Statement of Noor Uthman Muhammed at his Military Commission
STATEMENT OF NOOR UTHMAN MUHAMMED
February 17, 2011
1. My names is Noor Uthman Muhammed. I am from Sudan. I was born in Kasala, Sudan which is on the Sudanese border with Eriteria. My family depended on its ability to raise animals and farm to survive. It was a very difficult life. In Sudanese culture, birthdays are not something that are important. I believe that I was born around 1967 but I've never marked that occasion. Living near the border was dangerous and there was often conflict between different tribes. I was taught that my family is a tribe, Mikal, within a group called the Beni Amir. We speak our own type of language, which is separate from Arabic. Life then was a daily struggle just to eat and stay safe. I don't have a strong memory of my parents because they died when I was very young. In Sudan, the tribe is your family and they took me in. We moved to Port Sudan, which was a big city compared to Kasala. I have a brother, Muhammed, who is about five years older than me. My parents' siblings also helped to raise me. I was permitted to go to school for a short time so I never learned anything beyond the basics-some math and some letters. The Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammed were also a part of my education from a very early age. I had to leave school in order to earn some kind of living so that I could eat. My extended family had their own children to take care of and I felt that I needed to be able to feed and clothe myself after I lost my parents. Although there should have been more opportunities in Port Sudan; there were not for a child or young man. I tried to sell things that I found or traded for in the market. I tried to do odd jobs for people like carpentry. I never had a place of my own to live; it's not like in the West-even if it is difficult you stay close to your family. I spent many years moving from house to house and sleeping on the floors in whatever house had the space for me. My brother Muhammed and my neice Awadia still live in Port Sudan. Awadia was a very young child when I left. Some of my parents' brothers and sisters are also still living in the Port Sudan area. It is painful for me to think of them there in Port Sudan. I never wanted them to worry about me or to cause them any pain.
2. As I was growing up, I spent more time in the markets near the Port. Port Sudan is a stopping point for people on their way to Mecca and Medina. I was drawn to learn more about my faith as a Muslim. Looking back, our tribe and my family were not very strict in their practice of Islam. We had little time to think about Islam; we needed to think about food. While I was in the markets, I heard people talking about the pilgrimage to Mecca and also about Islam more generally. There were religious leaders who encouraged young men like me to learn about Islam. They had cassette tapes that they would give away. My reading was not good so I would listen to these tapes to try to expand my understanding of Islam. I began listening to these tapes in the late 1980s. The tapes explained the duties of being a Muslim; one of those duties was to be prepared to defend Islam. I also watched video tapes that helped explain Islam and some of the struggles that were going on outside Sudan. I learned that the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan fighting Muslims there. I also learned that there were many other places in the world where Muslims were faced with war. The videos and pictures showed horrible things; things that would keep me awake at night. I came to believe that the solution for stopping the murder of innocent Muslims was to train myself to help Muslims defend themselves either in their countries or in Sudan. To me, defending my religion does not mean I have to perform terrorist attacks against other people. I had heard that Afghanistan was a place for Muslims to go learn about defending our religion. So, in an effort to prepare myself and to escape my situation in Port Sudan, I accepted a loan to fund my travel to Afghanistan. There were many young men like me who left Sudan to try to learn more about Islam and to help Muslims in places where they were under attack. When I left, I could not read or write well. I did not speak English or any language outside of Arabic and my tribal dialect. I had never received any kind of military training before leaving Sudan.
3. In 1994, I arrived at the Khaldan camp in Afghanistan so that I could receive training to prepare myself. At the time, I believed that I needed to be prepared to defend my faith and only planned to use this training if it became necessary. Khaldan was about the size of one-and-a half soccer fields. It did not have a paid staff. The camp provided basic military training. The military training was very basic training and mostly dealt with small arms. I saw hundreds of people pass through the camp. Most trainees at the camp did not stay for more than a few months. Some flew in from the Gulf Countries for shorter stays like a week at a time; so that they could say that they had been to Afghanistan and fired a weapon. Some people got more advanced training at other camps and Khaldan didn't have the money or the experts to provide more advanced training.
4. While at Khaldan, I participated in basic arms training. After my training, I stayed on at the camp and became one of the weapons trainers. There was no special selection process for trainers; if you could stay, you were asked to help by providing training. I decided to stop training people on weapons and requested that the emir, Ibn Sheikh AI-Libi give me different duties. My main responsibilities were to gather food, water, and supplies for the camp. Sometimes, I also was asked to run the camp when the camp leader was gone. The Camp belonged to Ibn Sheikh and he made the decisions about what would happen there. He fought with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and was well-respected as a soldier. Ibn Sheikh had a council of trainers and others who could be consulted on issues related to the Camp. Although Ibn Sheikh consulted the council, he made the final decisions and did not have to follow the council's advice.
5. In 1999, the camp moved, and in 2000, the camp closed. I did not go to any other camps after Khaldan closed. I learned that the Camp closed because Ibn Sheikh AI-Libi did not agree with the philosophies of the Taliban or AI Qaeda. Khaldan was really all I knew, so my goal was to get home to see my family that I had not seen for many years. In 2001 after the invasion of Afghanistan, it was not safe to remain. I did not have a passport, since it had been taken from me when I first traveled into Afghanistan. I had no way out, so I joined with others to cross the border into Pakistan so that I could try to make my way back to Sudan. I was told that people in Pakistan, including Abu Zubaydah, could assist me with the travel documents necessary to get back to Sudan. Returning to Sudan was my main goaL
6. In March, 2002, I was in a house near Faisalabad, Pakistan. The house was two stories, and several rooms were able to be closed off from the rest of the house. I did not participate in any training at the safe house, other than to learn some basic English to pass the time. The house was raided during the night. I was brought to a Pakistani jail with many other men that had been picked up. I did not know what the Pakistanis intended to do with us. They held us in big cages and told us that anything could happen to us. You would treat animals better than the way that we were treated. We had very little food that you could eat. There were times that we asked the guards if they could bring us plants that we saw growing in the ground to help with the hunger. I was scared that I would just disappear. Every time that we were moved we were threatened. Growing up in Sudan, I knew and heard stories of the security services picking up people off the streets for questioning. Questioning could last for days and those families feared that they would never see their relatives again. Port Sudan is not far from Egypt and the Egyptians were notorious for snatching people off the streets, holding them and torturing them for information. Every time I moved, I feared that it was going to be the last time. There were at least three moves within Pakistan. Then I was released to the Americans. Both the Pakistanis and the Americans told me that they could hand me over to the Egyptians and no one would know that I had disappeared. The fear and uncertainty this caused me was overwhelming.
7. In May 2002, I was transferred from Pakistan to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. We didn't know where we were being taken and I feared that it would be worse than Pakistan. During the movement to Bagram, I was hooded, shackled and chained to a group of other detainees. Upon our arrival, we were all thrown, kicked and handled roughly. At Bagram, I was interrogated daily; some days there were multiple interrogations. I was chained to my cell with my hands above my head for 12 hours per day; several days in a row. When I was chained to my cell in this way, the guards would also put a bag over my head. Some guards would show a little mercy by unchaining me and allowing me a short break to move my arms. This happened regularly. There were also times that I was shackled to the floor by both the arms and legs while I was on my knees for several hours at a time in a painful position. There were times that my cell was freezing cold and my clothes were taken away, while other times the heat in the cell was unbearable. There were periods of time when loud music was played 24 hours a day; so loud that you couldn't even think. There were several times that women were used to interrogate me or acted as guards. I found being in their presence very disturbing because in my faith such close contact with a woman is reserved for a husband and wife out of respect. Oftentimes, the female interrogators would wear clothing that you could see through or other clothing that was revealing and disrespectful. These women would come really close to me and attempt to touch me. As hard as this was, I was never humiliated more than when my clothes were taken away from me in the presence of female guards or interrogators. There were also times that female guards struck me when I had difficulty looking them in the eyes because I felt uncomfortable with them. There were many nights that we were woken up by the guards. They would yell at us to "get up" and "get against the wall" They would search us and tell us that we were getting ready to ship us off to Egypt. Other detainees would leave like this in the middle of the night and we were told by the translators that they had been taken away to Egypt. I was worried and I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking that tomorrow they are going to take me there and I was scared because I knew that their security police could make people disappear. I felt like these people at Bagram did not consider me to be a human being and I had no dignity in their eyes. In Bagram, I lost all hope that I would ever have a chance to see my family again.
8. I was transferred from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on August 5, 2002. I was again hooded, shackled and chained to a group of other detainees when I was transferred to Guantanamo. The flight to Guantanamo was significantly longer than the earlier flight I had taken from Pakistan to Afghanistan. On the flight, we were shackled together and stacked side by side. We were unable to move or to use the bathroom. Again when we landed, we were thrown and kicked. During this transfer, I was hit in the back of the head with a rifle; busting my two front my teeth. The worst time that I spent in Guantanamo Bay was while I was locked in Camp 5. I was there for two years in a cell by myself. I thought that I would lose my mind. I was interrogated almost daily when I first arrived at Guantanamo Bay. Some of the interrogators and guards, especially at the beginning of stay, would do everything that they could to humiliate detainees. Like at Bagram, the temperature in my cell was made very hot or very cold for long periods of time. There was a very dark interrogation room at Guantanamo Bay that the detainees called "hell." We were threatened or forced to spend extended periods of time in this room as punishment. While sitting in the dark, extremely loud music was played or you just hear people screaming. You could spend several hours in this room. The interrogators also constantly threatened to send detainees to "Romeo" which was a very small room with no blanket or mattress; your clothing down to your underwear would also be taken from you and you could be kept there for days. There were also many days and nights that I didn't sleep at all. A guard would watch us in our cell and yell or rattle the bars to keep us awake. I was also locked up in Camp 6, where again I was locked in a cell by myself. I was moved from Camp 6 to Camp 4 in 2008. Although I was still locked up, my life was much better in Camp 4; where we could spend more time outside and I lived with a group of other men.
9. Since being locked up, my health has not been good. I have experienced pain and pressure in my eye and bleeding in my teeth. I have suffered from tingling sensations in my arms and legs. At night when I am trying to sleep, my muscles will move on their own and keep me from sleeping. There is something wrong with stomach and it often appears much bigger than it is and causes me pain. For periods of time, I was experiencing extreme pain in my back that made standing unbearable. At times, I have had very little energy. Sometimes, I asked for medical attention but I was also scared that the guards would trick me into taking medicine that would cause me to no longer know where I was or lose my mind.
10. I have already spent almost nine years in confinement under the conditions I have mentioned here as well as subject to many other awful conditions your own Government and outside investigations have confirmed. These conditions are detailed in the attached document provided by my counsel.
11. I have never been a member of the Taliban or al Qaeda. I understand that I have pled guilty to Material Support for Terrorism and Conspiracy to Commit Material Support, but I have never planned or participated in any terrorist attack. I hope to get home in the near future to see my family again before my time on this earth ends. I have done my best to be a compliant prisoner even in the face of the conditions that I have endured. I ask that you give me the opportunity to get home as soon as possible so that I can live out the rest of my days peacefully.
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