The Americans urinated on the Qur’an and sexually abused us
Originally published in La Gazette du Maroc, Number 415, April 11, 2005
Mohamed Mazouz forms part of the five Moroccan survivors from Guantanamo. After more than three years and a half of detention between Pakistan, Kandahar, Bagram and Guantanamo, he has just been released on bail while waiting for the trial verdict in July 4, 2005. In this exclusive interview with La Gazette du Maroc, he reflects on all the stages of his detention, the torture, the parallels with Abu Ghraib prison and the fate of the twelve other Moroccans who are still held by the Americans.
LGM: You were arrested in Pakistan, the charges affirmed that it was in Afghanistan. What really happened?
The reality that everyone knows is that I was arrested in Pakistan. I went there to get married. It was exactly on August 26, 2001. I had been resident in London for the past few years and I did not have papers. I had to be married with an English national who would have had to have been of Pakistani, Indian or Moroccan origin. It was the only manner for me to lawfully obtain a residence permit. Destiny decreed that I struck up a friendship with a Pakistani. In the course of time, I knew that he had a sister of marriageable age and I asked for her hand. Her family accepted and we decided to leave for Pakistan to celebrate this union. The marriage took place and the things went normally. It should be mentioned here that I had a one month visa. Four days before our return, I was stopped on a Karachi street while I walked with my Pakistani brother-in-law. At the time of speaking, I know nothing about my wife. I don’t know where to contact her. I’ve lost any trace of her since the day when the Pakistani police arrested me.
Before considering the causes of your arrest, we would like to speak a little about your sojourn in Russia - true or false?
it is true. I lived in Russia for a time and to be precise, in
Leningrad. I was enrolled at the naval university before changing
branches so as to study at the University of Architecture. I arrived in
Russia on March 8, 1998. I still remember it.
For what reasons were you arrested in Pakistan?
The situation is simple. I am an Arab man, my physical appearance strongly attests to that and at the time the area effervesced. On this day, we were taking a walk, my brother-in-law and I, in the Karachi streets. We were approached in an unexpected way by the Pakistani police who asked me for my identity papers. The police officers took my papers and having understood where I came from, they asked me to follow them for a light interrogation. I complied without offering the least resistance. They had specified clearly to me that this interrogation in their office would take only 15 minutes. These 15 minutes became 4 years of hell between Kandahar, Bagram and Guantanamo.
Under what conditions were you interrogated in Pakistan?
I spent four days in the police station. Then very quickly, I was transferred to a prison where I remained for 26 days. The questions were constantly the same: why was I in Pakistan? Which books did I read? Was my family Muslim? Was I part of an Islamic group or organization?... For me, it was the first time of my life that the police interrogated me. I was at the same time shocked and surprised of all that occurred in front of my eyes. Once transferred to another prison, I met another Arab named Kohat. I also met Uzbeks and Tajiks. It is there that the torture started. We were towards the end of the year 2001, in December exactly.
Which forms of torture did you undergo?
I underwent every form of torture from the Pakistani authorities, without the police having laid any charge against me. I was tortured and I did not even know for what reason I was arrested. Nobody told me the reason for my presence in this horrible prison. We were beaten, trampled underfoot, kept without food, without water, being unable to wash ourselves, being unable to cut our beard and hair, agglutinated the ones on the others, under inhuman conditions. The most important thing to raise here is that all of us were put in chains of iron using a steel stick which bound our feet to our belt. This literally paralysed us. It was if we had a stake, stuck in our body. We ate with it, we relieved our natural needs with it and that lasted for several weeks. They removed these iron bars on the last day before the transfer to Kandahar. It should be also said that there, during this period, I met no Moroccan.
Under what conditions were you transferred to Kandahar?
I remember the day when the Pakistani police told us that an Amnesty International delegation came to see us. As I speak English, I could verify several times that people who were there to question us were not the representatives of a humane organisation at all. In fact, FBI and CIA agents came for verifications before the later stage. The same day, around 10pm, they took us one by one and gave us other clothes, a kind of blue one-piece suit. We were cooped up near the airport and once on the spot, we were handed over to other men. On account of the smell of the man who seized me, I knew that he was not a Pakistani. There, we had been hooded with sacking. But before that, let me explain to you how they had covered our eyes. At the beginning they put a material on which they put a second band very tight, then they put on the two bands a roller of adhesive plaster before hooding our heads with sacking. And there, arround our neck they made it tighter with a very resistant thread. I did was unable to breathe and I heard the voice of a woman which ordered us to keep quiet and not to try anything which could disturb them. On the airplane, we were placed, one beside the other, tied-up with iron-wire, tied with force arround our arms. We were hog-tied directly with the airplane beneath us, quartered to prevent any chance for even the least of movements. After some time, the airplane landed in Kandahar: the city of torture.
Under what conditions did you reach Kandahar?
We reached at night. We were hauled like animals, one drawing the other in its walk. They had removed our sandals and had thrown us down, flat on our face. We remained for more than 4 hours in this position. It was winter, the weather was icy and we were stark naked on the ground, shaking. And we were told not to move, nor to shiver. They had us clearly ordered us not to make the slightest movement. "Don't Move"; it was the order not to move even a tiny bit. Obviously, it was impossible with this cold. We couldn’t help it. We all shivered from head to foot. There, the soldiers jumped literally above us, laced boots on the face or on the back, crushing us on the ground. Like everyone, I moved and so a soldier struck a blow with his laced boot between my thighs. I knew that he wanted to crush my testicles. But the blow spared my genitals by a few centimetres. In all this panoply of torture that I endured for four years, this blow, I will never forget it for my all life. After four hours on the ground, they threw us in cells without our clothes. We were searched while naked under humiliating conditions and the soldiers mocked us and provoked us. Afterwards, they started the interrogations. Your name, where you come from, what you were doing here, do you pray, who do you know, what do you think about the attacks, did you meet Sheikh Usama...
Were you visited by the Red Cross in Kandahar?
Yes, we were. It was the day after our arrival in Kandahar. But I want to underline a point that your readers and the public opinion must know. The Red Cross did not do anything at all for us for all this period of detention in Afghanistan or in Guantanamo. Its presence was useless. The only thing that it did was to procure us some letters. I am even sure that they were there to serve the Americans and to bring assistance to them. In short, the Red Cross contented itself to play the role of postman and that’s all.
We remained there for many days without any hygiene so much so that we all had the appearance of wild beasts: dirty and long hair, black bodies because we never washed ourselves, long and dirty nails, the barbs had invaded our faces and gave us the appearance of insane people. The atmosphere was putrid. We were more than twenty persons, in a small cell with worn blankets to keep out an unbearable cold. We had dirty iron buckets for drinking and in the morning, so cold was the air that the water had become ice. We had two small meals, one at midday, and the other at midnight. The vice was to leave us confronted to hunger since waking at dawn until midday. In the evening, they roused us from sleep to eat at midnight. The calls were the hardest moment. They could call us at any time. We stayed there, without a blanket, trembling in the snow for hours. Then, when the desire took them again, there was another call.
And the interrogations?
The interrogations were daily, conducted by Americans with Arab translators who collaborated with them. That took place in the tents, in the presence of all the other detainees and often, at the beginning we were beaten, face on the ground, by insane soldiers, before starting to answer the questions. There was a precise technique which consisted of throwing the detainee on the ground, to jump on his back and to crash his shoulder before beating him. Many among us had fractured scapulas and had to face cold and hunger, without medication until the departure for Guantanamo. The interrogation could go on for interminable hours. There, they used exceptional measures for torture. First of all there were the electric shocks that hurt us to an unparalleled degree. Then, they threw us in large water barrels to drown us. They had also the vice to put dirty trollops, filled with all that you can imagine of disgusting material, on the mouth and the face. We were held with no prayer, no food, no water, no clothes, without a blanket, for days.
After that, you were transferred to Bagram?
The prison of Bagram is the twin sister of Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Without giving too many details, we endured the same tortures, the same physical and psychological mistreatments that the detainees endured in Iraq. You know, when I returned to Morocco and I could have access to the newspapers, I discovered what the Iraqi detainees had endured in Abou Ghraib, it was the same techniques and the same abuses. Today I think that Bagram was the laboratory which prepared the way for Abu Ghraib. We were in individual cells and that is the most important so that they could test anything on the detainees without anybody knowing what occurred. We were humiliated in our bodies, bound to strip in front of the others. Still worse, they sent us female soldiers who provoked the detainees touching their genitals, stripping off in front of them or then having sex with other soldiers in front of us. We saw worse than that and many detainees were raped and did everything that they could to hide it. But we knew what they had endured at the hands of the soldiers. Other techniques were employed like hanging us with shackles on iron bars fixed on the walls. We could remain suspended for nights without sleep.
Afterwards, they began the stage of injections. By turns, they injected us products which maked us insane. Thereafter we learned that it was injections which induced hysteria. Many of the detainees were completely out of their minds. Others contracted skin diseases, dermic infections, renal diseases, liver complications, headaches...
What treatment was reserved for the Quran?
Here, I want to be insistent on letting know to the whole world through what I say until where the Americans went to humiliate us and flout our most elementary principles. It concerns the treatment inflicted to the Quran. Anything that could reduce it to nothing was used. They urinated over it, they ripped it; they cut it with scissors in front of us. They defecated on it and painted our faces with it. Yes, all this should be said so that the Muslim world understands which degree of hate this sacred Book inspires in them. I do not see why it came to that. One day, and in the Red Cross presence, they took all the Qurans of the prison to rip them in front of all of us. They behaved as regards to this noble Book as if it were a vulgar object. When we protested, we were tortured very badly. Each time they behaved like that as regards to the Quran, we were roused and obviously we were severely punished. It was a vicious circle. The other forms of torture consisted in unleashing dogs against us when we were naked, in groups in the showers, or then, at interrogation time. Dogs are prowled about this kind of work and sometimes the detainees were violently bitten. We became insane, at the same time experiencing fear, hysteria, hearing the cries of the others, enduring the cold, hunger and strong headaches. As far as I am concerned, I formed part of the first group who arrived and the last to leave. I endured everything.
After six months between Kandahar and Bagram, you were transferred again to Guantanamo. How did that occur?
I can say that between Kandahar and Bagram, I endured the ice of winter and the hell of summer. I was called for an interrogation on June 14, 2002 and we embarked on airplanes to Guantanamo on June 15. It is the journey which I could never forget for all of my life. First, it was a journey of more than 24 hours. We were all shackled , tied up to the base of the airplane, chained to each other. They put a kind of glasses on our bandage to block the sight as well as large headphones on our ears to prevent us from hearing. They put scotch tape on our mouth and a material on our nose before they hooded us and then they ended by tightening it around our neck as well, as they had done for the first journey to Kandahar. We also wore gloves linked on the hands to prevent us from moving. In short, they had destroyed all our senses: Neither to see, neither to hear, neither to speak, neither to feel, nor to move our fingers.
How did you know that you would be transferred to Guantanamo?
The journeys had begun with our arrival in Kandahar. We heard talk about these moves. After a few months, we could have some ties with some guards that we questioned about these journeys. It is through them that we learned the destination was Guantanamo in Cuba. Before the arrival in Guantanamo, I had not met any Morrocan neither in Kandahar, nor in Bagram. We did not have to eat for this journey nor the possibility to go to toilets to relieve ourself natural needs. The soldiers bound the detainees to put nappies on to avoid any accidents. In the event of tiredness, the soldiers came to beat us so that we kept upright.
We learned that the interrogations took place on the day of your arrival in Guantanamo.
Yes, it is true. Once arrived, they took us and threw us under the sun of the Caribbean. We were without clothes, naked. We remained there for hours. Afterwards, we were led to the interrogations. One night in the airplane, tied up and without food, hours under the sun and then directly to torture and question us. As far as I am concerned, they did not have any other answer than a vomit so much was I suffering from headaches and exhaustion. They led me in my 2m length on 1m 80 width cell.
How did you live for more than two and a half years in Guantanamo?
We were each in a cell and able to leave for a walk twice per week, for 15 minutes each time. We were completely isolated from each other, even at the time of the walks where it was necessary to go all alone on a distance of a few metres. We could not even run or play sports. It was impossible to meet another Morrocan as we were isolated. But we knew by the statements of other detainees who arrived from other sectors that there was a Morrocan of Safi in such quarter, another of Berkane in such other. We asked for the exact description of the Morrocan to recognize him from afar and to make him a sign. It was in this way that I could recognize Abdellah Tabarek, Ibrahim Benchekroun, Redouane Chekkouri and Mohamed Aouzar. Furtively, far from the soldiers’ glances who detained us, we tried to make signs, and we waited the day when the chance could enable us to meet in the same quarter to exchange some words. Sometimes we were found out and there, we were severely tortured by the guards who prohibited any attempt of congregation between ourselves.
What did you have like objects in way to live in Guantanamo?
A blanket, a mattress that was 5 cm thick and the Quran. From time to time, we were given a small towel and the shower when the soldiers felt like it and a small tooth-brush. About the Quran, I must specify that I rued the fact that they gave us the sacred Book to read. Afterwards they used it as a form of torture, in the same way that they had used it in Bagram to push us to madness. It was a game for them. They came to take it one day, they gave it back again to us another day, then came to take it again and this, for all our detention time, not forgetting all the other aspects which I described above. Obviously, we responded by hunger strikes, cries, suicide attempts, blows and each time, we were broken in blood. They could also come to shave our hair and beard, to make us eat what they wanted, to give us injections and to throw us into isolation. We asked them to torture us physically, but not to touch the Quran, but there was nothing we could do. Their aim was to wound us in whatever we deemed most precious.
Were you victim of forced injections?
We accepted anything from them. I thought that it was my destiny and I waited patiently. But in fact diseases gave the most troubles. Because of these injections, many among us were sick. Some suffered from the liver, others of the kidneys, others became hysterical and others asthmatic as I am since my stay over there. Others were constantly anaemic and with each injection, they were at death’s door. I do not even speak to you about the skin problems of which almost everyone suffered as well as rheumatism because of cold and moisture.
And this problem of haemorrhoids. Is it true that many had heavy haemorrhoidals rises?
Absolutely. Everyone of us had this type of infections and I think that it was expected in the way to humiliate us more. Some had operations to avoid the pain. Americans made fun of us while speaking in the way in which they handled the genitals of the detainees. They knew that it was the greatest humiliation for a Muslim to let another man touch his anus and they did everything in order to ensure that we were all sick. Some had anal injections using long tubes which were introduced by the back. We all had complications following this type of injections and we never knew why we were the guinea-pigs of such a secret laboratory. It is clear that we were all very low psychologically after such interventions and that even pushed some of us to suicide attempts. For them, physical torture forms part of the past. They tested on us other forms of mistreatments which affected us more than the beatings. As far as I am concerned, I brought back with me asthma. I needed to return home, to feel better and breathe.
There were cases of insanity and suicide attempts?
Of course, and we knew. In front of our eyes, men became insane. They could not hold the shock. Here, I want to say that there is a Morrocan who sank in madness. It is necessary that we do something for him. It is necessary that the world knows that he is mistreated, badly nursed and that it is urgent to save him.
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