Military personnel inspect each occupied cell on a two-minute cycle at Camp 5 maximum-security facility at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. Photo: Brennan Linsley/AP
President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay sounded terribly hollow during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, six years after he first pledged to shut down the military detention center.
One of those who has waited most desperately to discover the camp’s fate was the mother of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a detainee, who was taken from the sandy streets outside their home in Mauritania on November 20, 2001. As he was led away for questioning, he said: «Don’t worry mom, I’ll be back soon.»
If Obama were inclined to apologize for his failure to shut the facility, it would be too late for Slahi’s mother. She died in 2013.
Thanks to a handwritten diary penned by her son, she lived long enough to read a breathless and heart-rending account of the sexual violence, psychological abuse, savage beatings, and outright torture suffered by her boy.
After a six-year dispute with the U.S. government, his powerful words were published in London on the very day Obama re-made his tired old pledge.
The Guantanamo Diary is heavily redacted but for the first time a detainee’s story has been told publicly by a captive still held inside the camp. The book is a shocking first-hand account of what happened when former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally designated you as a candidate for America’s «special interrogation techniques.»
In between the beatings, the threats against his mother, the staged kidnappings, forced-feeding and exposure to extreme cold, Slahi says he was sexually assaulted by female interrogators at the base. Some of the details are redacted, but the attempt to humiliate a man, who considers himself a strict adherent to the teaching of Islam, is clear enough:
“Today, we’re gonna teach you about great American sex. Get up!” he wrote. “The two _______ took off their blouses, and started to talk all kind of dirty stuff you can imagine, which I minded less. What hurt me most was them forcing me to take part in a sexual threesome in the most degrading manner. What many _______ don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex, maybe more due to the traditional position of the man.»
He tried to recite prayers while the women molested him. «Stop the fuck praying! You’re having sex with American _______ and you’re praying? What a hypocrite you are!» said ______________ angrily, entering the room,” he wrote. “I refused to stop speaking my prayers, and after that, I was forbidden to perform my ritual prayers for about one year to come.”
He claimed one of the women told him: “If you start to cooperate, I’m gonna stop harassing you. Otherwise I’ll be doing the same with you and worse every day… Having sex with somebody is not considered torture.”