Report from Baghdad—Abu Ghraib victims speak out

Editor’s Note—The Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT), a project of the Brethren, Mennonite and Quaker churches, has had members active in Iraq for several years. Recently, CPT members LeAnne Clausen and Stewart Vriesinga took testimony from one of the Abu Ghraib victims who was photographed in that prison with U.S. guards who are accused of abusing him and many others. This is his story.

“Before I was tortured, I was a physical laborer. I could carry over 100 pounds. Now my back is ruined. I can’t lift anything. I can’t travel far because I can’t control my bladder.

“I was held for four months and six days. I spent 18 days naked. For 18 days I was talking without control. I answered ‘yes’ to all their questions. They asked me if I was part of Ansar Islam (a Kurdish militia). I said yes. They asked me if I was in Mohammed’s Army (another militia). I said yes, al-Qaeda and so forth. I admitted to every charge. I said: ‘I know al-Qaeda. Just kill me and get it over with.’

“After interrogation, they gave me a bottle of water. A guard came up to me, took it from my hands, and dumped it on my head.

“They took me to a special room called the ‘presser’ where they played sounds at high volumes. They would only turn it off for one hour every night so I could sleep. At the same time, my hands and feet were bound in this small room, and I had to sit with my arms and legs partially flexed for the 23 hours in the day. I was in this room for 28 days.

“They tied me into a pose called the ‘scorpion,’ where they made me lie on my stomach and tied my hands to my feet behind me so my back was curved. They kept me like this for 10 to 15 hours at a time.

“One day, they gave me an injection. The next day, they gave me five injections. I couldn’t control my arms or my legs. When they forced us to make the human pyramids, they put bags on our heads. We were naked. They pushed us in the back until we lined up, then they pushed us, we would trip on things on the floor. Then they instructed us to climb on one another into the pyramid.

“They would also [when we were hooded and naked] push us from behind until we walked into the back of another prisoner. Then they would order us to have anal sex with that person.

“This is the time that they would also put a rope around us, either by the neck or under our arms, and drag us across the floor.

“They said many insulting things to us regularly, such as ‘Shut the f—up.’ ‘You are s–t,’ ‘Son of a b—-,’ and ‘Bastard.’

“Later I was sent to Camp 42, a smaller camp. There was no questioning about possible charges against me here. I became nervous and said: ‘Look, I’m Osama bin Laden. Just kill me now.’

“There were rules. For three months, there was no talking, no praying, and no reading the Qu’ran. The only things allowed were breathing, eating, using the toilet. You could pray and recite the Qu’ran in your heart, but not out loud. You could sleep for one hour.

“If you were caught talking, one punishment was to chain one hand to the floor and one hand from the ceiling and stretch your arms apart for an extended time. Another punishment was to put water on you, to completely soak your clothes, and to put water in your bed.

“I never knew the charges against me during this time until three days before my release. Then they said they thought I may have been in the former military.

“I asked a soldier there, ‘Why?’ And he told me his orders came from high up.

“We were fed pork for two days, (Editor’s note: Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. It is considered unclean.) then we were given only one item out of an Army meal once per day. Later we got two Army rations per day, 12 hours apart.

“We heard from the other prisoners about the demonstration they organized on the first day of Eid after Ramadan. The U.S. guards shot and killed four prisoners. The prisoners who were there told us that afterward, a black U.S. soldier apologized for the killings and played a recording of Qu’ranic verses on the loudspeaker system for all of us.

“I was a political prisoner under the old regime, and I was a political prisoner now. I was taken in 1999 and held at the Olympic stadium complex where Uday [Hussein] was. There was also much mistreatment there but nothing like this. I, and every Iraqi now, equate the two regimes, old and new.”

This account was given by “Salaam.” He spent one month and 10 days in a military hospital for treatment of injuries he sustained under torture.

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