Tag Archives: solitary confinement
A month ago, the guards here at Guantanamo Bay gave me an orange jumpsuit. After years in white and brown, the colours of compliant prisoners, I am very proud to wear my new clothes. The colour orange is Guantanamo’s banner. Anyone who knows the truth about this place knows that orange is its only true colour.
My name is Moath al-Alwi. I have been a prisoner of the United States at Guantanamo since 2002. I was never charged with any crime and I have not received a fair trial in US courts. To protest this injustice, I began a hunger strike in February. Now, twice a day, the US military straps me down to a chair and pushes a thick tube down my nose to force-feed me.
When I choose to remain in my cell in an act of peaceful protest against the force-feeding, the prison authorities send in a Forced Cell Extraction team: six guards in full riot gear. Those guards are deliberately brutal to punish me for my protest. They pile up on top of me to the point that I feel like my back is about to break. They then carry me out and strap me into the restraint chair, which we hunger strikers call the torture chair.
A new twist to this routine involves the guards restraining me to the chair with my arms cuffed behind my back. The chest strap is then tightened, trapping my arms between my torso and the chair’s backrest. This is done despite the fact that the torture chair features built-in arm restraints. It is extremely painful to remain in this position.
Even after I am tied to the chair, a guard digs his thumbs under my jaw, gripping me at the pressure points and choking me as the tube is inserted down my nose and into my stomach. They always use my right nostril now because my left one is swollen shut after countless feeding sessions. Sometimes, the nurses get it wrong, snaking the tube into my lung instead, and I begin to choke.
The US military medical staff conducting the force-feeding at Guantanamo is basically stuffing us prisoners to bring up our weight – mine had dropped from 168 pounds to 108 pounds, before they began force-feeding me. They even use constipation as a weapon, refusing to give hunger strikers laxatives despite the fact that the feeding solutions inevitably cause severe bloating.
If a prisoner vomits after this ordeal, the guards immediately return him to the restraint chair for another round of force-feeding. I’ve seen this inflicted on people up to three times in a row.
Even vital medications for prisoners have been stopped by military medical personnel as additional pressure to break the hunger strike.
Those military doctors and nurses tell us that they are simply obeying orders from the colonel in charge of detention operations, as though that officer were a doctor or as if doctors had to follow his orders rather than their medical ethics or the law.
But they must know that what they are doing is wrong, else they would not have removed the nametags with their pseudonyms or numbers. They don’t want to be identifiable in any way, for fear of being held accountable someday by their profession or the world.
I spend the rest of my time in my solitary confinement cell, on 22-hour lockdown. The authorities have deprived us of the most basic necessities. No toothbrushes, toothpaste, blankets, soap or towels are allowed in our cells. If you ask to go to the shower, the guards refuse. They bang on our doors at night, depriving us of sleep.
They have also instituted a humiliating genital search policy. I asked a guard why. He answered:
“So you don’t come out to your meetings and calls with your lawyers and give them information to use against us.”
But the prisoners’ weights are as low as their spirits are high. Every man I know here is determined to remain on hunger strike until the US government begins releasing prisoners.
Those of you on the outside might find that difficult to comprehend. My family certainly does. If I’m lucky, I’m allowed four calls with them each year. My mother spent most of my most recent call pleading with me to stop my hunger strike. I had only this to say in response: “Mom, I have no choice.” It is the only way I have left to cry out for life, freedom and dignity.
This is my call to the outside world from behind these rusty bars, in this monstrous cell. Does the world know what is happening in this prison?
Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place from 2002 to 2013, the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem.
I once lived communally with the other prisoners in Camp Six. Now we are all in solitary confinement here, with only two hours of recreation a day. Some prisoners are too weak and sick to ever leave their cells as a result of the hunger strike and the U.S. military’s reaction to it.
The military here has used brute force against the hunger strikers. They have beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, from toothbrushes to blankets and books. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells, beyond the reach of the sun’s rays or a fresh breeze. Sometimes, we don’t even know if it’s day or night out.
It isn’t unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners’ genital parts and their rectum ten times in a single day.
Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes.
Recently, a nurse brutally yanked out the force-feeding tube, threw it on my shoulder, and left the cell, leaving me tied down to the chair. Later, the nurse returned to the cell, took the tube off my shoulder and began to reinsert it into my nose. I asked him to cleanse and purify the tube first but he refused.
When I later tried to complain to another nurse about the incident, the other nurse threatened to force the feeding tube up my rear, not down my nose, if I didn’t suspend my hunger strike.
And when I tried taking the matter to a senior medical officer, he told me that they would strap me to a bed and make me urinate through a catheter forced into my penis if I kept up my peaceful protest.
I used to think I was the only one coping with severe joint pain, a weakened memory, having a hard time concentrating, and feeling constantly distracted as a result of all this. But I’ve since discovered that many hunger strikers struggle with the same symptoms. Without realizing it, some of the hunger strikers even speak to themselves out loud when they’re alone.
But we also know that there are peaceful protests in solidarity with our plight in many countries. Even in America itself, there are protests demanding that the U.S. government close this prison that has hurt America’s reputation. And international criticism mounts daily.
We the hunger strikers continue to demand our rights. President Obama can begin by releasing those of us who have been cleared for release years ago, followed by the prisoners who have not been charged with any crime after eleven years in captivity.
Despite the difficulties, the hard conditions, and the challenges created by the U.S. government, those of us on hunger strike will continue protesting until our demands for justice are met.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi: 2006 (Guantanamo Unclassified: ‘Confessions are Like the Beads of a Necklace’)
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.
As the prisoners file into the chapel, their eyes are scanning the congregation for possible friends and foes. Then, once deciding whether to go right or left, they rush off in their chosen direction to greet their associates from the other cell blocks Speaking in hushed tones, they pass on messages and news from loved ones in far away places. I’m standing in the heart of the chapel by the podium, greeting everyone as they come in.
“Come in brothers! You can sit anywhere you want. As-Salaamu ‘alaykum. Peace, Peace. Yeah maan, you can sit wherever you want. Don’t worry about it; we won’t get started until everybody finds a spot.”
In Prison, people come to religious service for different reasons. Sure, some come to pray and some come searching for the truth, but most come to see their people, or to get out of the cell for an hour or two.
It’s almost time. Everybody’s finally sitting down. Some half-facing each other, some leaning back and others on the edge of their seats: all whispering, smiling and enjoying each others company. Looking around I realize that I don’t know these guys from Aadam. I am a stranger here.
Out of the thirty or so men in this room, only about five of us are Muslims. And two of them are New Shahaadas. So where do I start with these men? They are quite aware of the nature of their crimes. But if you were to ask them, “How could you do such things?” They will explain that they have sold drugs to the most respected Preachers. And have seen too many “Church Ladies” turning tricks to pay their bills not to do such things. In their world, they are normal men trying to survive in a system that has little concern for them.
I recognize that they have seen a lot, but what I don’t know is what they understand about Islaam. Which leads me back to the question of: where do I start with these guys. Hmph, I’m getting a queasy feeling rolling about in my stomach. Steady, steady, it’s time to start, take a breath…
“My Lord give me the right inspiration,” whispers out of my mouth.
“wa Yas-sir-Lee amree”
“and make this easy for me…”
“waH-LuL ‘uQdataM MiL-Lisaanee…”
“and untie the knot in my tongue…”
“so that they can relate to what I’m talking about.”
Then, raising my voice just above the friendly commotion, I say:
“Bis-millahir RaH-maanir Ra-Heem. My name is Wahshee and I’m going to be teaching the class today.”
Nothing. Most are not paying attention, caught up in conversations much more interesting. When a scattered few give me the, “Go ahead, you’re not interrupting us” nod. I feel a smile growing uncontrolled on my face. I can’t help it. Class is in session… and I love it.
I begin, “AL-Hamdulillah, Getting locked up is almost like dying… only better.”
The low rumble ceases. “Every man in this room knows what it feels like to get locked up right?” Read the rest of this entry »
Bismillah walHamdulillah wa salaatu wa salaamu ‘alaa rasulillah.
As salaamu ‘alaa man attabi-ul hudaa. I have been in solitary confinement since November 2012. I am kept in a concrete cell with no mirror and no window. The strong, bright lights that glare from the ceiling never dim or go out. A video camera records me 24 hours a day. I never know what time it is and this has caused me to become a nervous wreck when trying to figure out the times for Fajr and Magrib. WalHamdulillah. All of my mail, legal papers, books – including my Quran have been confiscated. Only a small portion of my legal papers have been returned- a nominal amount to support the claim that they returned something.
What has happened? Towards the end of RamaDaan 2011 I was arrested for constructive possession of a firearm and a conspiracy to submit a fraudulent tax return. Both charges are exaggerations of events in order to enhance me to a terrorist. The government has not officially charged me with terrorism, however they have used a clause to enhance the charges to acts of terrorism.
A young Muslim went about bragging to an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to go overseas and fight Jihad and wanted to die on the battlefield and that he learned these things from me. And it is for this reason that they claim that they are prosecuting me. Claiming that I am a recruiter for al Qaeeda and a terrorist trainer.
In support of their claim they are using as proof that I encouraged the young man to make ‘umrah- they say that this was to cleanse his soul in order for him to become a suicide bomber. They are also using the young man’s statements to the undercover agent- which I had no knowledge of nor was I present for when he stated them – and a video wherein I am telling some students that are memorizing the Quran that they are to be real mujaahideen in preserving and protecting the Quran.
As for my legal standing, I have had 6 attorneys thus far. All of whom have quit except the last one who was removed by the judge when he put forth the motion requesting that the prosecution provide proof of their claim. This is when they placed me in isolation. I have seen my new court appointed attorney very few times.
I believe that I can be cleared by bringing forth witnesses, my writings and my works. But that takes organization. Someone to present the facts in a legal format. And this is what I am not able to get done.
AlHamdulillah I would like to thank all the people who are supporting me, helping my family or just going through this with us. Jazakumallahu khayran it is encouraging. I am, walHamdulillah bi khayr and pleased with Allah as my Lord, Islam as my way of life and Muhammad as my prophet.
Please note that we were moving progressively when we were studying Quran, Arabic and fiQh and that this was such a disturbance to the kuffaar that they have gone so far as to label me a terrorist. I think that my most dangerous statement has been to encourage everyone to recite 10 pages of Quran everyday. And this simple action done consistently will change our lives.
Marcus Robertson #201100011051 John Polk Correctional Facility Seminole County 211 Bush Blvd Sanford, FL 32773 USA
The American government [has] allowed my husband to see his solicitors on a number of occasions. Even then, the visit has been behind a glass window. Not only that, the glass window had a curtain over the glass to prevent my husband from looking at his solicitors face to face…
All this time [3 months and 10 days] , he has remained in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, in a small room with no window and no sunlight. For one hour, he is allowed to stretch his leg just next to his cell where there is not even enough room to even do that.
It has been three months now since his extradition, but he was only allowed to call me once. On the contrary, Alhamdulillah, I have received a few letters from him. Me and my family also write to him on a regular basis.
Since he’s been there, his hair has not being combed due to a comb not being available for him. He doesn’t even know the direction of the Kibla, so he prays to a direction by guessing where the Kibla is.
The American government knows my husband is disabled! But when the guards bring food for him, they bring food which is wrapped with plastic. When my husband tries to open it with his teeth, half of the food is spilled all over the floor. Wallahi, this is an oppression being done to my husband knowing full well that he has no hand.
These people who have detained my husband unlawfully do nothing but aggravate the situation and make things difficult for him intentionally. They have stripped his dignity and violated his honour. His faith and religious practices attacked, but Alhamdulillah, Allah is the Watcher and the Ultimate Protector of those who are weak and Allah (swt) does not let the deeds of anyone to be lost. Allah will hold EVERYONE (ALL human beings, without an exception) accountable for their actions on the Day of Judgement where there is no doubt!
Despite all these, Alhamdulillah, my husband, Sheikh Abu Hamza, is happy and is in a good spirit. He knows that this is the path he has chosen and his words are always, “Allah is with me, Allah is with me.” He has said to let all the brothers and sisters who have written letters to him know that, they are always in his special du’aas. He is happy to know that the Ummah has not forsaken him. He said not to worry, insha’Allah. It would be nice for the brothers and sisters to write letters to him as much as they can so that he knows his brothers and sisters have not forgotten about him and that he knows he is always in their du’aas.
I can’t stress enough the importance of everyone making du’aa for him, as this is the most powerful weapon we have. He needs our support right now and has a right to our support. So please brothers and sisters, make du’aa and remember the only crime he committed is that he says he believes in Allah. The prison is not the place for him. His place is with his family, especially his children.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“One who helps a fellow Muslim in removing his (or her) difficulty in this world, Allah will remove the former’s distress on the Day of Judgement.
He who helps to remove the hardship of another, will have his difficulties removed by Allah in this world and the hereafter.
One who covers the shortcomings of another Muslim will have his faults covered up in this world and the next by Allah.
Allah continues to help a servant, so long as he goes on helping his own brother (or sister).” [Muslim]
We will all be called to account and asked what we did for our brothers and sisters that are suffering around us, the least we can do is make du’aa for them.
Barakallahufikum for all those brothers and sisters who have supported my husband for all these years. Your help, love and concern for him has not gone unnoticed. Your reward is with Allah (swt). I ask Allah, the Almighty, to give you the good of this world and the good of the Hereafter. Ameen.
-Umm Hamza (wife of Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, Abu Hamza)
Please Keep Abu Hamza and his family in your du’aa and write to him at:
Mostafa Kamel Mostafa #67495-054 MCC New York Metropolitan Correctional Center 150 Park Row New York, NY 10007 USA