After those incidents, I was on level 3, and they transported me to Papa block where I met Hammad, Mustafa and Abu Ahmad who were all from Sudan and some other Brothers for the first time. We stayed there for a while, then I was promoted and moved to Foxtrot at level 2. On the eighth day, they moved me to Mike, a block devoted to interrogations, which meant it was the only block where you would find prisoners from all levels.
A female interrogator who brought me to Mike told me: “I brought you here to protect you from the soldiers. I’m stopping them from hurting or humiliating you. Nobody can hurt you here.”
Abdul Aziz from Medina was on Mike block, as was Mamduh al-Australi, Adil al-Zamil al-Kuwaiti, and Mohammadou Ould Slahi from Mauritania who was handed over to the Americans by the Mauritanian authorities. He was transported via Jordan where he was interrogated and tortured for six months.
Abu Maha from Mecca was also with us as was David from Australia. This was my first opportunity to hear Mamduh al-Australi’s story. He was detained in Pakistan, then sent to Egypt and horrifically tortured there, before being sent to Kandahar, and from there on to Guantánamo. Mamduh said he had been in Egypt with a Pakistani man known in Guantánamo as Sa’ad alMadani al-Pakistani. Back then, I remember basking in Mamduh’s language; he spoke beautiful Arabic. He was a Hafiz of God’s book, which meant he had learned the Quran by heart, and recited it in a dewy voice, sounding much like Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais.
Sa’ad the Pakistani told me his story after I told him I was a journalist. He had been seized in Malaysia and taken to Pakistan. He was a man of action and a Qari of the Quran, reciting it with all the proper nuances. He taught the children of the Pakistani president and had friends everywhere. He studied the Quran in Medina while his father was ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The remarkable thing about the block was that it became a point of convergence for the Sudanese. Among them, I remember Abu Ahmed who I’ve mentioned already, and Mohammad Salih and Adil Hassan who I met for the first time. All four of us were in a single row in neighbouring cells. The female interrogator told me there were 12 Sudanese detainees in Guantánamo, nine had been cleared for travel and three were still under investigation. “I put you all together,” she said, “so you could enjoy each other’s company until you’re released.”
Of course, their goal was for us to talk amongst ourselves so they could pick up what we were talking about. They thought we might talk about things that had been concealed from the interrogators, such as any connections between us we hadn’t told them about. We would sit together and say things to tease them. We would imagine what would happen if one of us became president of Sudan in the future, who he would appoint as his ministers and so on. Joking, I told them, “The Ministry of Communication will be mine.”
We continued enjoying ourselves a bit in Mike block; then they brought me back to Foxtrot, then two weeks later they brought me back to Camp Two where I was put in Sierra, then Kilo. It was there that a new series of problems began.
While I was in Kilo block, we heard what had happened to one of the finest prisoners in the camp, and immediately organised a protest. His name was Abdul Hadi, and he was one of those who went through unspeakable torture, humiliation and suffering. One day, he was with an interrogator who defiled Allah’s book with his foot, then ordered Abdul Hadi to be bound with the Israeli flag. Abdul Hadi normally suppressed the stories of what happened to him, but this time, after some hesitation, he told us only because he feared he would be sinning if he suppressed it.
When we heard the story, some prisoners called for a strike, deciding not to leave their cells in protest of the desecration of Allah’s book. This was not new to us, as it had been happening since Kandahar, but it didn’t become easier to hear this. Nor was it easy to hear the ongoing provocation of them throwing the Quran on the ground and writing obscene things on it. They left the marks of their shoes on its pages.
The prisoners on Kilo block chose me to lead them, and we carried out our plan, as agreed with the neighbouring blocks, not to come out of our cells.
Since the detention facility was searched daily and we refused to leave our cells, the riot squads appeared. Six soldiers would burst into the cell, wearing helmets and armour, with officers.
The officers would talk to the detainee while a soldier sprayed their eyes and body with pepper spray that burned intensely. They would spray our bodies, too, since adding water to try to wash it off would activate the spray and make it burn more. They would, of course, beat the prisoner at the same time.
Happily, it seemed, and then they would drag him out. When the protests continued, they focused their efforts on Kilo block, but we persisted for a few days. Then, they came and told us that they had decided to move me out. After consulting with the brothers, we agreed that I shouldn’t resist the move, so I left quietly. They planned to beat me, so I they took me to Oscar block, where they tried to push me down a flight of metal stairs. I clung to a column by the steps and managed not to fall, they tried to push me again towards the ground, which was filthy with hair from prisoners who had been shaved there. Still, I didn’t fall…
One of the soldiers pushed me to the ground while I had my hands above my head, so the others could bind my arms and legs. The front of my body struck the cement floor, unprotected because my hands were on my head. The shock coursed through my body and a deep gash opened above my eyes. The soldier who had pushed me down kicked and punched me.
They shaved my hair, beard and moustache and put me in a solitary confinement cell. There they removed the restraints from my legs and took turns beating me. By this point, there were over ten soldiers there, and blood was pouring from the many wounds on my body. They left, closed the cell door, and watched me through the window.
When they noticed that I was bleeding badly as I sat, calling on God Almighty, they called a doctor from the hospital. He came to the window to look at me, but couldn’t see me well with all the blood covering my face and clothes. He asked me to come closer to the window, and I refused; the soldiers offered to storm the cell, but he forbade that. I stayed that way until I fainted against the door. The doctor came to the window, turned my head towards him, and through that tiny window grate, he stitched the wound on my head which was bleeding profusely.
I was left there for three days. On the fourth day, they brought me out for interrogation. I refused to speak, and when the interrogator saw the wounds on my body, he demanded I be moved to the hospital. They took me to the clinic, bandaged my wounds and opened a file on the incident, but not a single soldier was ever investigated for it.
In fact, they accused me of having resisted the soldiers. How could I have resisted, bound hand and foot as I was? The most I could have done was refuse to respond to their orders. The soldiers had attacked me because, according to them, I incited the Brothers on the block, “This is the penalty,” they said.
I refused to despair, alone in that cold, solitary confinement cell for two weeks, in pain. My wounds had swollen, and some of them began to fester. After two weeks, they transferred me to Tango, then Sierra, where I remained for a few months. Eventually, I was moved to Papa, and later on to Foxtrot, a level 2 block, where I stayed for a long time.
After Foxtrot, there was Mike again, and it was there where I met Jamal the Ugandan, who had been living in England; he was my neighbour for a while. Our other neighbour was Mohammad al-Qaraani, a young man from Chad, born in Medina and seized in Pakistan.
We were a band of Brothers, not just because we were prisoners and suffered together, but because of our black skin. The soldiers didn’t spare us the racist taunts, making sure to refer to us as “negroes” whenever they could.