On Thursday, I shared with our Kossack community the story of my husband, Dan who was a Vietnam vet who survived torture.
On Friday, I shared the first part of the story of Murat Kurnaz, who was born in Germany of Turkish descent. He spent five years as a detainee.
Yesterday, I shared the second part of the story of Murat Kurnaz
Today I will share the story of Omar Khadr:
Omar was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Much has been said about his family and his childhood. It is complicated, and to get the entire background I recommend the Wikipedia article, which has lots of links to the relevent original documents and news articles. I also highly recommend the book "Guantanamo's Child" by Michelle Shephard.
In the end, Omar was captured by US troops in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, after a firefight during which a grenade was thrown. The grenade killed Sgt. Christopher Speer and allegedly blinded Sgt. Layne Morris in one eye. Omar is accused of throwing that grenade, but documents surfaced last year which cast doubt that he was the one who threw the grenade. He was severely injured in the firefight, including major wounds to his chest and at least one eye.
Omar was 15 years old when he was taken into custody.
He spent some time at Bagram Air Force Base, and was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on October 29th or 30th, 2002. His 16th birthday was on September 19th, 2002. The fact that he had turned 16 meant that by US rules he was treated as an adult. He remains in Guantanamo to this day, at the age of 22.
Here is some of what he has been through:
These are excerpts from his avidavit of 2008.
From his time at Bagram:
On some occasions, the interrogators brought barking dogs into the interrogation room while my head was covered with a bag. The bag was wrapped tighly around my neck, nearly choking me and making it hard to breathe. This terrified me. On other occasions, interrogators threw cold water on me.
Several times, the soldiers tied my hands above my head to the door frame or chained them to the ceiling and made me stand like that for hours at a time. Because of my injuries, particularly the bullet wounds in my chest and shoulders, my hands could not be raised all the way above my head, but they would pull them up as high as they thought they could go, and then tie them there.
While my wounds were still healing, interrogators made me clean the floors on my hands and knees. They woke me up in the middle of the night after midnight and made me clean the floor with a brush and dry it with towels until dawn.
They forced me to carry heavy buckets of water, which hurt my left shoulder (where I had been shot). They were 5 gallon buckets. They also made me lift and stack crates of bottled water. This was very painful as my wounds were still healing.
On several occasions at Bagram, interrogators threatened to have me raped, or sent to other countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan or Israel to be raped.
When I was able to walk again, interrogators made me pick up trash, then emptied the trash bag and made me pick it up again. Many times, during the interrogations, I was not allowed to use the bathroom, and was forced to urinate on myself. They told me that I deserved it.
From his time at Guantanamo:
Two soldiers then took charge of me, one was black and one was white. These two soldiers then pushed me up against a wall. One pushed my back into the wall with his elbow, and the other pushed my face into the wall. Although the goggles and headphones had been removed, the mask was still over my mouth and nose and it was difficult to breathe. They held me like this, and I could not breathe, and passed out. When they felt me falling they would start to relax, but then when I began to wake up, they would do it again until I passed out and began to fall again. They did this to me about 3 or 4 times. There were other prisoners there who were not being treated like this.
Within a day of my last visit from the Canadians, my security level was changed from Level 1 to Level 4 minus, with isolation. Everything was taken away from me, and I spent a month in isolation. The room in which I was confined was kept very cold. It was "like a refrigerator".
Around the time of Ramadan in 2003, an Afghan man, claiming to be from the Afghan government, interrogated me at Guantanamo. A military interrogator was in the room at the time. The Afghan man said his name was "Izmarai" (Lion), and that he was from Wardeq. He spoke mostly in Farsi, and a little in Pashto and English. He had an American flag on his trousers. The Afghan man appeared displeased with the answers that I was giving him, and after some time both the Afghan and the military interrogator left the room. A military official then removed my chair and short-shackled me by my hands and feet to a bolt in the floor. Military officials then moved my hands behind my knees. They left me in the room in this condition for approximately five to six hours, causing me extreme pain. Occasionally, a military officer and the interrogators would come in and laugh at me.
During the course of his interrogation of me, the Afghan man told me that a new detention center was being built in Afghanistan for non-cooperative detainees at Guantanamo. The Afghan man told me that I would be sent to Afghanistan and raped. The Afghan man also told me that they like small boys in Afghanistan, a comment that I understood as a threat of sexual violence. Before leaving the room, the Afghan man took a piece of paper on which my picture appeared, and wrote on it in the Pashto language, "This detainee must be transferred to Bagram".
During one interrogation at Guantanamo in the spring of 2003, an interrogator spit in my face when he didn’t like the answers I provided. He pulled my hair, and told me that I would be sent to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, or Syria – comments that I understood to be a threat of torture. The interrogator told me that the Egyptians would send in "Askri raqm tisa" – Soldier Number 9 – which was explained to me was a man who would be sent to rape me.
The interrogator told me, "Your life is in my hands". My hands and ankles were shackled, and the interrogator then removed my chair, forcing me to sit on the floor. The interrogator told me to stand up. Because of the way I was shackled, I was not able to use my hands to do so, thus making the act difficult to do. As ordered by the interrogator, I stood up, at which time the interrogator told me to sit down again. When I did so, the interrogator ordered me to stand again. I could not do so, at which point the interrogator called two military police officers into the room, who grabbed me by the neck and arms, lifted me, up, and then dropped me to the floor. The military police officers lifted and dropped me in this manner approximately five times, each time at the instruction of the interrogator. The interrogator told me they would throw my case in a safe and that I would never get out of Guantanamo. This interrogation session lasted for approximately two to three hours.
I continue to have nightmares. I dream about being shot and captured. I dream about trying to run away and not being able to get away. I dream about all that has happened. About feeling like there is nothing I can do. About feeling disabled. Besides my medical problems, the dreams are the worst right now. I continue to have back pain and pains in my joints.
From a news report:
The report — dated April 20, 2004, and written by R. Scott Heatherington, who was the director of the department's foreign intelligence division — states Foreign Affairs official Jim Gould was told Khadr was placed on a "frequent flyer program" for three weeks before Gould's visit. That meant Khadr was "not permitted more than three hours in any one location.
"At three-hour intervals, he is moved to another cellblock, thus denying him uninterrupted sleep," according to the report. "He will soon be placed in isolation for up to three weeks, and then he will be interviewed again."
The next excerpts are from a Rolling Stone article, "The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr".
The first exceprt brings to life an incident Omar mentions in his avidavit:
A few months after Omar Khadr arrived at Guantanamo Bay, he was awakened by a guard around midnight. "Get up," the guard said. "You have a reservation." "Reservation" is the commonly used term at Gitmo for interrogation.
In the interrogation room, Omar's interviewer grew displeased with his level of cooperation. He summoned several MPs, who chained Omar tightly to an eye bolt in the center of the floor. Omar's hands and feet were shackled together; the eye bolt held him at the point where his hands and feet met. Fetally positioned, he was left alone for half an hour.
Upon their return, the MPs uncuffed Omar's arms, pulled them behind his back and recuffed them to his legs, straining them badly at their sockets. At the junction of his arms and legs he was again bolted to the floor and left alone. The degree of pain a human body experiences in this particular "stress position" can quickly lead to delirium, and ultimately to unconsciousness. Before that happened, the MPs returned, forced Omar onto his knees, and cuffed his wrists and ankles together behind his back. This made his body into a kind of bow, his torso convex and rigid, right at the limit of its flexibility. The force of his cuffed wrists straining upward against his cuffed ankles drove his kneecaps into the concrete floor. The guards left.
An hour or two later they came back, checked the tautness of his chains and pushed him over on his stomach. Transfixed in his bonds, Omar toppled like a figurine. Again they left. Many hours had passed since Omar had been taken from his cell. He urinated on himself and on the floor. The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they'd successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.
Omar mentions in his avidavit that they did this to him again a few weeks later.
Also from the Rolling Stone article:
Meal portions were usually small enough to keep the prisoners in a state of low-grade hunger. Several times Omar found powder or partially dissolved tablets in the plastic glass he got with his food. The drugs produced dizziness, sleepiness or hyperalertness. Tasteless and invisible, they were not detectable beforehand. Omar was never told what they were or why he had been drugged.
Once, when he was being transferred, Omar learned that his brother Abdurahman was in an adjacent prison yard. Abdurahman, forced by the CIA to choose between life imprisonment and cooperation, had chosen the latter. Omar had no idea that his brother was in Guantanamo to spy on detainees.
"How are you? How are you?" Abdurahman yelled in Arabic.
According to Abdurahman, Omar told him to stick to the story the family had agreed upon -- the Khadrs did charity work and knew nothing of Al Qaeda.
"But how is your health?" Abdurahman yelled.
"It's OK," Omar yelled back. "I'm just losing my left eye and all. They don't want to operate on it."
They did, eventually, operate on his eye, but he had to wait.
NO human being should be treated this way, and make no mistake, Omar and the rest of the detainees are fellow human beings.
Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.
The Canadian Government has refused to request that Omar be repatriated, and the Prime Minister refused, in spite of much pressure applied from many Canadian leaders, to even bring up Omar Khadr's name in his meeting with President OBama in February.
There has been a program designed to rehabilitate Omar, one which would have him not living with his family, or having contact with them.
Please, stand up for this young man who has been so abused. Show him that people do care about him and how he is being treated.
If you are Canadian, contact your Member of Parliament, contact the Prime Minister's Office. Tell them that you demand that the Prime Minister request that Omar Khadr repatriated.
If you are American, tell your elected representatives, "Not in My Name", and demand independent, open and thorough investigation and prosecutions for those involved.
I am in the beginning of bringing together the people and organizations necessary to organize a March for Accountability. I think we need to show those in Washington how many will not stand for anything less than justice and accountability. If you are interested, please email me at the address in my profile.
UPDATE A kind Kossack is in the middle of planning speaking dates for me in Seattle and Olympia, if anyone knows of groups in Portland, Oregon, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or points in between, I could make it a west coast tour. I'm willing to go anywhere in North America to speak on this issue, as long as I can work out affording plane or train tickets, so please feel to email me with potential groups that might like to hear Dan's story and about this issue.