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Mohamedou Ould Slahi: 2006 (Guantanamo Unclassified: ‘Confessions are Like the Beads of a Necklace’)

04 Jun

Slahi continued to be interrogated in complete isolation through September and October. On Oct. 17, 2003, a GTMO interrogator emailed a military psychologist to report, “Slahi told me he is “hearing voices” now. … He is worried as he knows this is not normal. … Is this something that happens to people who have little external stimulus such as daylight, human interaction, etc???? Seems a little creepy.” The psychologist wrote back that “sensory deprivation can cause hallucinations, usually visual rather than auditory, but you never know. … In the dark you create things out of what little you have.”

To be honest, I can report very little about the couple of weeks that were to come because I was not in the right state of mind. I had been lying on my bed all the time, I was not able to realize my surroundings. I tried to find out the Kibla, the direction of Mecca, but there was no clue. Back in ████████ the Kibla was indicated with an arrow in every cell. Yes, the U.S. is demonstratively showing the rest of the world how religious freedom ought to be maintained. Even the call to prayer was to be heard five times a day in ████████, which I found positive. The U.S. always repeated that the war is not against the Islamic religion, which is very prudent because technically it is impossible to fight against a religion as big as Islam; strategically it would be a lost war.

In the secret camps, the war against the Islamic religion was more than obvious. There was not only no sign to Mecca, but ritual prayers were also forbidden. Reciting the Quran was forbidden. Quran possession was forbidden. Fasting was forbidden. Practically any Islamic related ritual is strictly forbidden. I am here not talking about hearsay, I am talking about something I experienced myself. I don’t believe that the average American is paying taxes to wage war against Islam; however, I do believe that there are people in the government who have a big problem with the Islamic religion.

They tried so hard to make me insane. For the first weeks I had no shower, no laundry, no brushing. I almost developed bugs. I hated my smell. No sleep was allowed; in order to enforce this, I was given 740-milliliter water bottles in intervals of one to two hours, depending on the mood of the guards, for 24 hours. The consequences were devastating. I couldn’t close my eyes for 10 minutes because I was sitting most of the time in the bathroom. When I later asked one of the guards, after the tension [eased], “Why this water diet? Why don’t you just make me stay awake by standing up like in ████████?”

“Psychologically it is devastating to make somebody stay awake on his own, without ordering him,” said ████████. “Believe me, you haven’t seen anything. We have put detainees naked under the shower for days, eating, pissing, and shitting in the shower!”

I started to hallucinate and hear voices as clear as crystal. I heard my family in a casual familial conversation, in which I couldn’t take part. I heard Quran readings with a heavenly voice. I heard music from my country. Later on the guards used these hallucinations and were talking with funny voices through the plumbing, encouraging me to hurt the guard and plot an escape. But I wasn’t misled by them, even though I played along.

“We heard somebody, maybe a genie,” they used to say.

“Yeah, but I ain’t listening to him,” I responded. I realized I was at the edge of losing my mind. I started to talk to myself. Although I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that I am not in Mauritania, nor am I near my family, so I could not possibly hear them speaking, I kept hearing voices constantly, day and night. Medical psychological assistance was out of the question, or really any medical assistance besides the asshole I didn’t want to see anyway. I couldn’t find a way on my own; at that moment, I didn’t know if it was day or night, but I assumed it to be night because the toilet drain was rather dark.

I gathered my strength, guessed the Kibla, the direction of Mecca, kneeled, and started to pray to God, “Please guide me. I know not what to do. I am surrounded with merciless wolves, who fear not thee.” When I was praying I burst into tears, though I suppressed my voice lest the guards hear me. You know there are always serious prayers and lazy prayers. My experience taught that [the Lord] always responds to your serious prayers.

“Sir,” I said, when I finished my prayer. One of the guards showed up after putting on his Halloween mask.

“What?” asked the guard with a dry, cold emotion.

“I want to see ████████.

*

Confessions are like the beads of a necklace, if the first bead falls, the rest follow.

They dedicated the whole time until around 10 November 2003 for questioning me about Canada and Sept. 11; they didn’t ask me a single question about Germany, where I really had the center of gravity of my life.

Whenever they asked me about somebody in Canada I had some incriminating information about him, even if I didn’t know him. Whenever I thought about the words, “I don’t know …” I got nauseous because I remembered the words of ████████: “All you have to say, ‘I don’t know, I don’t remember, we’ll fuck you,’ ” or ████████: “We don’t want to hear your denials anymore!” So I erased the words out of my dictionary.

“We’d like you to write your answers on paper, it is too much work to keep up with your talk, and you might forget things when you talk to us,” said ████████.

“Of course!” I responded. I was really happy with the idea because I’d rather talk to a paper than talk to him. At least the paper wouldn’t shout in my face or threaten me. After that, ████████ drowned me in a pile of papers, which I duly filled with writings. It was good to let out my frustration and my depression. “████████ reads your writing with a lot of interest,” said ████████.

“We’re gonna give you an assignment about ████████. He is detained in Florida and they cannot make him talk. He keeps denying everything. You better provide us a smoking gun against him,” said ████████.

I was so sad. How rude was the guy to ask me to provide a smoking gun about somebody I hardly know?

“Oh, yes, I will,” I said. He handed me a bunch of papers and I went back in my cell. Oh, my God, I’ve been so unjust to myself and my brothers. “Nothing’s gonna happen to us … they’ll go to hell … nothing’s gonna happen to us …” I kept praying in my heart, and repeating my prayers. I took the pen and paper and wrote all kind of incriminating lies about a poor person who was seeking refuge in Canada and trying to make some money so he can start a family. Moreover, he’s handicapped. I felt so bad, and kept praying silently, “Nothing’s gonna happen to you, dear brother …” and blowing on the papers I finished. Of course it was out of the question to tell them what I know about him truthfully because ████████ already gave me the guidelines. “████████ is awaiting your testimony against ████████ with extreme interest!”

I gave the assignment to ████████, and after the evaluation I saw ████████ smile for the first time. “Your writing about Ahmed was very interesting, but we want you to provide more detailed information,” said he. What information did the idiot want from me? I don’t even remember what I’ve just written.

“Yes, no problem,” I said. I was very happy that God answered my prayers for ████████ when I learned in 2005 that he was unconditionally released from custody and sent back to his country.

“He’s facing the death penalty,” ████████ used to tell me. And I was really in no better situation. “Since I am cooperating, what are you going to do with me?” I asked ████████. “It depends, if you provide us a great deal of information we didn’t know, it’s going to be weighed against your sentence. For instance, the death penalty would be reduced to life, and life to 30 years,” he responded. Lord have mercy on me. What a harsh justice!

“Oh, that’s great,” I replied.

I felt bad for everybody I hurt with my false testimonies. My only solaces were, one, I didn’t hurt anyone as much as I did myself; two, I had no choice; three, I was confident that injustice will be defeated, it’s only a matter of time; four, I would not blame anybody for lying about me when he gets tortured. Ahmed was just an example. I have been writing more than thousands of pages about my friends with false information. I had to wear the suit U.S. Intel tailored for me, and that is exactly what I did.

To be continued in Part 7

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.

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