves and all put in a big cage. I talked to them for one and a half hours, and then I left them. It was very shameful to be released. My religious brothers remained in the
worst conditions of their lives, but they were all happy about my freedom. I only met the Afghans who were detained in Camp Five; I was not permitted to meet the Arab brothers. Later, I was moved to Camp One to say goodbye to the Afghan prisoners there, and then to Camp Four where I said goodbye to all the brothers, Arabs and Afghans. I went back to the previous place to relax and eat. It was eleven o’clock so I prayed and slept. At one o’clock that night they came and brought me to the airport. My hands and feet were shackled the same way as when I had arrived in Cuba some four years before. When we
reached the airport, a General told the soldier to unfasten me. All the lights in the airport were off. I saw an airplane getting ready to fly, and I went closer to the airplane where some Americans accompanied by some Afghans were waiting to receive me and officially hand me over to the Afghan authorities. The representatives congratulated me on being released, and told me to get on to the plane. This was the first time I had walked by myself, without American hands on my shoulders.
The small jet airplane had been chartered by the Afghan delegation. The General came inside the airplane and said goodbye. We were accompanied by four other Americans who looked like security officers. It was almost three o’clock when the airplane took off. The Afghan representative had brought Afghan traditional clothes and a turban for me. I could freely walk in the airplane and could use the toilet. I was eating food, fruit, and could sleep without any problem. The airplane landed in England after a ten-hour flight for refuelling;
then after another seven hours in the air we landed at Kabul International Airport.
Kabul had changed in the four years I was away, especially the airport; the Americans had built roads and security fences and a camp that looked like a small city itself. I gave thanks and praise to Allah when I got off the plane by performing a sujdaah. I was freed on 11 September 2005 from Guantánamo. I landed at Kabul International Airport the next day and was taken to the National Directorate of Security by the Americans. From there I went
to Mullah Mutawakil’s house, where my family was, and then I went on to Mujaddidi’s place for the formalities. Two days later I was taken to a house which the government had
rented for me in Khushhal Mina. Then something happened which made me very emotional and upset. When I was leaving Guantánamo, I was promised that I would never be interrogated by Americans in Afghanistan. I had told the Afghan delegation in Guantánamo that the questioning should not continue on Afghan soil. I was sure that America would face more and more problems every day in Afghanistan. If they wanted to talk to me about those problems, it would mean interrogation. It would be very hard for me to answer their questions every day, or to help them. So I made them promise me
that the interrogations would end. Americans should never enter my house, I said, with the purpose of asking questions. They accepted that, and they even said that they would pay for my expenses for the next year. For four months it all went according to plan. I didn’t see any Americans, but in the fifth month I got a phone call from the Afghan National Security Council. They asked if they could come for a visit. I said, “you are most welcome,” thinking that they would be fghans.
At 2 p.m. I saw armed American soldiers with bullet-proof vests outside my house. I did not like what I saw. I never wanted to see armed American invaders near my house. Even so, I tried to stay out of trouble and to control myself. I refused to answer their questions,
saying that I was sick, because silence was better than a reply. They left, but two days later the same man who had called me before told me that he would return the same day at 2 p.m. This time I asked him who would come. “The same people as last time,” he said. I explained that I had been promised in Guantánamo that these people would not come to my house. I told him that if I was free to make a choice, then that I would request them not to come to my house. “If I am not free,” I said, “then come with handcuffs and chains and take me wherever you will for interrogation.” A short while later, one of the men who had helped me to get out of Guantánamo called me. After greeting me, he asked that I let those people come to my house. “They have some questions. Just get it over with and get rid of them,” he said. I could not turn him down; he had done a lot for me and I could not
refuse. I agreed and said that they could come. Under the surface, though, I just wanted all of this to stop once and for all. Nevertheless, it was not in my hands. I would see what would happen. They came at 2 p.m. with a long scroll of questions. But instead of answering them, I asked questions of my own. “Okay,” I said, “I understand that you face problems in Afghanistan. You will have new questions every day, and you will come to me to find the answers. If I answer you now, this will never stop. So I will not answer you.” I shouldn’t be afraid, they said. “Your security is tight. There will be no danger to you or your family. Your information will be safe with us, and we will give you more assistance”.
I told them that giving privileges and guaranteeing security was one thing. “But,” I said, “I cannot cooperate with you. I do not want to. I cannot make these deals, so please leave me alone. I was in Guantánamo for four years and I was constantly being interrogated. Wasn’t
that enough for you?” Still they tried, sometimes with threats, and sometimes with words
of encouragement. “You have a future. You have a home and children,” they would say.
It was harder for me than Guantánamo, to be honest. They were trying to take away my beliefs. But I thank Allah, who gave me the strength to avoid their trap. Finally I spoke frankly with them. “This is my last word. I will never be ready. I ask you not to come to my home again. If I am free, if my country is, as you say, independent, and if I have the authority over my home, then do not come. I do not want to see you here again.”
They became angry. “Why do you hate us?” they asked. “I do not like you,” I told them. “Just look at what you are doing, and what you did to me and other Muslims. What do you expect?” They looked at me with bulging eyes and mottled faces. “Do you want to go back to Guantánamo?” they asked. “Whatever you do is your business,” I answered. “You kept me in Guantánamo for four years when I had done nothing. If you want to do it again, there is nobody to stop you. But if it’s a question of freedom, then I have the right to tell you to leave me alone. But if it’s a question of power, then do as you wish, for you have all the power. But I don’t want to see you. So throw me in jail or leave me alone, it’s up to you.” They left.
I thank Allah a billion times that I never saw them again. Even so, my situation became more difficult since they stopped paying my expenses. They had paid the lease of the house for one year, and I found support from other friends and Muslims. The government posted soldiers outside my door from the security services. Still today, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, my life is restricted in many ways. Only Allah knows what the future holds.