Seven hundred and seventy-five people have been imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. One hundred and seventy-one people remain in the American military detention and interrogation facility.
On the tenth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, here are some stories from detainees who have been freed from Guantanamo:
*Lakhdar Boumediene wrote an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times:
…When I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.
I went on a hunger strike for two years because no one would tell me why I was being imprisoned. Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me. It was excruciating, but I was innocent and so I kept up my protest…
His name, as he notes in the op-ed, appears on the Supreme Court decision that determined “prisoners like [Boumediene], no matter how serious the accusations, have a right to a day in court.” [The ACLU has a podcast with Boumediene up on their website.]
*Murat Kurnaz also had an op-ed published by the New York Times:
After about two months in Kandahar, I was transferred to Guantánamo. There were more beatings, endless solitary confinement, freezing temperatures and extreme heat, days of forced sleeplessness. The interrogations continued always with the same questions. I told my story over and over — my name, my family, why I was in Pakistan. Nothing I said satisfied them. I realized my interrogators were not interested in the truth.
Despite all this, I looked for ways to feel human. I have always loved animals. I started hiding a piece of bread from my meals and feeding the iguanas that came to the fence. When officials discovered this, I was punished with 30 days in isolation and darkness.
*Moazzam Begg has been speaking out. In an article published on CNN.com, he talks about his time at Bagram in Afghanistan before being flown to Guantanamo:
Begg said he was sent to Bagram Air Force Base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he witnessed the deaths of other detainees, which he believes resulted from their mistreatment by guards and interrogators.
He said he is still haunted by the sounds of a woman screaming near his cell at Bagram. He was convinced at the time that it was his wife.
It was not. She had not been detained. He would learn that when he returned to her more than three years later.
*Abu Bakker Qassim, a Uighur or Chinese Muslim, talks about being released to Albania and what it was like to be a prisoner:
His time in Guantanamo has left deep scars. He still has nightmares and hears the screams of fellow prisoners.
“In Guantanamo the law did not exist and people were only numbers … I should not complain about my new life in Albania,” he said.
*Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo prisoner returned to Britain, went on Democracy Now! to describe his experiences:
AMY GOODMAN: One of your eyes is semi-closed. Why is that?
OMAR DEGHAYES: Yeah. This—this was inside Guantánamo, that this is what happened, is that we were, because of—it’s a long story. But the end of it is that five, six guards came into my cell and other people’s cell, and they tried to stop us from campaigning, like what’s happening now, hunger strike, and from campaigning inside prison against certain embarrassing policies, like sexual abuse policies that were committed by General Miller at the time. And we—and they tried to stop us from doing anything like that. And what they did is to threaten us and frighten us. After beating me in the cell, they dragged me outside the cell, and then one of the guards, while another officer was standing, observing what was happening, he was trying to gouge my eyes out. And because one of my eyes, the right eye, had been less—I had a problem with it before, so both of my—I lost sight in both of my eyes. And then, slowly, slowly, I regained my sight in one of the eyes. The other eye has completely gotten worse than it has been. And they went to do the same thing to the next cell and the next cell and next cell, so to make an example of us, so to frighten everyone else from campaigning or from objecting to any policies. So that was the reason for that.
*And, David Hicks, an Australian who was imprisoned in Guantanamo, told his story to Truthout in an interview that the website promoted on the tenth anniversary:
TO: Solitary confinement appears to be among the worst of all the terrible experiences prisoners faced at Guantanamo. Can you explain what it does to you in a way that Americans, with no experience of such things, can understand what such isolation, especially with no knowledge of how long it will last, does to a person?
DH: Solitary and indefinite detention are two different things and are devastating when combined. Isolation has a powerful impact on the mind, especially when coupled with incommunicado detention as in GTMO. Everything outside the four walls is quickly forgotten. With no mental stimulation the mind becomes confused and dull. That state of mind is an advantage to interrogators who manipulate every aspect of your environment. They create a new world reality. Time ceases to exist. Talking becomes difficult, so when conversations do take place, you cannot form words or think. Even when hostility is not present such as during a visit with a lawyer or International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visit, coherent sentences become elusive and huge mental blanks become common, as though you are forgetting the very act of speaking. Everything you think and know is dictated by the interrogators. You become fully dependent with a childlike reliance on your captors. They pull you apart and put you back together, dismantling into smaller pieces each time, until you become something different, their creation, when eventually reassembled. Indefinite detention is draining and cruel. Only after five and a half years when I had been promised a date of release did the intense battle with insanity subside, and that I started to feel a little more normal again…