Yesterday I shared with our Moose community the story of my husband, Dan who was a Vietnam vet who survived torture.
Today I will share the story of one of the former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Mr. Kurnaz was born in Bremen, Germany, had always lived in Germany, and was of Turkish descent. In Germany, those of Turkish descent having a much more difficult time becoming German citizens even those born in Germany. In 2001, he decided to learn more about his religion, Islam, in preparation for his Turkish wife joining him, so he traveled to Pakistan to learn from peaceful Imams. Enroute back to Germany, on December 1, 2001, he was taken off a bus in Pakistan, and taken to a prison in Peshawar, Pakistan, then to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and, finally to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained until August 4th, 2006.
What I share now are excerpts from his book "Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo." These are the things that have been done to fellow human beings.
Today I will share some of his experiences in Kandahar, tomorrow the rest of his journey.
Did they have a lie detector? I asked myself. The man was holding something in his hands. It looked like two irons that he was rubbing together. Or one of those machines used to revive people who have heart attacks. Before I realized what was happening, I felt the first jolt.
It was electricity. An electric shock. They put the electrodes to the soles of my feet. There was no way to remain seated. It was as though my body was lifting itself off the ground of its own accord. I felt the electric current going through my whole body. There was a bang. It hurt a lot. I felt warmth, jolts, cramps. My muscles cramped up and quivered. That hurt, too.
... I heard screams.
They were my screams
On the table, there was a shallow, blue plastic bucket about 20 inches in diameter, full of water.
I knew what was coming.
They pushed my head into the plastic tub.
It's like bobbing for apples, I thought.
I wasn't afraid, but I was very nervous. I didn't know whether I was going to survive.
Someone grabbed me by the hair. The soldiers seized my arms and pushed my head underwater.
They pulled my head back up.
"Do you like it?"
"You want more?"
"You'll get more, no problem."
When my head was back underwater, I felt a blow to my stomach. I had to exhale and cough. I wanted to breathe back in but forced my self not to, and I supressed the urge to cough. Still, I inhaled a bit of water and could hardly hold my breath.
"Where is Osama?"
"Who are you?"
I tried to speak but I couldn't.
I felt blows to my stomach and against my back. I swallowed some water. It was a strange feeling. I don't know whether the water went to my lungs. It became harder and harder to breathe, the more they hit me in the stomach and pushed my head underwater. I felt my heart racing. They didn't let up. I tried to answer their questions when I managed to get a fresh breath of air, but all I could manage was "yes" and "no." I was choking. I felt like I was going to vomit, then I coughed and spat. I was dizzy and nauseous.
When they pushed my head under water again and me in the stomach, I imagined myself screaming underwater.
Habe allahu we ne emel weki!
I would have told them everything. But what was I supposed to tell them?
It wasn't a room, just a pen enclosed by aluminum and chain-link fence. Hanging from a beam was a hook like the ones used in butcher shops. A chain dangled from the ceiling.
The soldiers took the chain and ran it underneath my handcuffs. They looped the chain over the hook like a block and tackle and fed it into a winch. I was hoisted up until my feet no longer touched the ground. They clamped the chain to the beam and then left without a word, shutting the corrugated door behind them.
The cuffs cut off the blood to my hands. I tried to move.
I knew they were going to leave my hanging there until I couldn't take it any more. After a while, the cuffs seemed like they were cutting my wrists down to the bone. My shoulders felt like someone was trying to pull my arms out of their sockets.
At some point, I began rocking myself back and forth in the hope that would get my blood flowing. But every movement hurt, no matter how tiny. Especially in my wrists and elbow. The best thing was just not to move and resign yourself to the pain.
At some point, hours later. someone came and let me down. A doctor examined me and took my pulse. He was wearing a uniform like the other soldiers, but he had a badge of rank on his shoulders, and a patch on his chest said: "Doctor."
"Okay,: he said.
The soldiers hoisted me back up.
Three times a day. the soldiers came with the doctor and lowered me.
My hands had swollen. In the beginning, I'd felt pain in them. Later on, I lost all feeling in my arms and hands. I still felt pain in other parts of my body, like in my chest around my heart.
When they hung me up backwards, it felt as though my shoulders were going to break. They bound my hands behind my back and hoisted me up. I could remember seeing something like that in a movie once - only in the film, it was Americans being strung up by the Vietnamese with their hands behind their backs until they died.
I didn't recognize the man. He was hanging as I was from the ceiling. I couldn't tell whether he was dead or alive. His body was mostly swollen and blue, although in some places it was pale and white. I could see a lot of blood in his face, dark streams of it. His head lolled to one side. I couldn't see his eyes.
No one came to lower the man next to me. They had forgotten him. He just hung there in the same position. I thought about the prisoner with the blanket wrapped around his head. They didn't seem to care whether we died.
I watch his chest for a while. Nothing moved.
I was strung up for about five days.
These are some of the things that were done in your name. I will continue Murat Kurnaz's story tomorrow, and then on Thursday I will share the statement of one of those held prisoner in Abu Ghraib.
It is extremely important that those responsible, from the highest to the lowest are held accountable, legally accountable.
It is extremely important that those who defended torture, like John Brennan, not be put in charge of an agency who has inflicted much of the torture, like the CIA. Please contact your senators and the White House and let them know that John Brennan should NOT be the new head of the CIA.
Torture is not what Dan fought for. It is not what Dan gave his physical health for. It is not what Dan gave his mental health for.
Please, I need YOUR help. We need to stand up and show those in power in Washington that we will settle for nothing less than independent investigations and prosecutions. We MUST take that responsibility.
With gratitude and respect,
Standing for Justice and Accountability,