Testimony to Witness to Guantanamo (Mourad Benchellali)
The worst thing was experiencing the interrogations. It was also to some extent inside the cells because there were fights with the guards too. When the guards would arrive with that team, you know, what did they call it, the IRF [= Immediate Reaction Force] Team, or something. That team. There are four or five of them. That too is among the worst things, when they throw some tear gas at us and then they start hitting us, four or five of them at once. It feels as though you’re being run over by a bus, it’s fifty blows per second, it was one of the worst things.
And during the interrogations, what is hard is that you are all alone. At least in the cells there are other detainees so we try to help each other out, to encourage each other. Even if you are all alone in a cage being hit, the others are trying to encourage the detainee next door, by throwing water on the guards or stuff like that. But during the interrogation, you’re all alone. You’re truly isolated from other detainees. That’s the worst thing. You can’t hear the voice of other detainees. For me, that is the worst thing.
There were some guards, I remember at the beginning before we went to Camp Delta, we were in Camp X-Ray. Some guards told us, well, one detainee had asked the guard, “Why do you treat us this way? Why do you beat us up? It’s unfair.” So he said, “You’re going to be sent to another camp, called Camp Delta. And over there, they won’t beat you up anymore, but psychologically it’s going to be very hard for you. We’ll do anything to make you all crazy.”
And so we passed it on, to all the detainees and all that. We told each other, the Americans’ goal is to make us all go crazy. So each time, we thought, if we break, they will have won. It will be their victory in a way, because that’s what they want. They want us to become completely mad so that it would give more credit to their claims against us. They could say, “See? They are madmen, crazies, they’re full of hatred and all that. So we were right when we accused them of being dangerous terrorists," and so on.
So, we didn’t want to fall into that trap, so that led us to fight in order not to fall apart. Not to become crazy. To stay strong, because we thought if we fall apart, they will have won. It’s like warfare, psychological warfare. So, it isn’t a physical war, but we must not let them win.