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Testimony to Witness to Guantanamo (Bisher al Rawi)

The pain I carry inside

The thing I learned with the Americans is that you could destroy somebody's life, destroy them completely, without even touching him […]

Like as I said, we were not, we were not in touch with our families, we could not get in touch with our families. However, the Red Cross gives you the facility of being able to write to your families, however no guarantee that the letter will get through. No guarantee at all. And not even a glimpse of hope that the letter will get through. Okay. And time taught us that, I'm not saying this because, like you know, people were getting letters and I'm claiming that no, people were not getting letters for very, very long time. And then when you get a letter and it is dated 9 months ago, or a year ago, you think “Wow, I got a letter, it's a year old!” and somebody got a letter 6 months “Wow this really fresh letter, only 6 months old!” And this is how it was for all, majority of the time. So somebody who hasn't had any news of his family for many years now, the Red Cross approaches his cell, “Are you so and so?” You tell him, “Yes,” “I've got a letter for you from your family.” So you're delighted, you're very, very happy, and then he gives you the letter, and you look at it, and the letter is all redacted, it's all in black. Nothing; nothing. I don't know if you can imagine, if you can imagine how that individual would feel…

I mean, many people broke down because of things like this. I mean, from my eye, I could simply say I think if the Red Cross had the decency—because they, of course the Red Cross know what they're giving people—they say all the letter is redacted, they say, simply say to the person, “Look, your family sent you a letter, the officials, they've blacked it all out, there's nothing in it. But if you want I can give it to you." If the individual is given that introduction, I think the situation would have been very very much simpler, it's another problem to deal with. But the way things were done, it was deliberately to destroy people.

And this is a very very simple example. I mean, I can give you many many examples. People would be locked up in isolation for endless months, people would be sort of, deprived [of] decent food for long periods of time, they could simply switch off, disconnect the water supply and you can't use your toilet, they could strip you, keep you naked, literally naked, or sometimes just with your underpants... They could go into your cell, beat you up, spray you with pepper spray and just leave you there...

Again, sleep deprivation was used extensively in Guantanamo. Really extensively. But in a very 'pretty' sort of way, if one could call it 'pretty'. So all they would say—they don't tell you we're subjecting you to sleep deprivation—you're in your cell and they tell you “It's time to move.” So basically you move from one cell to another. And an hour later, “It's time to move.” So you move from one place to another. And an hour later, or two hours later, “It's time to move.” And they keep doing that. And it's no big deal. Orders are on a piece of paper, and they shift, the guards shift change, and the new shift, they will just do the same routine again and again. Very very simple; it's no big deal. But for the individual that this is happening to, its... They destroy your life. Really destroy your life. However strong or tough you are, however principled you are, however much you don't want to cause any problems, it will destroy you.

It's not something you will see. As I said, in a third world country they're so stupid they beat you and "Look," you can [say], "Look! They've tortured me, they've done this…" I came out of Guantanamo, and physically, I could not show anything. But I have to tell you, the pain I carry inside, and the memories I have are really very great. And I have nothing to show.


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Unnecessary Punishment

During that year in Camp Five when they were putting the air conditioning really, really cold… plus not only doing that, but they were taking the blankets we have… So all day you would be without your blanket, without anything, and you were shivering too, you were literally shivering for, let’s say, um, about, 18 out of the 24 hours, and the 6 hours they give you from night to morning (they only give you the blanket for 6 hours).

And, again, they play games with that. So, the guy in front of me, um, they were giving him his blanket and sometimes they, and they take it out, and the blanket has your name on it or something like that. So you can identify it and they give you the right blanket because some people, they don’t like to use other people’s blanket, which is understandable. I was, I was flexible on this, as long as it’s a warmish blanket. So, this guy, he was given his blanket, and he told them, “Oh, this is not mine, mine is just that one.” He said, “Oh, so you’re refusing your blanket?” He said, “No no, I’m not refusing. That’s my blanket over there. Just give me my blanket.” He said, “No, you’re refusing. That’s it.” So he didn’t give him his blanket. And I thought, like, you know, that in a short while he would come give him his blanket back, and they didn’t.

And I called the person in charge and said “Look, you need to give this guy his blanket.” And the problem was that this guy, he was very ill. He had kidney problems. He had a variety of health problems. He had a problem with his bones. And I tried very, very hard to get the blanket to this guy, and they would simply not give it to him. And then you start hearing him crying and screaming, and you know, like, shivering. And you look, you can see him from the little window. You can see him suffering in his cell. That was very, very difficult for me. And, and it was very difficult, and it was unnecessary, uncalled for.

You know, sometimes people—for me—if someone causes [a] problem and he gets punished, I haven’t got a problem with that. You know, that’s it; it’s a fair game. But when, sometimes, somebody doesn’t do anything, and he just wants his entitlement—I don’t want more than my entitlement. I’m supposed to get my blanket, please give me my blanket—and then they start playing games and they don’t do that, that’s very, very painful.

And there are many, many incidences like this. But this one, I think, I carry with me until today.

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