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Witnessing Guantanamo: Transcription of Salim Mahmoud Adem's Interview

Interviewer: Amy Goodman
Interviewee: Salim Mahmoud Adem
Interpreter: Isma'il Kushkush
Date of interview: 31 May 2008

Place of Interview: UCDavis (via videoconference with Sudan)

Amy Goodman: Finally, Salim Mahmoud Adem, where were you born, and what were you doing before you were arrested? Where were you?

Salim Mahmoud Adem: I was born in the city of Port Sudan in eastern Sudan. I used to work in a Kuwaiti charitable organization, and Hammad was my colleague.

AG: And where were you when you were arrested?

SMA: I was at home in Peshawar, Pakistan.

AG: And what day was it? What year? What time? Who came?

SMA: On the 27th of May, 2002, the same period that Hammad was arrested, around 1:00 A.M.

AG: And who came to arrest you, and what did they do?

SMA: At night someone came and knocked on the door, and it was very late. And I was living on the second floor, and I saw a Pakistani man dressed in civilian clothes, and I am married to a Pakistani woman, so I thought it might have been one of her relatives. But the man knocked on the door in a disrespectful way, and an unordinary way, so I woke up my wife so she could dress up. And next to me there was a house that was being built. I think that they were in a position to attack our house from the house next to us. As I was going down to answer the door, I would hear voices from the top.

When I went down stairs and opened the door, I heard the attack on my house from upstairs. As soon as I opened the door, they held my hands and they handcuffed me. They wanted to enter my house. I told them, ‘Wait a second. I have my wife and children.’ They said, ‘OK. We will call the women police.’
A Pakistani woman police officer entered and went upstairs, and I went with them and opened the doors of the apartment. I have two children; they woke up scared and were crying, and were holding on to their mother’s clothing, and were calling on me, ‘Father, father.’

I was a little sick at this time and I asked if I could take my medicine, but they said, ‘No.’ They took my medicine and threw it, and I had a short turban, so they tied it around my eyes. My wife asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I told her that, ‘I will be going with them, and God willing I will be back soon.’

They took me out of the house. There was a car ready outside; they put me in it. My neighbor who was traveling, they started to break down his house. After they searched his house, the car started moving to a prison, which I think belongs to the Pakistani intelligence. I spent the entire night, and in the morning an American man and an American woman came to us in the office of the Pakistani intelligence. I was in isolation. It was a really bad condition. It was summer; I couldn’t sleep at night. Around 9:00 or 10:00 [A.M.?], they started to interrogate me. They took photographs of me and [took] my fingerprints, and then I was returned to my cell.

Morning the next day, they told me that the photographs were not good; they took new photos. I was there for 11 to 12 days, the same amount of time that my brother, Hammad, here. I told them, ‘Where are we going to?’ I asked the Pakistanis, ‘Where are we going?’ They told us that, ‘In Afghanistan right now there are elections, and that the Americans were helping prepare the elections, and that’s why you will be taken to Kandahar, and from there you will be taken to Sudan.’

AG: And what happened to you in Bagram?

SMA: Exactly what happened to Hammad. It was inhumane; they tied our hands and feet tightly when we arrived in Bagram. Our hands and arms were swollen and injured with marks of the chains until now. Many of us could not even move two steps because our hands ... when they took us down, and [INAUDIBLE] they tied us, and I am going to explain to you: let’s consider the four of us a group of prisoners. I am tied with my arm here, in addition to the chains to my feet, and then a rope [INAUDIBLE], in the form of a [INAUDIBLE], and then a soldier would come and pull me, and I would pull all the rest of the group, and would [?] take us from the airport, to the hall of the military base. And then we sat like frogs on our knees and many were in pain, and one of them had metal in his knee, and the metal went out of his knee and he started screaming. And he started begging, ‘I need medicine.’

And they would take one, and they would interrogate him and change his clothes, and everything Hammad told you, and then they would take another person. When they would come they would get a large scissors and cut off his clothes, and then one would be as his mother gave birth to him.

AG: What do you mean that he had – what do you mean he had metal in his knee and it came out?

SMA: The person had a broken leg and there was a piece of metal in his leg. When they pulled him, the metal went out of his knee. It came out like this, and he couldn’t move. And they spoke to him in English and in French; he spoke many languages. The person’s name was Abu Masud [?]. When he spoke, they said that, ‘You speak many languages; you are dangerous.’ They hit him, and it became worse.

AG: Where was he from?

SMA: From Algeria.

AG, mishearing: Virginia?

SMA: Algeria.

AG: Oh, Algeria. Algeria.

SMA: But he lived in western countries, Germany and France. It was a bad situation because being tied with plastic chains would enter into our skins, into our bodies. Then we would become numb, but when we would be moved the feeling would renew.

After they interrogated us and changed our clothes, and even when they changed our clothing the chains were still on us, and they interrogated us. We were naked and the doctors came to us, and they would look for marks on our bodies, if there were distinguishable marks. Some would say, ‘Looks like this; looks like that.’ The interrogation followed many methods. One would be sarcastic, one would be angry, and one was ... one would say, ‘Welcome to America’s prison; you will be here for years. What we have is greater than your salary.’ Some would ask questions, like a fisherman that would throw nets might get a big fish or might not get anything at all.

AG: Were you ever hung from the ceiling by your arms?

SMA: Yes, many times. If my neighbor spoke, they would say, ‘You spoke,’ because we were prevented from speaking. Once I was sleeping, then they woke me up and said, ‘You were speaking.’ One might be hanged from six in the morning to noon or one.

AG: And what were you hung on? How were your arms?

SMA: The prison in Bagram was made of cages with small, metal doors, so they would hang me and then they would cover my head with a hood. I couldn’t scratch. If I moved, there would be hitting, there would be making fun of us. One would become numb.

AG: Did your feet touch the ground?

SMA: Yes. We would be tied with our hands like this, and I’m standing, but I could not sit down because I was tied to a high place. This was a type of torture in Bagram; it’s not the only way. There were stories...

AG: had a bag over your head?

SMA: Yes.

AG: How long-–

SMA: From six in the morning until one in the afternoon.

Adel Hammad [?]: One was left on one knee and he was hanging and his feet were not to the ground, and he was sexually abused.

SMA: I’m not speaking about myself, but the stories of others are many. But as far as my story is, is that I was tied from the ceiling as such.

AG: Who sexually abused you?

SMA: No, I was not sexually abused.

AH [?]: We were speaking of some one else.

AG: Ah. Who sexually abused that person?

AH [?]: We don’t know. Adem knows. It was a Saudi person who was in Bagram.

AG: Ah. How long were you in Bagram and then what happened when you got to Guantanamo?

SMA: I was in Bagram for about two months, and I left on the same day that Hammad left.

AG: And at Guantanamo, was it better or worse?

SMA: In Guantanamo it was worse.

AG: How?

SMA: Because they treated me differently from the group that I was with. [In] the same organization that Hammad worked with there were four Sudanese and one from Jordan. The special way that they treated me was harsh because I gave them the basic information when they first interrogated me in Bagram, my first interrogation, about my biography, my family, my school years, my work with the charitable organization. Then I told them that, ‘I did not see any need to speak to you anymore.’

Then they took me to the interrogation room from the morning to late evening, and I would stay in the interrogation room, which was cold. And then the interrogators there and I would look at them once, then I would sit down like this, and they would threaten me, curse at me. Some would say, ‘Speak for the sake of your children so you could leave.’ Some would say, ‘You will stay here for 40 years, for the rest of your life, like a rat. And the chain that you are wearing right now, we can make it red, make it blue, black.’ And when interrogated would come and say, ‘Look, this is the picture of your child, and after this sitting I will go to your children, but you will remain here.’ Then he would come and smoke a cigarette, and puff in me--and puff in my face.

There were many different methods of interrogation. I think that the physical abuse could – the effects of physical abuse could go after a week or two, but the psychological abuse with words stays and has bad effects on one’s spirit, because someone would come to you – you’re a human and he’s a human, but he would depart from his humanity and treat you like an animal, and you would be amazed. What changed this person? There is no doubt that he studied at a university and might have many degrees, but Guantanamo is a strange picture of humanity. How can a human be a tool for torturing another human being?

Guantanamo also had physical abuse. We saw people whose backs were broken, their fingers were broken, their legs were broken. Some would have their good teeth taken out and their bad teeth left in. They would sometimes perform an operation and leave pieces of cloth inside a person. Then they would write medical reports and promise you medicine, but would not deliver it. Some who would speak during interrogation might receive the medication. Some fair doctors would say, ‘Speak at the interrogation so we could – your problem would go away. I can’t do anything.’ In Guantanamo a doctor might be under the supervision of the least ranked guard. A guard might say that, ‘The number such-and-such, don’t give him medicine.’

In Guantanamo sometimes some would be given the wrong medicine. In Guantanamo some of the doctors went back to the United States because they did not want to work in Guantanamo in these conditions because some had humanitarian feelings.

AG: Did you know any, did you meet any psychologists there?

SMA: I did not meet any because we had certain situations. Some accepted to take medicine from psychologists that they were told was medicine, but they gave them drugs, and one would be passed out and in a state of addiction for a long period of time. Many of the prisoners--the psychologists were the ones that tortured them with medicine because they don’t speak during interrogation.

AG: What kind of medicine?

SMA: But I saw my neighbor, who was from Uzbekistan, they would inject into him, and he would sleep for three or four days on the metal in the cell, and then after that he became addicted. His name is Abu Bak [phonetic spelling]. And then Abdurahman from Afghanistan and Sultan al-Joufi from Saudi Arabia, and Yaghoub [phonetic] and Koleidad [phonetic] from Kazakhstan, Koleidad [phonetic] from Afghanistan, and others from Pakistan, and Dr. Eymen [phonetic] from Yemen who was a surgeon...

AG: What about all of them?

SMA: All of them became addicted to the injections. Yaghoub, from Kazakhstan, left Guantanamo, and he became insane.

AG: Where were they injected?

SMA: In their arms or thighs, most in their arms. Once he was injected, he would sleep for days. He would eat and then sleep. He would eat and sleep. This injection might be monthly or semi-monthly. What I saw, one who left before me – Guantanamo before me – was in the chamber who became completely insane, and despite that they would punish him harshly. And because of all of this, we all became afraid of dealing with psychologists. Recently, when I was transferred to the sixth prison [Camp 6?], isolation, it was very cold and [there] were bright lights. We were cut off from the world, a great wall like the Wall of China, and we could not see the sun. Even if they took us to walk out, this room that we are in right now is much bigger than it. Two could barely walk in it.

During this period they would bring psychologists to look at us monthly, and one would come in and say, ‘Do you want to speak to a psychologist?’ And he would come with a translator. People were on guard from psychologists because they lost their specialty as doctors.

AG: Were any of you injected?

SMA: No.


AG: And Salim Mahmoud Adem, when were you released?

SMA: December 13, 2007 with Adel.

AG: With Adel Hamad.

SMA: Yes.

AG: And do you suffer any effects today? It’s, what, six months later.

SMA: Yes. Pain in my bones, weakness in sight and hearing, and my stomach. This is because we were placed in cold places for a long time, and I spent most of my time in isolation, and there were many punishments against us. As I said, from 2004 until I left, I would not speak during interrogation because I saw no use in doing so.

AG: Did you know, did you know any of those who committed suicide?

SMA: All of them. And I don’t think they committed suicide.

AG: What do you mean?

SMA: I think the first three, at midnight we heard them. And after 15 minutes, emergency situation was announced in the camp. And even the other prisoners in the same chambers, they were amazed at what happened. They had an evening of entertainment where they were singing and ... but what I know is that the first three, from the time that they arrived, were subjected to harsh punishments. You can say, you can say that they might have died because of torture because all of them were on hunger strike. Ali Abdullah from Yemen, Yasser from Saudi Arabia, Mainet [phonetic spelling] from Saudi Arabia, all of them were on hunger strikes during their punishment. Yasser had an operation in his back, and he would bleed often. Ali Abdullah was on a hunger strike till before he died. These conditions surrounding these guys makes us doubt that, makes us doubt or think that they might have been taken care of. We don’t know.

AG: Salim, did – Salim, did you witness anyone waterboarded?

SMA: I did not see waterboarding, but my neighbor, they insulted the Qu’ran, so we refused to listen to the guards. So they would come with the riot police and enter into the cells, one by one. So they went into the cell of a Yemeni brother, whose name is Othman [phonetic]. After they tied him, his hands to his back, they put his head to the toilet and turned on the flush many times. And all of us could see it. This was a horrible sight.

AG: What had they done to the Qu’ran?

SMA: Some of the guards would intentionally throw the Qu’ran. The management of the camp would always promise us that there would be no insults to the Qu’ran, but as it is known, insults to the Qu’ran was a method of torture from the Defense Department. And you know that more than 300 psychological methods of torture were used to torture us, and this was one way because we could all agree that the Qu’ran is a holy book, and the authorities or the government would admit its mistakes. They would tell us inside and to the world that this guard would be put on trial, but this method would still be used, and remained [in use] until I left Guantanamo.

AG: Did you know, did you know when the peace protesters came down to Guantanamo? Did you hear them?

SMA: Yes, we heard. And we heard that human rights groups wanted to come to Cuba, but they were prevented. And then we heard that four human rights activists, all four women and two from Arab or Muslim countries visited Guantanamo, but with conditions placed on them, but none of the prisoners could see them. But their news would come to us via our attorneys.

AG: Adel Hammad, did you hear the peace protester – the human rights activists outside?

Adel Hammad: Yes. We heard that human rights groups asked more than once to visit the detention center, but they were prevented from such. That we heard that there was a protest [to] try to enter from the back side of the – the back or outside gate, but they were prevented from doing so. The only humanitarian side or group that witnessed all of this that was with us inside was the Red Cross. Red Cross is a witness to everything that happened in Guantanamo, and Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Hirat [phonetic], and all the American prisoners. There were many abuses against the elderly and children, and I can tell you a story of what I saw.

A 10-year-old boy, who was arrested with us in Bagram, who was crying and saying, ‘Get me out of this place. Why are you holding me?’ And there was a soldier that would come that would give him sweets, candies, and play with him, hold his hands, and he started laughing. And this child flew with us to Guantanamo. And many similar stories, one is embarrassed to say, and U.S. human rights activists know of these things and are responsible for them. And you should struggle against any government that abuses human rights, and we are with you, hand by hand in the struggle, so we can make governments just and return to freedom and real democracy and equality and justice [APPLAUSE].

AG: Well, Adel Hamad, Hammad Amno, and Salim Mahmoud Adem, we want to thank you for taking this time to talk to us in the United States [APPLAUSE].

Almerindo Ojeda: Thank you [CONTINUOUS APPLAUSE].

Isma’il Kushkush [TRANSLATING FOR ALL]: We also thank you.

Adel Hamad: We hope that our relationship continues [INAUDIBLE] [CONTINUOUS APPLAUSE] until this detention camp is closed, and all the bad detention camps, and for the United States to have its values returned to it, which are good, and you must change the government of Bush [APPLAUSE AND CHEER]; you must change the government of Bush. We want a government for the United States that will be an example for the world. We want you to be happy, and for all people to be happy and peaceful. Don’t give your votes [to] Bush [APPLAUSE], or anyone from the government of Bush [INAUDIBLE].

AO: Thank you very much; I appreciate this. Good night [APPLAUSE].

AG: Where are they speaking? In an office? Are they in an office? [CONTINUOUS APPLAUSE].

Isma’il Kushkush: Yes, we are in an office [INAUDIBLE].

AG: [INAUDIBLE]...yeah?

AO: Well, it’s late, and why don’t we call it a night? And don’t forget about those envelopes that we gave to you earlier. Thank you very much [APPLAUSE].

AG: [INAUDIBLE] Oh yeah, tell them about the book signing; tell them...

AO: There are books outside for sale, and Amy is going to sign books by her.

AG: And you too.

AO: And me, too.

Transcribed by Katherine A. Masters, July 22, 2008.