When I heard Egypt, and a new rendition, my heart was pounding. I hated the endless world tour I was forcibly taking. I thought that rendition to Egypt on the spot was possible, because I knew how irritated and desperate the Americans were when it came to my case.
After all kinds of threats and degrading statements, I missed a lot of the trash talk between the Arabs and their American accomplices. At one point, I drowned in my thoughts. I felt ashamed that my people were being used for this horrible job by a government that claims to be the leader of the democratic free world, a government that preaches against dictatorship and “fights” for human rights and sends its children to die for that purpose. What a joke this government makes of its own people! What would the dead-average American think if he or she saw what his or her government is doing with someone who has done no crimes against anybody?
If people in the Arab world knew what is happening in this place, the hatred against the U.S. would be heavily watered, and the accusation that the U.S. helps and works together with dictators in our countries would be cemented. I had a feeling, or rather a hope, that these people would not go unpunished for their crimes. The situation didn’t make me hate either the Arabs or the Americans; I just felt bad for the Arabs.
After about 40 minutes, I couldn’t really tell, ████████ instructed the Arabic team to take over. The two guys grabbed me roughly and since I couldn’t walk on my own, they dragged me on the tips of my toes to the boat. I must have been very near to the water because the trip to the boat was short. I don’t know, but either they put me in another boat or in a different seat. The seat was both hard and straight.
“I can’t move!”
“Move, fucker!” They gave this order and knew that I was too hurt to be able to move. After all I was bleeding from my mouth, my ankles, my wrists, and maybe my nose, I could not tell for sure. But the team wanted to maintain the factor of fear and terror.
“Sit!” said the Egyptian guy, who did most of the talking, while both were pulling me down until I hit the metal. The Egyptian sat on my right side, and the Jordanian on my left. “What’s your fucking name?” asked the Egyptian. “M-O-OH-H-M-M-EE-D-D-O-O-O-O-U!” I answered. Technically, I couldn’t speak because of my swollen lips and hurting mouth. You could tell I was completely scared. Usually I wouldn’t talk when somebody started to hurt me. This is a milestone in my interrogation history. In Jordan, when the interrogator smashed my face, I refused to talk, ignoring all his threats. You can tell I was hurt like never before, that it is not me anymore, and I will never be the same as before. A thick line was drawn between my past and my future with the first hit ████████ did to me.
“He is like a kid,” said the Egyptian, accurately addressing his Jordanian colleague. I felt warm between them, though not for long, because with the cooperation of the American, a long trip of torture was being prepared.
They put on a kind of thick jacket, which fastened me to the chair. It was a good feeling—however there was a destroying drawback to it. My chest was so tightened that I couldn’t breathe properly. Plus, the air circulation was worse than the first trip. I didn’t know what exactly but something was definitely going wrong. “I c…a…n…t br…e…a…the!”
“Suck the air,” said the Egyptian wryly. I was literally suffocating inside the bag around my head.
The order went as follows: They stuffed the air between my clothes and me with ice cubes from my neck to my ankles, and whenever the ice melted they put in new hard ice cubes. Moreover, every once in a while, one of the guards smashed me, most of the time in the face. The ice served both for pain and for wiping out the bruises I had from that afternoon. Everything seemed to be perfectly prepared. Historically, dictators during medieval and pre-medieval times used this method to let the victim die slowly. The other method of hitting the victim while blindfolded in inconsistent intervals of time was used by Nazis during WWII. There is nothing more terrorizing than making somebody expect a smash every single heartbeat.
“I am from Hasi Matruh, where are you from?” said the Egyptian, addressing his Jordanian colleague. He was speaking as if nothing was happening. You could tell he was used to torturing people.
“I am from the south,” answered the Jordanian.
What would it be like if I landed in Egypt after about 25 hours of torture? What would the interrogation look like? ████████, a ████████, described to me his unlucky trip from Pakistan to Egypt. Everything I was now experiencing—ice cubes and smashing—was consistent with ████████’s story. So I expected electric shocks in the pool. How much power can my body, especially my heart, handle? I know something about electricity and its devastating, irreversible damage. I saw ████████ collapsing in the block a couple of times every week with blood gushing out of his nose until it soaked his clothes. ████████ was a martial arts trainer and athletically built.
But what if they don’t believe me? No, they would believe me, because they understand the recipe of terrorism more than the Americans and have more experience. Americans tend to widen the circle of involvement to catch the most possible number of Muslims. They always speak about the big conspiracy against the U.S. I personally had been asked who practiced the basics of the religion and sympathized with Islamic movements; no matter how moderate the movement, I had been asked to prove every detail about it. That is very amazing in a country such as the U.S., where Christian terrorist organizations such as Nazis and white supremacists have the freedom to express themselves and recruit people openly and nobody can bother them, while as a Muslim if you sympathize with the political views of an Islamic organization you’re in big trouble. Even attending the same mosque as a suspect brings big trouble. I mean this fact is clear for everybody who understands the ABC’s of American policy toward the so-called Islamic terrorism.
In Arabic counties, the approach is similar to the U.S. approach to Christian organizations. As long as you are not involved in criminal acts, nobody gives you trouble. Sympathizing and even associating with Islamic organizations is not considered a crime. I know those facts firsthand because I have been dealing with both approaches for a relatively long time.
The Arab/American party was over, and the Arabs turned me over once more to the same U.S. team. They dragged me out of the boat and threw me, I would say, in the same truck as the one that afternoon. Obviously we were riding on a dirt road. “Do not move!” said ████████ but I didn’t recognize any words anymore. I don’t think anybody beat me, but I was not conscious.
When the truck stopped, ████████ and his strong associate towed me from the truck and dragged me over some steps. The cool air of the room hit me, we passed the room atmosphere and boom, they threw me face down on the metal floor of my new home. “Do not move, I told you not to fuck with me, motherfucker!” said ████████, his voice trailing off. Obviously he was tired, and left right away with a promise of more actions, and so did the Arab team.
A short time after my arrival, I felt somebody taking [the hood] off my head. When the blindfold was taken off I saw a ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ ████████████████████████████████████████████████. I figured he was a doctor, but why the heck is he hiding behind a mask, and why is he U.S. Army, when the Navy is taking medical care of detainees?
“If you fucking move, I’m gonna hurt you!”
I was wondering how could I possibly move, and what possible damage could I do. I was in chains, and every inch of my body was hurting. That is not a doctor, that is a human butcher! When the young man checked on me, he realized he needed more stuff. He left and soon came back with some medical stuff. I glimpsed his watch; it was about 1:30 a.m., which meant about eight hours since I was kidnapped from ████████ camp.
The doctor started to wash the blood off my face with a soaked bandage. After that, he put me on a mattress—the only item in the stark cell—with the help of the guards. “Do not move,” said the guard, who was standing over me. The doctor wrapped many elastic belts around my chest and ribs area. After that, they made me sit.
“If you try to bite me, I’m gonna fuckin’ hurt you!” said the doctor.
I didn’t respond; they were moving me around like an object. Later they took off the chains, and some time later one of the guards threw a thin, small, and worn-out blanket on me through the bin hole, and that was everything I would have in the room. No soap, no toothbrush, no iso-mat, no Quran, nothing.
I tried to sleep, but I was kidding myself, my body was conspiring against me. It took some time until the medication started to work, then I trailed off, and only woke up when one of the guards hit my cell violently with his boot. “Get up, piece of shit!” The doctor once more gave me a bunch of medication and checked on my ribs.
“Done with the motherfucker,” said he, when he showed me his back heading toward the door. I was so shocked seeing a doctor acting like that, because I knew that at least 50 percent of medical treatment is psychological. I was like, “This is an evil place, since my only solace is this bastard doctor.”
To be continued in Part 6
The above is an excerpt from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s handwritten 466-page memoir, composed during his detention at Guantánamo and declassified by the U.S. government. These excerpts were chosen by Larry Siems and edited by Slate, originally published April 2013. Since Slahi remains in custody and cannot freely communicate, we have limited our editorial changes to correcting grammar and clarifying idiomatic phrasing in order to preserve his unique voice. In the few instances where his meaning required additional context, we have inserted text marked off in brackets.