In November 2002, when he arrived in the Gambia in West Africa on a business trip, Bisher al-Rawi and a colleague were arrested. The great-grandson of a former prime minister of Jordan, al-Rawi had fled with his family to England from Iraq when he was a child. In the Gambia, he and Jamil El-Banna were turned over to the CIA and rendered to the so-called "Dark Prison" near Kabul in Afghanistan where, for more than two weeks, they were subjected to darkness, frigid temperatures and constant bombardment by ear-piercing sounds. After more than four years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, al-Rawi was released in March 2007 without charge.
Bisher Al-Rawi on...
Interview: October 23, 2007
The experience brought many things to light to me. Turned my life upside down. I think if I had any plans, I had to sort of cancel them very, very quickly, or they were canceled for me, rather. And just the prospects of, you know, being in jail and -- or being -- I think just disappearing off the map was the sort of thoughts and ideas that were going in my head at the time.
Did you have any idea what was going on?
Not really. It's now coming up to five years, and I still don't really know -- like, really -- like what is all this about, like in real terms. As there were not in Gambia, not in Afghanistan, nor in Guantanamo, any accusations were put to me like you've done this, you've done that, whatever. So there isn't like that clear picture. It's just like, you know, "voom," you go in, and, you know, five years of your life goes, and you're out again.
Tell me about these guys dressed in black who came in for you.
You see, I'm dressed in black as well, and, gosh, black is a very, very nice color. I must say, they did not look very nice in their black, very -- not very, very nice. I mean it's -a lot of the scenes I've gone through in this experience are so like movie scenes. You know, gosh, like people dressed in black walking funny, like boom, boom, boom, making noise with their boots and things like, which I -- theoretically could be looked at as intimidating, but I thought it was uncalled for, unnecessary to have that sort of attitude with us, myself and my friends, you know, Jamil El-Banna in particular. I don't think there was any reason for this, like, you know, we were civilians, we were just shuffling, going about our business, and that whole attitude just, I think, way, way out of proportion, and very much uncalled for.
I'm interested in you telling me what they did.
There was -- this team of black dressed American officials, I call them, they -all of this was in the Gambian Airport. Funny, they were wearing black. It was also dark, and very odd that all this movement, everything was done in the dark. Like, you know, I think, to me, I find that very suspicious. Or like -- I look at it in a very peculiar way, because if they were like, genuine, doing something, fair and reasonable, you'd do it in broad daylight. You'd have no problem. I found it very, very odd that everything they did with us was in the middle of the night.
We were sat down, cuffed, hands to the back, shackled, hooded, and two Gambian agents, they sort of stand me up, and we start walking. We walk a very few yards, and then, like a second of silence. Just a second. And boom, two big guys, like, you've got to assume they're big, grab me, and start dragging me along. What the heck -- what have I done? And they take me into a room and actually in the room, it's also a dark room, by the way.
They were with flashlight, walking around, buzzing around, you know, "bzzz," whatever they're doing. And then they cut of my clothes. I could have taken them off very easily. But, you know, they just cut off your clothes. Do whatever they do. They do, you know, some not very nice things. And then they dress you in stuff which I'm not really sure what it was, among which was a couple of nappies. So they dressed me up, and they put like a restraining harness, and then just started dragging me again to the aircraft, and, you know, from there sort of we fly to Afghanistan.
Can you show me how they shackled you? What kind of position you were in?
The restraining system is like a harness restraining system, so it's like, you know, it's a very sort of very much restraining, restraining system. Okay. Very effective. And after being dragged to the aircraft, of course, you know, I had two sets of blindfolds and sort of ear muffs, so I can't hear, I can't see. And they laid me down on a -- like a bench seat on the aircraft. It's like an ambulance, like a stretcher. I think something like that.
And then, you know, my feet are tied, my lower legs, my waist, my -- I'm not really sure -- my chest, definitely my chest, and my hands were cuffed to the front. Initially they were cuffed to the back, but they changed that to the front. So I was laying down just like -- you know, in a position where I really can't move. I can't even move, just a slight -- just rest my back, I couldn't even do that. That was a very, very painful -- it was very, very painful. The whole experience was very tormenting, like once in a lifetime sort of thing. You really -- it's not recommended.
Do you think the torment was planned, efficient?
Oh, gosh. Efficiency, efficiency is something which, absolutely, absolutely, in terms of hurting people, extremely efficient. Now, this is something I've seen all the way through. Doing something positive, well, there is always inefficiencies in that, but in terms of -- like in Guantanamo, like when they give you something, like if you're entitled to something, they think you're entitled to a shirt. And they could drag their feet for weeks. But then when they decide, now, you're no longer entitled to a shirt, then boom, they just take it away straight away. So that's just the way -- they were very efficient. I mean they've done this you know, a few times, at least a few times.
They come to you with their scissors or whatever it is, they cut all your clothes, they dress you very quickly. It's just very quick, but it's an unreal situation, like, you know, time sort of stops. It's one of these moments. It's not like, you know, well, I'm going to time you. You know, this time you were a bit quicker or a bit slower. It's like the whole thing is really unreal. It's not something you can get used to. It's not something you'll be able to define in terms of time. But, no, it is actually relatively speaking, it's a quick process. But it's a painful quick process.
Cutting people's clothes off, making people naked is a part of this? Is it an attempt to humiliate?
I mean, in my eyes, definitely that, humiliate, intimidate, hurt, and show you that what's coming is actually worse than what you're just going through.
Do you remember what went through your head during the flight to Afghanistan?
Oh, the flight, that was actually I think the worst -- among the worst -- I think there are two periods in this whole experience that was really, really difficult, and that was that initial period, and the last period of my detention. And it was very difficult.
Did you know you were going to Afghanistan?
Like for certain, no, but the guys who were sort of running the show in Gambia, the American guy, one of them I think is called Lee, sort of towards the end, last three or four days or so, he said, "Look, Al-Rawi, we're going to take you to Afghanistan." Now, I didn't bother to ask why throughout the experience. Throughout this four and a half or so years I never asked why, why are you doing this, what are you going to do with me, I never bothered. Because I don't think I would get a reasonable answer. I was just told I have -- I didn't 100 percent believe it, I didn't disbelieve it, but he did mention that I was going to go to Afghanistan.
When you arrived at this destination, then what happens?
Oh. It's sort of a relief, beginning of a new sort of episode. It was a relief because I really had a lot of pains, especially in my back and my -- where the cuffs were. They were really cutting into my skin, so when they, you know, removed me from this sort of bed-like or stretcher-like situation, gosh, I really -- my back was like feeling a bit better. But no quicker than they sort of removed me, they started dragging me out of the aircraft. Then I think it was a van-like vehicle. I, of course, can't see it, but I think it's roughly like a van, one could hear the door a little bit, like slamming. And they just threw me and Jamil in as well, just like you throw like a sack of potatoes, threw us like literally, literally, threw us in the van. And the van drove off relatively slowly. And, again, that was us being taken to the "Dark Prison."
It's called the "Dark Prison," why?
Apparently, again, just as in Gambia, they had no electricity. I assumed that. Afghanistan is not very much for the electricity grid. They didn't have electricity there, or so it would seem. So there were no lights, so it was just dark, very dark.
It was just pitch dark?
Pitch dark. I think the longest period in my life that I did not see any real light, except for a light of the very dim light of the torches of the sort of guards, the few guards inside the prison. Very dimly -- they used very, very dimly lit torches.
It's a very, very alien place. I mean one appreciates sight. Gosh, you really appreciate sight. You do not know what you're losing, you know, not being able to see. You have to use your senses, all of them. It was a very, very difficult place to handle.
You were kept in a cell by yourself?
Yeah. It's a cell by myself. It's a narrow, longish like cell, sort of rectangular shaped, just a bit of cot on the floor. Very, very freezing cold. Like, you know, extremely little food, like maybe once a day or once every couple of days. Very little water, like very, very little. And not only that, like, you know, the water you have, they give to you in a bottle. They might just put it over there, and then you have to find it. Like finding -- and it has no cap on -- oh, you knocked down the water, and quickly you try to sort of grab it. It was a very, very difficult place, unnecessarily so, I think.
Just keeping you off balance, off kilter?
You no longer feel like you're human, like your emotions are in turmoil. You really don't -- you don't know want to think about, you don't know what's going on. You just -- like, you know, you're in a completely different mindset.
I understand that in addition to the darkness, at the "Dark Prison," there were also these sounds.
I'm glad you describe them as sounds rather than music. Usually people will say they're music. I don't think there's going to be any chart, the sounds they're playing. The way I assess it, somebody like really professional making some sounds that sort of just keep you like awake. They just have sort of an impact on you, to affect you during the day and during the night. If you have a nice song in the background you could easily sleep or do whatever, you know, but these sounds, in the evening they give you -- or when you sleep. There is no evening in there, by the way. It's all dark. But, you know, when you sleep, it will disturb you, and when you're awake, it disturbs you. So it's either a nut or somebody really professional, something deliberate. I really don't know which one it is.
One person who was kept at the "Dark Prison," he's actually still at Guantanamo, but he's given testimony to his lawyer. He described what he heard at the "Dark Prison" as like Halloween sounds, women screaming.
I mean it's nothing distinct. Even I could hear -- a sound of engines like running in the background, but it's really odd, like really it's not something I can easily define. If it's hot metal or whatever, I could sort of define it. But these, I think, various things are put together.
It's on all the time. I think like a tape, gets to the end, and you have a few seconds of sort of relative quietness, very few seconds, and then the tape turns over and plays again. It's continuous.
What was the purpose of that, to keep some sort of unpleasant sounds playing 24 hours a day?
At that time, I wasn't really thinking of analyzing the situation. For me, it was just surviving. And it was actually a survival -- for me, it was a survival test, okay. It sort of, you know, took me to my absolute limits in every sense, all my senses. And I was just thinking of preserving myself and surviving this difficulty.
Could you hear other prisoners?
During those few seconds, like maybe six, seven, ten seconds, I don't know whatever it was. One or two guys would sort of shout to each other. They were Afghanis. They would call each other. I think initially, I sort of thought I heard Jamil maybe calling me, but whenever I tried to really listen, the music would play again, and I would lose what I was hearing.
So you had no idea what was happening to other people.
No. I mean one could hear screams sometimes, that sort of thing, things like that.
Do you have any idea how long you were there?
It was very, very difficult to assess time. Nothing is, sort of, fixed. You can't, sort of, determine things, but I later spoke with Jamil in Guantanamo. We sort of figured out roughly like two weeks. But it's not something we're certain about.
Thank God, you know, during this stay in the "Dark Prison", we were not beaten, although one was expecting that. However, they were very nice to give us a goodbye present, a good beating to Jamil and myself. That was when we were taken out of the "Dark Prison" and put in a vehicle. They just gave us a bit of a beating. That's actually documented in photos, which were taken of me in Afghanistan, in the background. They actually took photos of the injuries I had suffered at the time.
The government has those photos?
Have you tried to get them?
No. I mean with regards to the American authorities, I mean, you know, we had money, we had equipment, machinery, I mean, everything, our clothes, our personal belongs, they took everything, and, you know, -- and I left the authorities, the American authorities with just a white Guantanamo uniform. That's it. Okay. But, you know, they took everything. And I don't think -- at the moment, I think there is no way for me to sort of get anything back, but maybe that's for the future for my lawyers to sort of look into.
You said that you and Jamil were beaten when you were put into a vehicle as you were leaving the "Dark Prison." Were you hooded?
Most of the things that ever happened to us is that, you know, you're hooded. You can't hear anything, you're shackled, you're cuffed, and then the toughness, and the strength and bravery of these idiots comes out.
You were punched in the head?
I mean a few punches. Very, very colorful one was on my eye. You know, a few punches. I mean the first thing, I heard Jamil going, "Oh!" I thought, what happened? Like inside of me. Then, you know, I had -- my eye, that's what happened to Jamil. But, you know, you just -- you can't move, you can't do anything.
Did it cross your mind that you might be killed?
That was real. I mean every minute, every minute. Every sound you hear, you think maybe that's it. Maybe that's the end. That's how -- I mean that's how it is. You can't escape that. You cannot. I mean -- but I mean that feeling, you know, that feeling stayed with me until the last minute, until I got on to the British aircraft, until I sort of got back home. I mean that was the feeling until the last day, really, real. Every time you hear something, gosh, maybe this is the time that they're going to finish things. But it's not necessarily like it reflects the reality always, but nevertheless, that's how I felt.
From Bagram, you went to Guantanamo?
Were you told that you were going to be sent to Guantanamo, or were they still keeping you in a state of confusion?
I mean I was not told in any sort of formal way, but you sort of guess it, they isolated people in putting those who were going to Guantanamo in one place, and so you just sort of figure out, well, I'm with them -- as I'm going.
I've read that initially, you actually thought that Guantanamo might be a relief, that finally, you would be officially in US custody, and it might -- it might lead sooner, rather than later, to your being released?
From the very first day, I assumed that this is a problem that one could sort of explain, and, you know, like set the record straight, and then, you know, that would be that, and we would be released. Unfortunately, I tried that in Gambia, it did not work. I tried it in Bagram, it did not work. And again in Guantanamo, it did not work. But that's hope. That human hope, natural hope, that gosh, maybe it's going to get better. Unfortunately, unfortunately, every time you think it's going to get better, it was getting worse.
Even at Guantanamo?
Even at Guantanamo. Absolutely.
I think Guantanamo is very odd, and it's very odd from, I think, all perspectives. I think the guards there find it odd. Their commanders find it odd and definitely interrogators find it odd, and myself and other prisoners there, again, find it odd, and I think journalists who visited there also find it odd. So it's a very odd place, run in a very, very odd way. And I think it's only the American government that can produce such a combination. I think truly, there are not only many things that only the US was able to achieve in this world, and I think Guantanamo, and that mess, is a unique thing to them, to the American government.
Odd is an odd word to describe a prison camp.
First of all, my feeling of the place was always that everything seems temporary, yet it's not. It's permanent. Like, you'd go through your daily routine. I'd think this can't be it. There's something wrong. It needs to be changed. But then again, it never changes. Or if it changes, it changes to the worst. The way -- the mentality of the people you're -- you're talking with, in terms of whether they're interrogators, whether they're your guards, et cetera. You know, it's a very strange -- very strange attitude they have.
For example, you could be hungry, and they could have food, and say, well, I'm hungry, and you have food. Could I please have some of your food? Could I just have a bit of bread? Just a slice of bread. Oh, no, I can't give you that. And then you'd see them taking this food, big quantity of food, going to the end of the block, and you look at him. Well, he can't give it to me, there must be something he needs to do with the food. Maybe he's hungry, whatever. Then he takes it and throws it in the bin. And you think, and think, and think about this day in and day out. How could a human being throw away good food, and not give it to you? And not only that, they can actually justify that's actually good for us. It's good for us to be hungry. And that's a very, very simple example.
The way your interrogators sort of treat you, like they ask you the question -- like if an interrogator asks a question five times, ten times, it's reasonable, he's interrogating. But like, you know, like for years asking the same questions very, very strange. And again, there doesn't seem to be a purpose, like, you know, they try to solve -- fictionalize situations to make it like fit. The tribunals, I think it's a very unique thing in history. I think, more than history, at least, to have set of such tribunals, and the only way they could get away with things is to absolutely and literally lie about things. Just lie. And again, that's all -- I think that's part of the many, many oddities of Guantanamo.
You push people so much. You deprive them from -- daily needs, and then you interrogate them. And people start making up stories. I think -- I'm really against making up stories, but you can't tell prisoners what to do, and people sort of started to make up really like stupid, stupid stories, and you'd have like, you know, officers, like, you know, maybe ten officers coming and listening to them and believing that those stories are true. And then go for a few days, they come back and they start shouting at them, abusing the prisoner because he said lies. It's a very, very sort of useless exercise.
Did you have the sense that some of the interrogators were in training?
Oh, absolutely. I mean the interrogators took them years to get their act together. Like years. You know, I think for me, just last maybe year and a half or so, two years, where one could start seeing some coherency and some sort of, you know, like professionalism, even little bit for that. Before then, like one could make up a story about a character from history. And the interrogator would say, gosh, really? And do you know where he is? And the guy would say well, he's in that city somewhere in the Middle East. He means that he's buried there. And the interrogator would be so enthusiastic. And, you know, he would start asking other prisoners of this character. I think it's all -- you have people, you just push them and push them and push them, and you start getting this mess.
You decided to quit cooperating.
Yes. Again, I had hoped that the tribunals would be the way the Americans would sort of settle this for good. Well, we made a mistake, we'll run these tribunals, we'll find who has done something and who hasn't. And I sincerely, sincerely thought that was a genuine attempt by the authorities to set the record straight. I went there and participated, although they actually had manipulated the situation, because my lawyer had written to me saying not to participate, but they only gave me his letter a day after I went to the tribunal. But that's a side story. And I encouraged others to participate. And I encouraged others to speak in interrogation so they could resolve their problems.
But at the end of the day, you know, all of these things, they were just made up quickly. They were really just a patchup job. And my main disappointment, it was the amount of lies. You needed to go the tribunal, and you'll say something, like I would say this is green. And then you'd read the transcript later, it said this is red. I said it's green. And how would I prove that I said it's green? I have nothing. And then they said, ah, because it's red, that means he's guilty. And this is absolutely -- I could go at length on this. And I have specific examples that I can't take out of my mind. So frustrating, when you read the transcript of what you're supposed to have said, and it reads different to what you initially have said. And then when you put that in Guantanamo context -- you talk about money. Well, I gave so and so $100, or in my case, a hundred pounds. And it says you gave him a hundred thousand pounds. What? If somebody was to read this, like that sort of exaggeration, gosh, this is definitely a terrorist. Look at the money he's talking about. Really, this was like -- it was a very simple amount. And that's, you know, all the way through.
And with Jamil, my friend, I know his story very well, very, very well. He was sitting next to me, and he said, be sure, translate for me the transcript, which we, of course, got copies of through our lawyers. And I read it and read it. I said, look, Jamil. I know your story, and this transcript has absolutely nothing to do with your story. I saw, you know, slight differences, but it's actually fundamentally different. Whether you want to put it down to interpreters not doing their job properly, or the translation, or whatever. But the amount of discrepancies was beyond belief.
Now, adding to that the deterioration of people's health, both physically and mentally. The deterioration of the treatment. Again, I was one of the people who always spoke with -- as much as possible with the Red Cross or the authorities, let's just get something straight, whether it's health or food issues. You know, very simple things. I'm not trying -- I've never spoke -- spoke out and said get the people out of Guantanamo. But at least treat them decently. And really, that accumulated and got to a stage where I said, you know, that's it. It was three years or so of talking and trying to resolve this problem. That's it. I don't think they really want to resolve anything. That's how they want to be. That was -- actually, the situation, I said, that's it, that's it.
And there was just one final incident that really, you know, like the last straw. That was in Camp Five where I spent the last year or so of my imprisonment in Guantanamo, and the treatment deteriorated so much after the -- I think three guys were mad at Guantanamo, and they really sort of treated us very, very badly, like really, really -- and that's, you know, hurting everybody. I thought that's it. That's it.
You were classified as so-called "non- compliant"?
At that period, yes. I put all my effort into being non-compliant. That was an absolute contrast, because before then, I was 100 percent compliant, no problems. I've always advocated to people, don't cause problems. Just be reasonable. But, unfortunately, being reasonable, being compliant, all these things, they do not count. They really do not count. And they just hurt you and hurt you.
One of your lawyers said that you began to view it during the period we're talking about, as a war zone. And every day, everything was a battle against the rules, the people, everything, in your mind.
I mean that's how they make things. Imagine like a shift change. The new guys come on. And the minute they come, they start intimidating you. They start harassing you, bothering you in every way they can. And one of the oddities of Guantanamo is that American people, I think in part they want the authorities to behave properly. So through the Congress or through whatever means, they start restraining the hands of the authorities running Guantanamo. Yet the authorities, they said, well, we have these constraints. Well, let's work around them.
And the picture of Guantanamo, you bring a camera, well, it's nice clean place, quiet place. And the pictures don't show you what the authorities are actually doing there. And how they do things. Because it's very simple, they have so much leeway, and it is very, very simple to do things that hurt people and not showing it. For example, they could have a block, and they could turn down their air conditioning, in Camp Five specifically, and people are shivering, not only that, well, let's take their blankets, and actually, let's take everything else as well, while we're at it. And they just leave you there in a cell, concrete cell, with nothing. And you're shivering, like you can take it for an hour or two, maybe a day, you sleep and you're shivering, but this thing, a camera will not show it. It does not show it. You bring whoever is visiting, he walks through the blocks, well, it's nice and pleasant, but for the prisoners, it's shivering cold. And actually, it's at actually when I say it's cold, it's like refrigerator cold.
But this was a technique that Secretary Rumsfeld approved, extreme heat and extreme cold.
Yes, well, there you go. And that's just one of the things, which maybe is known, but in everything. And when every day is a struggle, and not only a struggle, it's a struggle for survival. It's a struggle for preserving your physical and mental health. So you have to treat it like sort of a war zone, because the person in front of you, he's hurting you, and he's willing to open the door and come in, bring a bunch of five -- however number of officers and beat you up or whatever, so you have to look at it in that sort of aggressive way, I'm afraid.
You were kept from any contact with any other prisoners while you were in Camp Five?
Camp Five is sort of experimental -- everything actually in Guantanamo is experimental. Have you noticed that, that group of people, the guys in Guantanamo, how many different prisons there are? There are nearly ten. Ten different setups for one group of people. Each setup has different rules, different environment, different guards, different everything. But that just to tell you, give you an idea.
You were kept out of any contact with any other prisoners?
Yeah. In Camp Five, everyone has his own cell. Now, you can't easily -- you cannot easily speak with anybody else, even your next-door neighbor. Even if you knock on the door, you can't easily hear him, and he can't easily hear you. You have a small window. So when somebody like they're moving somebody, whether it's to interrogation or whatever, you can actually look through the window and just quickly say hello and just trying to sort of boost the morale and that sort of thing. But really, it's a very, very difficult and alien environment.
And something very odd, which really caught my attention, one day, I thought -- it was like mid-morning. And I went to the door and put my ear to the door. I could not hear a sound. Absolutely nothing. And that's in the -- middle of the morning, everybody should be up and active. And I thought, how very, very odd. Nobody is making a sound. Nothing. And that's not normal. That's odd. And all of that accumulates, you know, accumulates day after day. It wears people out.
And the lights?
I was hoping to say that they didn't have electricity, but I think in Guantanamo, they had an abundance of electricity so the lights were on all the time. So there you go, there's generosity.
It was a real struggle. Again, like even during the day, daytime, the lights are on, for -- I think just before I left Guantanamo at Camp Five they started switching on the lights. And one thing I sort of started doing, is that I realized if you tell the authorities there you want something, they'll always not do it. And I hope if they hear this, they will know my trick. And basically I thought the best thing to do is whatever they say, I say no. And then when they started switching on the lights, they'd say, do you want your lights switched on? I said no. And they went and switched it off. And I had a very good night's sleep. I actually not only said no, but I almost went to the absolute -- I'm not going to have my lights off. No! And I think they, then, forced me to have a good night's sleep.
You were playing the mental games back?
Yeah, you really have to. I mean if you sort of say I want this, and I don't want this, they'll just play you around and hurt you more and more.
Your attorneys, who were able to visit you, were very concerned about you. They wrote about it, spoke about it publicly. One of them said that Camp Five, where you were being held, was worse than any death row prison he had been to in his work. Do you remember that period?
The last period -- just under a year -- well, even about a year was a very, very difficult time for me and for everybody else. I think in Camp Five and other places, but I think Camp Five I can talk more about because that's where I was. I think the cumulative effect on a human being is that you keep pushing somebody. You push him, you deprive him of his senses. You deprive him of his -- of life. And then the point could come when he will just flip. Okay? I mean the people's health has actually deteriorated, and I've seen this with my own eye. Mentally, there is a limit, and then your mind will just say, that is it. I'm finished. I'm done. And that is what I have seen. I have seen elsewhere, but more specifically in Camp Five. And that's reality. That's reality. I mean the authorities there, whether they tried to portray themselves being decent and treating people decently, but actually, their job day in and day out, is destroying these people.
And you were among them for a time.
I used to look at myself, and I'd say, you know, you're not normal. There is something wrong. This is not me. I could say I could barely see it, because it's very difficult to see yourself. But I look at my environment. I look at the people around me, and I see things I do not like, you know. And really, I mean I spoke a lot to authorities, and really out of desperation, because I think having an unhealthy prisoner is bad for everybody. It's bad, of course, for the prisoner, his family, and it's bad for the whole world. It's not good to destroy people's lives in this way. If you want to imprison them, that's fine. It's not for me to decide who the Americans should and should not imprison, but I think I would always speak out in saying that, please, treat people decently. What you're doing in Guantanamo, whether it's Camp Five or other places, is not decent, is not right, and should not continue.
The attorney for another prisoner has described Guantanamo as "one big human experiment."
Experimentation with this bunch of people who are in Guantanamo was there from the beginning, okay. They always try things out, interrogators will come and learn, learn how to do their job, you know. They'll experiment -- what is the limit of people and all these things. It is there. That's part of the system. And it's not a part which I think is a nice part.
This is going to be viewed by the American people, and I would very much like to say that in Guantanamo, despite the hardship and the very difficult ordeal, I have met people who I'm very, very happy to say they're nice people. And to date, to walk through the door, I'm happy to shake their hand and sit down with them, have a drink, soft drink, by the way. And there was this very nice lady MP, and one day, one of these quiet days, she came to my cell and we started speaking from behind the mesh. And she said, you know, when I first came here I could see a sparkle in people's eyes. You know, now that sparkle is gone, and you think about it and you look at people. They have been squashed and destroyed, and very, very deliberately. And the strange thing is that people in Guantanamo, they want to resolve to their situation, which I think is fair, whether through courts -- it's actually very odd that people in Guantanamo say, please take us to court. Please. Like we have no problem. But even if you do not take us to court, treat us decently. You can sustain yourself in a prison being treated reasonably well. In fact, I could even say, okay, forget about treating people decently. Just stop harassing them. Stop making the MPs duty, from the minute he comes in is to bother people, and hurt them, and intimidate them. Please, stop that. I think that would be sort of the minimum.
I'm sure you think about and are concerned about the people that you know that are still there, particularly in Camp Five, who are going through what you went through, the solitary confinement, the isolation, the petty and not-so-petty treatment.
I try to make a point every day to remember my friends in Guantanamo. I try very hard, although it's a very, very difficult thing for me. But I try to remember them once a day at least, just to take a few minutes and just remember them. Remember the ordeal so I that I do not lose what I learned from there. And I do not forget them as well. And, you know, what I want, I want those in Guantanamo to go back to their families and live just normal lives. And I think that's doable, and I think it's what they want, the people in Guantanamo, and I hope it's what the authorities will realize, that that's a -- the proper way to finish this bad experiment. And the main thing that really saddens me is that people will sort of -- their physical health will deteriorate beyond repair, and that -- and their mental health as well.
Shafiq Rasul said that the mental abuse was, for him, much worse than the physical abuse.
It's strange that people in Guantanamo would say, "Look, torture is better than what the Americans are doing to us." And I found that very odd, but I think when you're frustrated, when you're being hurt in a sort of -- in an indirect way, it affects you tremendously, and that also stays with you much longer. Like physical pain, like - although I said we got beaten up living in the ""Dark Prison," that quickly went. You know, a few weeks, you just forget about it. You could laugh about it. But the things that are buried in your mind, they stick with you for a long -- that you just can't forget it. You can't. It just stays with you and it hurts you every day, every time you remember it. And that's very, very important for us to understand, and for us to change or to try to change.