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Omar Deghayes and Terry Holdbrooks Discuss Guantánamo (Part Three): Deaths at the Prison

June 3, 2010 - ...There were people who were inside those interrogations, there were people who were sexually, you know, raped and abused, there were four people in Bagram base, four of them were chained in a tent and four of them were sodomized in front of each other for embarrassment. There [was] somebody in the "Dark Prison" [a CIA prison in Afghanistan], an African guy — I don’t want to mention his name — an African guy who was sexually abused, sodomized, and then after that they said to him, "We realize it’s a mistake, you’re not the guy." They released him. And they said to him, "You’re a brave man." They said to him, "You’re a brave man" just to psychologically try to amend what they have done to him. And again, the same thing inside Guantánamo Bay. There were people who were chained down to the floors. I don’t want to mention his name because some of those people told me those stories because of my work with lawyers inside prisons, but they insisted I don’t give their names. This man was a young Yemeni boy, and one day he was held in those prisons, his trousers was pulled back, and — you know, there are lots of abuses like that, sexual abuses. Like, another guy from China, a young boy from China, I’m not going to, you know, detail the horrible stuff that happened to him — and so on...


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Omar Deghayes and Terry Holdbrooks Discuss Guantánamo (Part Three): Deaths at the Prison

Andy Worthington

June 3, 2010

On April 30, 2010, as I explained in Part One and Part Two of this three-part transcript, The UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas organized an event to mark the fifth anniversary of its excellent Guantánamo Testimonials Project, which, for the first time, enabled a discussion to take place, before an American audience, between a former Guantánamo prisoner (the British resident Omar Deghayes, speaking by video-conference from the UK) and a former Guantánamo guard (Terry Holdbrooks, who converted to Islam and is now known as Mustafa Abdullah).

As I also explained, a video recording of the event is available here (via RealPlayer), as is an audio recording, but in the hope of bringing the words of Omar and Terry to a wider audience I’m cross-posting a transcript of the event here. Part One featured Omar’s story, in which he provided some detailed insights into Guantánamo that many people will never have heard before. In Part Two, Terry told his story, and he and Omar then engaged in discussions that touched on other disturbing aspects of the prison’s history, included the use of menstrual blood by a female interrogator. In this third and final part, Omar and Terry discuss other aspects of Guantánamo, including the deaths of three prisoners in Guantánamo in June 2006, which has a great resonance as the fourth anniversary of that dreadful day approaches, in light of disturbing revelations in an article by Scott Horton for Harper’s Magazine in January this year.

Almerindo Ojeda: A question for Omar: you were there when the three suicides took place in one night [on June 9, 2006]?

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I was there when that happened. The three suicides and there is another person who died, we don’t know what happened exactly but some people — We know that it was sexual abuse, it did happen because the policy where … they did something sexual really badly to those people. I remember speaking to one of them, the man who died afterwards. Amin, I talked to Amin [perhaps Mani al-Utaybi]. I remember him being very angry and annoyed and he was shouting behind the windows and he said, "Are they doing the same things to your block as what they did to us?" And I said, "Yes, they are," and after that he died, a couple of days after that.

The three people, Yasser Al-Zahrani and the others [Mani al-Utaybi and Salah Ahmed al-Salami], they hated them so much because of their continuous resistance. They were young men, most of them were very young, like 18, 19 when they were locked up [Yasser al-Zahrani was just 17 years old when he was captured]. They had lots of problems because of interrogation, because, like what Mustafa was saying, when they entered their cell they used to fight back and they really hated them so much and they designated them to [severe] mistreatment.

I remember one of them had problems, he needed an operation on his — He had a very serious problem. They abused him again, because he was so sick, they did the operation and then they used it against him and then they locked him up in very severe, cold conditions, and he was really badly physically affected. And then we had one day, the three of them died. And yeah, I was there and it was a really sad, sad day when that happened. And after that happened, the treatment — people were subjected to even more abuse, and more restricted, very hard conditions. So it was a really bad time, I remember that really well.

Almerindo Ojeda: There’s been recent controversy about that and it was printed [in] a new study [by Scott Horton for Harper’s Magazine], questioning whether it was suicide.

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, that’s right. I also don’t think it was suicide. That’s why I don’t use the word "suicide." What happened to them is very unclear. These three people, Yasser al-Zahrani, Ali Abdullah Abee [Salah Ahmed al-Salami] and Mani al-Utaybi, were for long time subjected to, designated for specific mistreatment. And what really happened that night, I’m not sure. Because I know one of them, he was hanged and his hands were tied and there was cloth filling his mouth and his hands were tied behind his back. I heard about the article that was written about them and it’s hard to believe some of the stuff [put forward by the authorities].

Terry Holdbrooks: Omar, personally I don’t think that those could have been suicides. Just having worked there, as you touched on earlier, it was a requirement that at least hourly we had to take notes upon what was going on in the block. Me, just being antsy and bored like I am most of the time, I would walk up and down the block probably every three minutes. With the monitoring system that was in place just in the poorly constructed camps, let alone Camp 5 and Camp Echo, which are under constant video surveillance, there’s no way that a suicide could take place. There was a number of suicide attempts while I was there, but we always caught them.

Omar Deghayes: I never said that I believed that these were suicides even though I heard. I was there when it did happen, and I never said it was suicide and I never believed it was suicide. But I can’t say otherwise because I wasn’t completely inside the cell. But as you say, it’s impossible to do anything like that inside the cell.

Almerindo Ojeda: One of the things I noticed is that the three of them were taken to a special camp that hadn’t been described up to that point and the official name of that camp was Camp No because if they asked you if it exists, you had to say no. Have you heard of that camp?

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I heard about that once.

Amy Goodman: Mustafa, did you hear about that camp?

Terry Holdbrooks: That perhaps might be what I was told was the General’s Cottage. There was a place just past Camp Iguana, along the ridge line when you’re going toward the satellite towers. I probably shouldn’t be that specific … There was another camp that’s down there, you can see it if you use Google Earth and you look really carefully, you can see it. It’s a small camp, very small, couldn’t hold maybe more than four detainees. There was another place that I always suspected that when people disappeared for long periods of time, it’s where they had to go. Shaker Aamer [the last British resident, who is still held] and Ahmed Errachidi [a Moroccan, resident in the UK for 18 years, who was released in 2007] were two of the closest detainees with me. There were points in time where they left, where they weren’t in Camp Delta anymore and they weren’t in Camp Echo. "Where have you been, man? Where did you go?" "I don’t know, they put a blindfold on me and put me in a van and drove around for an hour." It doesn’t take an hour to get anywhere in the place, it’s 54 square miles and the majority of it is water, so it doesn’t take an hour to get anywhere. They probably drove around in circles for a while, but nonetheless there had to have been somewhere else, that’s probably Camp No, if that’s what it’s called. I was always told it was the General’s Cottage. Kind of a twisted name for a place to torture.

Amy Goodman: Omar Deghayes, describe the day you got out of Guantánamo. What was it like?

Omar Deghayes: Well, we were very happy, but anything that in Guantánamo [supposedly] happens you disbelieve until it really does happen. So even when I was told that I would be released, I was happy but I wasn’t completely happy, because some people were taken in the planes … It was used psychologically, they were taken in the planes and then they were taken back to prison. They’d say the plane had problems. So until we came back to England I was[n't] completely happy. And I met my family and it was one of those happy days.

Almerindo Ojeda: Did you meet any other guards that were kind to you?

Omar Deghayes: There were some decent people inside prison and some people who more willing to commit atrocities and they were motivated by their own hatred and feelings. There are a few people inside who didn’t intend to cause harm unless they were commanded to do that, and there was of course the generals, who were leading those. Like Miller that Mustafa was talking about, and others, afterwards, who came. They had a policy where they used the guards against the prisoners. If they saw any, like Mustafa was describing, if they saw any guards speaking to one of the prisoners too much or he’s befriending them, the next thing you know that same guard will be commanded to enter your cell with other groups of guards to beat you up badly. Because they had that mistrust, they didn’t even trust their own guards, I think even the guards were under surveillance and they had videos and they had informers within the guards themselves. So the people who generated Guantánamo itself, I mean, the top people who made Guantánamo were people who used both the guards and prisoners, and that’s why I think those people, not the guards, not the simple guards who were used and abused themselves, but those people who should be brought to accountability for their actions.

Amy Goodman: Mustafa, do you agree?

Terry Holdbrooks: Well that would be an absolutely amazing act if everybody who’s responsible for the atrocity, for the stain that is Guantánamo — it would be quite an amazing accomplishment if everybody responsible could be convicted or tried or even remotely punished in this life. That would be an amazing act. I would love to see it happen, personally.

Like he was saying, with Guantánamo being designed for even the guards to be used as tools … Just before we went to Guantánamo, literally the day that we were going, we stopped, we had this little, you know, lay-over, so to say, in New York City. "Hey, you know, wow, check it out, we got two buses, we’re going to take you to Ground Zero, we’re going to let you read all the comments on the wall and while we’re there we’re going to tell you that it was Muslims that blew this place up and it’s Islam that is the enemy. And remember, we’re going to guard the worst of the worst. Remember that. These are the worst of the worst so when we get there don’t talk to them, don’t be friends with them, they are the worst of the worst."

I was fed that nonsense, oh God, every day the entire year that I was there was that these are the worst of the worst or they’re dirt farmers; they’re dumb dirt farmers. Don’t talk to them. Well, if they are dumb dirt farmers, why are they lawyers and doctors? And why can they speak seven different languages properly when I can’t even speak English properly and I grew up in America? How are they dumb? How does this correlate here? I don’t understand.

Omar Deghayes: General Miller used to go around and used to say to the guards before they entered your cell and beat you up badly, "Don’t forget September 11th," and used to go around and incite that kind of hatred. And the same general who afterwards — the top people like Dick Cheney and Bush and whoever was putting those people to work thought he did a good job in Guantánamo, they moved him to Abu Ghraib in Iraq. And he was the same person who said, "Let’s Guantánomize Abu Ghraib," and then, you know, the pictures that came out from Abu Ghraib and all of this was at the same period that this same general, Miller — who they thought his policies was successful in Guantánamo in breaking people down — they moved him to Iraq to do the same job.

And, you know, probably, as I say, here even Mustafa and some guards don’t know so much about what went on inside some of these prisons. I mean, even interrogators were kept away, there were certain guards who were used, as you said, their job was only to take you to the interrogation cells and then go back and then they come and take you and pick you back up again they didn’t know what happened inside the interrogation cells. Even some of the interrogators that we had — one of the late[r] interrogators, he was a guy from Florida and he was a kind, generous person compared to many of the other interrogators and he tried to help and he tried to and do things different. He said, "I might be in your position one day," and he was different than other interrogators and even, as I say, even interrogators that I wanted to say were different, they used some of them to do certain acts and some of them didn’t even know that those acts and those things did happen.

That’s why it’s always, the more I speak to people who worked in Guantánamo they were given different jobs to do. There were people who were inside those interrogations, there were people who were sexually, you know, raped and abused, there were four people in Bagram base, four of them were chained in a tent and four of them were sodomized in front of each other for embarrassment. There [was] somebody in the "Dark Prison" [a CIA prison in Afghanistan], an African guy — I don’t want to mention his name — an African guy who was sexually abused, sodomized, and then after that they said to him, "We realize it’s a mistake, you’re not the guy." They released him. And they said to him, "You’re a brave man." They said to him, "You’re a brave man" just to psychologically try to amend what they have done to him.

And again, the same thing inside Guantánamo Bay. There were people who were chained down to the floors. I don’t want to mention his name because some of those people told me those stories because of my work with lawyers inside prisons, but they insisted I don’t give their names. This man was a young Yemeni boy, and one day he was held in those prisons, his trousers was pulled back, and — you know, there are lots of abuses like that, sexual abuses. Like, another guy from China, a young boy from China, I’m not going to, you know, detail the horrible stuff that happened to him — and so on.

So there are many stories and, as I say, each prisoner is treated different than the other prisoner. If you’re young, and you come from the Middle East, certain things are done to you more than if you’re [an] older person and come from Europe, for example. You’re subjected to a different kind of torture. It was different. Every torture was engineered to use the most harm that can be done to you psychologically, sometimes physically.

Amy Goodman: What do you mean they told you these stories because you had legal background?

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I had legal background and when Clive Stafford Smith came in, Clive did lots of good work, he was more brave to publish [information about the prison], he was sensitive to so much of the things [and] he was active in speaking and he did lots of good work. And when we saw the results of his work, people started to confide in him, to me inside the cells. They used to send me messages and letters in different ways and forms. Like Mustafa said, we have different ways to communicate with each other even though we weren’t allowed to communicate with each other. They were starting to send to me confidential things that happened to each one of them on the condition that I wouldn’t mention exactly their names, I could mention who they are like generally. There was another Saudi/Bahraini guy who was chained down to the floor and he was sexually abused by a female interrogator and things like that.  So they mention their stories, but because they are so embarrassed to tell this stuff, I myself I am not able even to describe in detail because I feel ashamed and embarrassed of describing the stuff.

Amy Goodman: What has been most difficult thing to adapt to since you’ve been free?

Omar Deghayes: When I was free there was many things I needed to fix and amend. Because we were so many years far away from freedom we had lots of things. Our family was away. We had to try to communicate with my family who was lost, my wife and child was lost. I didn’t know where they were, in Pakistan or Afghanistan borders, and I had to search for them. It was so difficult because every person you communicate with in Pakistan would be under surveillance because of my background. It was so difficult to make communication with them and then you have lots of [other] things.

You have to speak with people again and you have to become normal, because I was locked up more than five years, and most of those years I was in isolation cells. So it was very difficult to learn how to communicate again with people, to talk in a normal way and socialize in a normal way. It was difficult to go back to work, to wake up in a normal way, to sleep in a normal way. We had and we still do experience lots of psychological hardships, dreams, bad dreams. Sometimes some incidents trigger memories, back inside the cells. Our emotions is different, psychologically our feelings, we’re more cold than when we used to be. We can’t express our feelings easily to our families and friends. Suspicion, and we suspect everyone and everything.  Many, many things that, as I say, that’s why, when I started in the beginning, the physical damage that was caused to us probably is more apparent and is hard, but the psychological wounds and injuries inside each one of us is more deeper and probably longer than the physical abuse.

Amy Goodman: And Terry Mustafa, how do you actually go through the conversion process and then what was the response of the Guantánamo officers, the military, to your conversion to Islam?

Terry Holdbrooks: When Al-Jazeera interviewed me they asked this question and then off the record they said, "This is really the money question. If you could put a lot of detail in this, this is the money question." Yeah, well, unfortunately, it’s really not that much of a money answer. To tackle that initially, the process of converting to Islam, I think one should have a full understanding, or at least you know as much as [you] are mentally capable of having, of what Islam is, of what it entails, of the Pillars of Faith [the profession of faith, prayers, fasting, alms, and the pilgrimage to Mecca] and everything that comes along with it. I think that should be there. But it’s a simple process of saying your shahadah [or profession of faith], of declaring that there is no God except for Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger and meaning it, wholeheartedly, you know, meaning it in your heart and full with clear intent and clear mind and good intentions. You should have obviously two other believers present, but it’s a simple process, so to say. Errachidi and I battled about that one for a couple weeks.

Almerindo Ojeda: Ahmed Errachidi, a prisoner…

Terry Holdbrooks: Yeah, sorry, everybody. Ahmed Errachidi was a prisoner in Guantánamo.

Omar Deghayes: He actually lost his mind inside prison. They mistreated him so badly, that he — I don’t know, you left, I think, the prison at the time?

Terry Holdbrooks: No, no, no. I was there for watching his downfall.

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, he lost it completely. He was injected with injections and stuff that he completely lost his mind. I remember looking at him and seeing him, like talk in a garbage way. It was very sad to see that nice man, intelligent man, and then broke down, because of the abuse he was subjected to.

Terry Holdbrooks: Errachidi himself, personally, had a reputation. We called him "The General." He was the general of the detainees because he was the type of individual that –

Omar Deghayes: It’s crazy how he was being described as being a general and they thought he was somebody very important in [al-]Qaeda, even though he was working as a cook.

Terry Holdbrooks: Right, right, right. It wasn’t so much because of that though. I mean, the military had their ideas that he was a leader, but the reason why we called him "The General" was because you could have a block that was rioting and he could walk into that block and say one sentence and everybody would be calm.

Omar Deghayes: That’s true. But the interrogators really meant it. I mean, like Shaker Aamer, locked up inside prison.

Terry Holdbrooks: Right.

Omar Deghayes: For nine years, Shaker Aamer — the same way. They call him "[The] Professor" because he was loved by people, because he was loved for different reasons, like Errachidi. It’s because they speak good English and good Arabic and they were older in age and they used to translate for people and they used to try to help them.

Terry Holdbrooks: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. They were problem solvers.

Omar Deghayes: And because of that, people respected them and loved them. And just because of [them] showing that they respected him a lot they started calling them names like "Generals" and "Professors" — and really intelligent people inside. The interrogators really did believe that kind of talk. And just because of that, some of them are still in prison. Just because people respect them and how they look at them inside prison. Not because of what they acted and what they’d done before. I have seen Shaker’s accusations and the things that they accused him of in the papers and it was like flimsy stuff. Stuff which they shouldn’t be kept for nine years just because of that.

Terry Holdbrooks: Yeah, we had some colorful and loving pet names for some of the detainees, obviously. Getting back to the question, Errachidi actually didn’t necessarily accept or like the idea, initially, of me approaching Islam. I told him, I was like, "Hey, I think I want to convert, I think I want to actually take up faith." I had never had faith in my life and Islam is the one and only faith that’s ever made sense to me. He just kind of looked at me the day that I first approached him. He turns his head, he looks at me, and he’s like, "No." He just waves his hand and wouldn’t say anything else to me for the rest of the day. I was like, "Are you serious? Dude, we sit and talk for like six hours at a time, you’re just gonna wave your hand and say no? Ugh. Come on." And he wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the day.

I saw him a week later and asked him about it and he still said no. And finally, one night, I was working a night shift, and I came up on him and I talked to him. I was like, "You know I’ve got my P’s and Q’s, I know about it, I want to take my shahadah. And he sits me down and we talk for about two hours, just discussing all of the stipulations you come across in Islam and in regards to American society and how living as a proper Muslim totally are not going to go hand in hand with each other. But after a long sit-down conversation he eventually gave in and he transliterated the shahadah for me so I was able to say it. And as for the military …

Omar Deghayes: But Mustafa, there’s a number of guards that became Muslim, and people don’t realize that. They think that you’re the only person that did become Muslim inside Guantánamo. There is a number of guards who became Muslim there, and there is one female guard we’re still in contact with. And she sends us messages. She said she is wearing a hijab and that she has become Muslim lately.

Terry Holdbrooks: Al-Hamdulillah!

Omar Deghayes: And she sends messages. But she is so scared to come out in the open.  And we asked if it’s possible for her to speak about it and we’re in contact with her. There are a number of people who, inside prisons …

Almerindo Ojeda: We would be happy to have her testimony anonymously.

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I’ll tell her that because she sends a good message to Moazzam Begg, and she said, "Just tell your friends in London that the things that [I] experienced in Guantánamo changed [my] life completely." And one of the things she said, she said, "I remember somebody who comes weak to the cells, from another prison, and you have the support you have, and the camaraderie you had inside those prisons was just admirable." She was impressed by that, and how people helped each other inside those horrible conditions.

Amy Goodman: Omar, we’re about to come to the end of this conversation. The video-conference will close but in the last few days you questioned whether you wanted to participate in this at all. Can you explain why?

Omar Deghayes: It was by coincidence. I was looking at my Facebook and somebody sent me a message on Facebook. And he sent me a videotape where an American soldier — I looked at the videotape and in that videotape there was an American soldier in Iraq who was raping a civilian, a woman, an Iraqi woman, and he filmed that incident, and he was bragging about it. It was so sad to see that these atrocities are still happening inside Iraq. And because American soldiers are doing these things by command, by Generals and others — [as well as] what happened in Abu Ghraib and many other pictures probably they had — I thought it wasn’t acceptable that I should be speaking to people who were still committing these atrocities inside those countries. Especially when we know that Obama has refused to publicize some of those pictures they have in their hand, in their possession. I mean, the Department of Defense has in their possession even worse pictures of American individuals who committed those criminal acts, and Obama, even though he is a lot better than Bush and the previous administration — But these people haven’t been put to accountability.

This man’s picture is in the Internet, and he’s doing those crimes. It’s so horrible if you just look at it, and he is probably at large, nobody has done anything to him. And he is bragging about it. And if America wants to respect itself, this is the message, and if they want people to take them seriously, that this war, it is a moral war — if they want a moral ground, they should prosecute those criminal people who have committed those atrocities. So that was the reason that made me think, maybe I shouldn’t be participating in this.

Amy Goodman: How do you know the video is real?

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I think it is real because this is not the only video, there are more, I’ve seen a couple of videos before. Some of them were women speaking in Al-Jazeera, like, for example, Sabrina Janadi, an Iraqi young woman who described what happened to her and it is verified fact. And there are many, many others in Iraq. I’ve seen tapes of American guards bragging and speaking, everybody knows of the photographs that the Department of Defense refused to release, because they said if they release them it will cause even more agitation in the Middle East because how much bad those pictures and those videos were, and this means that this was happening inside those prisons and inside observation of offices and people’s superiors, but those people who committed those crimes probably were encouraged to do that. Otherwise we haven’t heard of anyone properly brought to account.

Amy Goodman: So what made you decide to participate then?

Omar Deghayes: When Almerindo talked to me he said it is better to speak to the people about this, about everything. We are not those same people, we are different, we are trying to convince the people in the United States about the atrocities that did happen under this so-called "War on Terror." We are trying to show the people and explain the truth and, Omar, if you don’t participate in this, all you are doing is disappointing us who are trying to organize this and trying to explain to the people what the reality is and what really is happening on the ground. Because people usually only hear one side of the story. And to make a proper judgment, we need to hear both sides of the story.

Almerindo Ojeda: Omar, is reconciliation possible?

Omar Deghayes: I think definitely it’s possible. Of course. I mean, we humans, nobody wants war. I don’t think that the Afghani people want war. They’ve been badly affected by war. No people in Iraq want their country to be occupied and shelled and tortured and bombed. But reconciliation, we must learn to respect each other, and we must learn to resolve our problems not by might and force. We should respect people’s perspectives. I mean, some people have different ways of looking at things in life. We, as Mustafa was saying about his transformation to Islam, we have different values, we look at things differently, but this doesn’t mean that we have to fight each other. We can sit down and negotiate and we can understand. As I said, you know, things can and will probably get worse when you use might and force to solve problems. All of us have families and we know that even in our own families, when we try to force our children, or force people who are weaker than you in a family to do something, it never succeeds. What it does is it causes rebellion and makes things worse.

Amy Goodman: Omar Deghayes, is there anything else you’d like to add? The video will probably go off at any point.

Omar Deghayes: Yeah, I just really want to thank all of you for coming here. It has been a pleasure. I’m so happy to know people like yourselves who are brave enough to stand by their principles and advocate, I hope, for what is right, and advocate [for] understanding and listening to the other side. It has been a pleasure to participate and I am pleased that I have changed my mind and did participate. I hope you are able to change things to the better in the United States and probably in the world. Thank you very much for having me here, it’s been a pleasure.

Amy Goodman: Mustafa Abdullah, is there anything you would like to say to Omar Deghayes?

Terry Holdbrooks: You really think reconciliation is possible? This could totally turn into an absolutely off conversation. We should probably just have it over Facebook or something, via email. The amount of restructuring that would be required in America, both socially as well as our educational system … There is so much that would have to be done to revamp it, to make any kind of ground work, to lay a bridge of connection between the East and the West. It’s inspiring to me to hear that you have hope that reconciliation could be possible. Quite frankly, I’m always surprised and shocked to hear of another detainee who has gotten out and has not decided to retaliate. I think it is amazing. It is certainly something that I commend all of you for. And in regards to that sister that you were speaking of, just let her know, it’s the responsibility of all of us Muslims, if we know of social injustice and whatnot happening to our brothers and sisters, it’s our responsibility to take some type of action towards it. Even if she speaks anonymously, she’s still speaking and taking action and that’s what is going to help facilitate change.

Amy Goodman: Mustafa, the response of other soldiers, officials, officers to your conversion?

Terry Holdbrooks: I managed to actually keep my religious views and affiliations to myself and relatively quiet. There were only two individuals that were in Guantánamo that had any knowledge of that and they were individuals that I could trust. There were very far and few that I could trust. A lot of the same side-effects that Omar was mentioning from being in Guantánamo, I had as well. I still have nightmares about that place; I suffered mass amounts of alcoholism trying to forget it. It’s awful. But I kept it a secret until we got back to Fort Letterwood. When we got back to Fort Letterwood, nobody cared what I was doing at that point, they were back with their families and they had their beer and their play stations and everything else. They didn’t care what I was doing. So, I became irrelevant at that point and that was the point in time that I became comfortable enough to talk about it. Family and friends haven’t had anything negative to say about it, they’ve been supportive of me and what I do. At least the people I still talk with. If they want to have a conversation with me, then they are my real friends. If they don’t, then they weren’t friends to begin with.

Amy Goodman: So what are your plans now?

Terry Holdbrooks: Hopefully, to get my book out. I have another four drafted in my mind that I would like to write. The next four will be fictitious, however. But I have four more books I would like to write that will point out a lot of comparisons and contrasts between the United States and the Middle East and hopefully help bridge the gap between the East and the West, help try to create some type of understanding.

Amy Goodman: And Omar, your plans now?

Omar Deghayes: Now my plans are simple. Just continue to live my life and try to achieve what is good and try to help those who are left behind in Abu Ghraib and many others in secret prisons and I think it’s a call to mission to help to release them. I graduated — when I was young I always wanted to do human rights law and I did, and now I think I may be in a better position to work as I am working now as a human rights lawyer to help many, many others who are less fortunate. Because in my whole life, I have experienced how oppression can be. When it happened to my father and family in Libya and when I grew up and went to Guantánamo. There is a lot that can be achieved by talking and by advocating for those rights.

Amy Goodman: We want to thank you both for taking this time and really participating in this historic event of a prison guard and prisoner at Guantánamo talking to each other and sharing with all of us your experiences there. Thank you very much.

Terry Holdbrooks: Absolutely.

Almerindo Ojeda: Thank you very much for your attendance. Outside the door there are books by Amy Goodman and books by some other author you might know. Both of them are interesting for people who have attended this meeting. Please look them up. Amy will be signing copies of her book and the other author will be signing copies of his book as well.

Amy Goodman: And maybe next time Mustafa will be sitting next to us, signing his book as well.

Terry Holdbrooks: Inshaallah.

Note: Omar Deghayes features prominently in the new documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) and has been touring the film with Andy in the UK since February this year. Copies of the DVD of the film are available here, and also see here for clips of Omar discussing the involvement of the British intelligence services in his interrogations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and currently on tour in the UK), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

:: Article nr. 66612 sent on 04-jun-2010 01:26 ECT


Link: www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/06/03/omar-deghayes-and-terry-holdbrooks-discuss-

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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