Letter to Clive Stafford Smith, July 15, 2005
July 15, 2005
I hope that you are well.
Allow me to say to you that my health worries me, since it is going from bad to worse. As you know, the Guantanamo prisoners, in the new and now sadly, infamous gulag, suffer much from lack of medical care: you can hear cries of pain and laments coming from the inmates in all the cages of this prison; for example, Nayib, the Moroccan, suffers permanent pain in one of his hands after it was fractured during the well known events at the Yankee compound in 2001.
I am sure that you will be amazed to know that the doctors and nurses of the new gulag have discovered that water is the best remedy for all known medical conditions. Water will cure any illness and if a prisoner complains about a cold, a backache or an allergy, the nurse has a stock answer: “Drink water!” If you have tonsillitis: “Drink water!”
No matter what the complaint is: “Drink water!” Even the guards have the magic prescription when they collect a sick prisoner to take him to the emergency block: “Drink water!”
All the prisoners have toothaches because during the long and frequent punishment periods the guards take their toothbrushes away from them. The prisoners ask for medical attention for one or two weeks and they are ignored so eventually they go on hunger strike. However, if you protest you become invisible and it is as if you did not exist.
In the end the prisoner volunteers to be interrogated, the officer in charge accepts the request, and the inmate has to commit himself to cooperate during the interrogation. He swears that he will answer all the questions put to him; the ones that concern him directly as well as the ones that will implicate others.
After that the dentist will see the prisoner. He will be very friendly and nice to him, however, he will make sure that he extracts a good tooth and ignores the decayed one. This way they try to ensure that he keeps cooperating during interrogation.
Habin al-Taadiya has beaten the record of cooperation during interrogation so far… they have extracted four perfectly good teeth and ignored the decayed ones.
Those who have sight problems are no better. If you collaborate during interrogation you can obtain a pair of plastic glasses with spare lenses just in case. The problem is that the lenses are the wrong prescription and unless you are very lucky to find someone in a similar situation, who has collaborated during interrogation, perhaps you will be able to use both pairs of glasses together to read the Holy Koran. In any case, Shaij Allah, the Egyptian, has very weak sight and needs more than one pair of glasses to see anything at all.
The Libyan Adu Ahmad has hepatitis and after many requests for medical attention was finally given some medicines, but his condition has been deteriorating every day. When Abu Ahmed asked them to provide the treatment he was having before he was captured, he was told with extreme rudeness by the doctor that the treatment he was asking for was very expensive and as he was a prisoner he had no right to it or anything else.
Abd al-Hadi from Syria suffers from heart disease and has problems with having an operation performed in Guantánamo, especially after finding out that his “uncle” Salih Muhammad, from Yemen, had a heart operation two and a half years ago but kept having the same pain afterwards and eventually was told that the operation had not been successful.
The Egyptian Abd al-Aziz was beaten up in his cage by the anti-riot squad and they damaged two vertebrae so that now it is impossible for him to move. He has refused an operation, especially after seeing the condition Mashal al-Harbi of Medina was left in after surgery. He could move even less than before; as for Umran al Tayfi, his case is hard to believe. He has endured sixteen operations in his foot, but it is as painful and as damaged as ever.
Muhammad, from Afghanistan who is my cage mate, discovered after three years of suffering that he had cancer and that the illness was in its terminal stages; the medics did not hide from him the results of the tests, which indicate that his illness started after he was made a prisoner by the Americans. Nevertheless, the new doctors were more open than their predecessors, since they told him that Washington had refused them permission to treat his cancer, to allow him to return to his country to spend his last days with his wife and children, or to be buried in his native land.
The situation of his countryman Muhammad Alam is not a lot better, since he has been informed that he has throat cancer, although he may return to Afghanistan.
Not long ago, a rumor circulated that all the vaccine jabs given to the prisoners by force during the last three years was a way to infect them with illnesses like AIDS, cancer, sterility, and others, which after a time became apparent.
Anyhow, we have to admit that the surgeons are honest and totally dedicated to their profession, since they never hesitate to amputate hands or feet, both healthy and sick, of the prisoners. The nurses are not any less dedicated, as they administer with generosity expensive unknown drugs whether the patients are aware of what they (the nurses) are doing or not!
Your sincere friend,
Sami Muhyi al-Din al-Hajj
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