tv Democracy Now LINKTV November 26, 2021 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
11/26/21 11/26/21 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> first of all, we were taken as -- held for ransom. then i was sold to theia as aal-qaeda general, middle-age egyptian, you know, a 9/11 insider. i was taken to the black site, where i was, like, tortured for over two months. then from the black side, to detention. amy: today a democracyow! special. we spend the hour with mansoor adayfi, who was imprisoned at guantanamo for over 14 years
after being sold as a teenager to the cia by an afghan warlord after the 9/11 attacks. by the time he was released, he had spent half of his life in u.s. custody but was never charged with a crime. he will talk about being tortured and why he repeatedly went on hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions. >> we were hurting ourselves. our bodies was the battlefld, the americans tortured us, beat us. also we were torturing our bodies by hunger strike, by trying to resist. and i wrotabout it, the hunger strikes. it was a slow journey to death, toward death. that is hunger strike. amy: mansoor adayfi will talk about his new memoir "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo" and how art helped him and others survive guantanamo.
>> we paint sea, trees, the things we missed most -- sky, the stars, you know, homes, deserts and so on. amy: all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. today a democracy now! special. we spend the hour with mansoor adayfi. at the age of 18, he left his home in yemen to do research in afghanistan. shortly before he was scheduled to return home, he was kidnapped by afghan warlords and then sold to the cia for a bounty after the september 11 attacks. he was jailed and tortured in afghanistan and then was transported to the u.s. military prison at guantanamo in 2002 where he was held without charge for 14 years,
many of those year in solitary confinement. mansoor became known as detainee 441. in 2016, he was released against his will to serbia, which he compares to guantanamo 2.0. by the time mansoor was released, he had spent more than half of his life locked up. mansoor adayfi has just published a memoir titled "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." i spoke to him in september from his home in belgrade. i began by asking him to talk about how he ended up at guantanamo. >> let's go back like 38 years, which actually, i -- like, when people ask me, "how old are you?" i say 24, because i don't count guantánamo, like try to cheat. anay, i born in a tiny village in yemen, raymah, born like with 11, 12 -- 11 brothers and sisters,
large family, very conservative family. i studied my primary school and secondary school in the village. we had no highchool, so i had to go live with my aunt in the capital, sana'a, whicwas like a new world. when i finished with my high school, i was assigned to do some research in afghanistan. i was like a research assistant in afghanistan. this is how my journey started there. in afghanistan, i spent a couple months researching and doing some of the research required to be done. one day, after 9/11, i was kidnapped by the warlords. they were actually interested in the car. they weren't interested in us. then when americans came, the american airplane, they were throwing a lot of flyers offering a large bounty of money,
which could change afghanis' life. so afghanis found out that the more you give them high-rank people, the more you get paid. the price ranged between $5000 to like $200,000, $500,000. first of all, we were taken as -- held for ransom. then i was sold to the cia as an al-qaeda general, middle-age egyptian, you know, a 9/11 insider. i was taken to the black site, where i was, like, tortured for over two months, then from the black site to kandahar detention -- was one of the funny things. when i arrived at kandahar detention, i was totally naked there. it's like another -- it's a long journey. second day of my arrival, guards came to move me to a tent. after the interrogation, i was asked to sign a paper that the americans have a right to shoot me and kill me if i try to escape.
i said, "no, i'm t going to sign. of course i will try to escape. i shouldn't be here in the first place." so yeah, i was beating -- i refused to sign. they put my hand on the paper. they signed it themselves. i said, "no, that doesn't count. i have to sign with my -- like, willingly." amy: and when you talked about a bounty being paid to the warlords who handed you over to the u.s. cia and then you were tortured at a black site, do you know where that black site was? and when you say "tortured," what actually happened to you in that two-month period? if i -- i hate to bring you back there, but what actually happened? >> you know, i don't know where -- until that day, i don't know where the black site is, where th place. but i was kept before that at one of the warlord home. i was treated ke a guest, teaching his kids classes -- math, qur'an and so on. and after that, i was -- when the americans came,
they stripped naked. they put me in the bag, hooded, and they shipped me to somewhere i don't know until that day. so in the black site, it was one of the worst experiences in my life. sometimes i'm afraid to get back there, because -- not because fear. it's just, you know, to relive that trauma, because there was no limit to whatever they can do to us, 24 hours. amy: and these were u.s. soldiers? >> yes, u.s. soldiers and with also afghanis, where people actually lost their life there, because they were looking for osama bin laden, where is mullah mohammed omar, where are the new attacks, the sleeper cells. and they have a long list and photos and all kind of things. so, yes, i mean, those black sites -- i believe no one knows how many people in that ended there and how many people actually died there. but there was no limitation to whatever they can do to you. i mean, we spent -- hang on the ceiling all the time,
upside down, even blindfolded, naked. the food and drink, just pour rice and water in our mouth. sometimes they -- we also do our thing sort of standing, and there's no rest. 24 hours, there is a programming like sleep deprivation. we have only sleep -- they give you 30 minutes, like, then six hours, then 20 minutes, if you can sleep -- loud music, beating, waterboarding. they used to put us in kind of like a barrel and roll it in the ice and shoot. and the first time i did, i thought that i died because they rolled it and they shot with a gun. i was like looking, "where are the holes?" but i was still alive. so yes, i mean -- amy: and so you were taken from there to kandahar,
and then you we held where in kandahar before being brought to guantánamo? >> i think, kandahar, we were at the airport. they have a detention -- they built a detention prison in kandahar. itas tentsurrounded with like high walls of barbed wires. we could see the airplanes taking off every time. so when we saw -- when we used to see the small airplanes, we knew they bring a new group of people. but we called -- the big one, we called "the beast," the air force really big one. so that, when it comes, we all, like, panic because we knew some people was going to leave, and they're going to disappear. so even that trauma, just waiting for your name or number to be -- no, name -- our name to be called. they took us. and they call it a process station. where they just drag me to that place,
hang on the pole, strip naked, shaved. and there were all kind of humiliation, i mean, just too much to talk about it. so we were packed on orange jumpsuits. everything was orange -- shoes, socks, uniform, shirt, t-shirt, pants. everything was orange. and they have also goggles, ear muffs. my mouth was duct-taped, my eyes, too, also then hood. and they put one more thing upon me special, because as a big fish -- they put a sign around my neck which said, "beat me." so every 15, 10 minutes, i get beaten all the way for the next over 40 hours until we arrived at guantánamo. amy: and what did they say you did? what were the charges against you?
>> you know, at the black site, i was accused to be an egyptian. they asked me i was in nairobi and was recruiting, money laundering, i was al-qaeda camp -- head of the camp, trainer, a commander -- all kind of accusations. i tried to deny them, but i admit to everything, you know? but the problem was with the details. i couldn't give them the details. by the end, like two months and a half when they found out i wasn't that person, they just throw me in kandahar detention. and from kandahar, the same files were sent with me, where the interrogation started again about the same person, and in guantánamo over and over and over again. amy: now, i want to just be very clear. you were 18 years old. >> yeah, i turned -- i was 18 years old when i was kidnapped. i turned 19 in the black site. amy: so your time at guantánamo, first of all, your english is excellent.
where did you learn english? did you learn english in the black site and when you were being tortured and then at guantánamo for the more than decade that you are held? >> the black site in kandahar, i had to learn to stay alive. that is it posted just try to survive. i tried to hold to little hope i had. in yemen, we studied basic english. before guantánamo, i worked at a security company. these to work at the german embassy and dutch embassy but my english was very basic. the black site -- when i arrived at guantánamo, i started to learn english in 2010 when we moved from the dockage to the golden age,
with the white house became the black house. sorry, that is what we called it. we had a blast with one of the brothers who lived in the united stat. he taught us english and business. we prepared -- the business plan. i will send you otos. amy: when did you start writing "don't forget us here"? >> before that, i lived moment by moment, breath by breath. after 2010 -- 2009, was assigned for the first time to a lawyer.
he was my friend. he died in015. a good person. i was sending them stories and he loved it. he encouraged me. when i started learning english companies to write arabic to english which took a long time. one of the funny stories when i started learning english, i had a book called "around the world in 80 da." i used to read with the guards. i would say, "can you please help me learn englis" i would go to check for the words. i spent six months to finish the book. the guards used to make fun of me and say, "mansoor, have you finished?" i said, "i have not found my sweetheart yet." but i found her, the book was finished. one of the guards he brought me a dictionary as a gift.
i wrote the first draft from 2010-2013, but in 2013 when the current administration -- they confiscated everything. we went back -- everything was taken. we were stripped naked, orange jumpsuit, and they took our books, letters, everything. they took my draft. i had two drafts. i was screaming, "bring my baby!" amy: this is under president obama. >> yeah, yeah, yeah. we called it the golden age during obama because oba signed an executive order to close guantánamo in 2009, but deep inside --
when they found out guantánamo was to be close, they relaxed the rules. they did not change the rules. americans are verymart. i was on force-feeding for three years. many of us. with the current administration, we asked for better food, better health care, phone calls with their families. most of oudemands were met but the trick, -- we had a little piece and i started to drive my memoir. 13 when the army came, they closed -- begin they took everything because they were not happy about the way we live. in 2015, i get a lovely lawyer.
when i met her, i used to go to the classroom. every week would write like 20, 25 pages and send them to her as legal mail. she pulled all the letters. all the letters have to go to the secure facility in washington. she will collect all the letters and send them to guantánamo where they get to be screened. amy: guantánamo prisoner mansoor adayfi, author of "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." when we come back, mansoor will talk about how he survived the present and why he repeatedly went on hunger strike.
amy: this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we are continuing our conversation with mansoor adayfi, imprisoned by the united states at guantanamo for 14 years. author of the new meir "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." >> what people don't know about the purpose of guantánamo. let me talk a little. guantánamo was outside of the law. the purpose was not about making americans safe for safety and securit it was not that purpose. we were called detainees most of international law does not apply, geneva convention does not apply.
in american law does not apply. nothing about that place. it is just a dark hole, a black site with the military base. when miller arrived in 2002, the first one standard operation procedure and he was the first one he started developing they called enhanced interrogation technique. so we were kept in solitary confinement, experimented on, punished, everything utilized as experiment -- our religion, our daily life, food, clothes, medicine, talk, air. everything was used in those experiments. also there was a psychologist who pervised those experiments. you know, there was around -- as you know, around 800 detainees from 50 nationalities, 20 langues spoken. you know, amy, the youngest detainee
was only three months old. they brought him with his father. he was kept in the hospital. the oldest detainee was 105 years old. that man was my neighbor. and that's what hurt me most at guantánamo, seeing that man, at that age, treated like the same i was treated. i couldn't take it. i had to fight every day with the guards to stop treating that way. so yes, general miller was -- his job -- there is research called "guantánamo: america's battle lab," talk about how guantánamo was turned into experimenting lab on detainees. so even not just us, there is a chaplain i think you know about, james yee. i met him in guantánamo. amy: james yeeas the chaplain at guantánamo who would come out and talk about what happened there. >> no, before, what happened to james yee at guantánamo shocked and surprised us all. i remember, the first time i talked to james yee,
i was taken to the interrogation room, stripped naked, and they put me in a -- we call it the satanic room, where they have like stars, signs, candles, a crazy guy come in like white crazy clothes reciting sething. so they also used to throw the holy qur'an on the ground, and, you know, they tried to pressure us to -- you know, like, they were experimenting, basically. when i met james yee, i told him, "look, that won't happen with us that way." james yee tried to -- he was protesting against the torture at guantánamo. general miller, the one who was actually developing enhanced interrogation technique, enhanced torture technique, saw that james yee, as a chaplain, is going to be a problem. so he was accused as sympathizer with terrorists. he was arrested, detained, and interrogated. this is american army captain, a graduate of west point university,
came to serve at guantánamo to serve his own country, was -- because of muslim background, he was accused of terrorism and was detained and imprisoned. this is this american guy. imagine what would happen to us at that place. so when they took james yee, we protested. we asked to bring him back because the lawyers told us what happened for him after like one year. we wrote letters to the camp administration, to the white house, to the security council, to the united nations -- to everyone, basically. amy: when you talked about general miller, just for people who might not remember, he oversaw the enhanced interrogation techniques -- that was the euphemism for torture at guantánamo -- then brought from there to iraq to gitmoize abu ghraib there, to bring those same torture techniques there.
and when the taguba report came out, it cited miller for the massive level of abuse at abu ghraib. so in that period, i mean, mansoor adayfi, you write so powerfully about what sustained you, about the relationships you had, not only with other prisoners -- or, as you say, detainees -- but with guards, as well. can you talk about that? >> you know, amy, let me go a little like -- i'd like to make a point here. first of all, we, as prisoners, or detainees, we weren't just the victims at guantánamo. there are also guards and camp staff were also victims of guantánamo itself. you know, that war situation or condition brought us together and proved that we're all human d we share the same humanity, first. also, amy, a simple question -- what makes a human as a human,
make amy as amy, make mansoor as mansoor, makes the guys in there as individual and person, you know? what makes you as a human, and uniquely, is your name, your language, your faith, your morals, your ethics, your memories, your relationships, your knowledge, your experience, basically, your family, also what makes a person as a person. at guantánamo, when you arrive there, imagine the system was designed to strip us of who we are. you know, even our names was taken. we became numbers. you're not allowed to practice religion. you are not allowed to talk. you're not allowed to have relationships. so to the extent we thought if they were able to control our thought, they would have ne it. so we arrived at guantánamo. one of the things people still don't know about guantánamo, we had no shared life befo guantánamo. everything was different, was new and unknown and scary unknown, you know? so we started developing some kind of relationship
with each other at guantánamo between -- among us, like prisoners or brothers, and with the guards, too. ecause when ards ce to work at guantánamo, they became part of our life, part of our memories. that will never go away. the same thing, we become part of their life, become memories. before the guards arrived at guantánamo, they were told -- some of them were taken to the 9/11 site, ground zero, and they were told the one who has done this are in guantánamo. imagine, when they arrive at guantánamo, they came with a lot of hate and courage and revenge. but when they live with us and watch us every day eat, drink, sleep, get beaten, get sick, screaming, yelling, interrogated, torture, you know, also they are humans. you know, the ca adminisation, they cannot lie to them forever. so the guards also when they lived with us, they found out that they are not the men we were told they're about.
some of them, you know, were apologizing to us. some of em, we formed strong friendships with them. some of them converted to islam. i remember one of the female guards. we had a younger brother. he looked scared all the time. duri 2003 d 2004, the worst times. she always would bring chocolate for him and toldim, listen, everything is going to be ok. i have about your age. i would never forget that moment because even those guards, they are still human and they also were victims of guantánamo. i remember one of e days i refused to walk to the interrogation room. these to bring the forced extraction teams. they would bring the dogs first. then kick our asses and drag us back to the interrogation room.
she was ordered to drag me. she said, no. they called the camp officer. that said, drag the[beep] detainee. she said, i can't do it. they told her to step aside. i told her, do it. i don't care. i did not want her to get in trouble. so when they drag me, -- forced to watch. sometime we used to fight for the guards, especially - the guards stay outside in the heat. they did not have tents. it is cruel. they treat those guards as products, not humans.
even those guards. some of them went to tours in afghanistan and iraq and they came back. in my 30's, needs to bring younger guards, looked at them like younger brothers and sisters. i have seen many people change. amy: you re there when you were 19 and you were still there in your 30's. and the young people who were there who were the guards are the age you were when you first got there. >> yeah. when i -- when i saw the guards come back, many of them were mentally devastated. you know, when you see a broken soul, it is painful than anything. you know, even the pain that is your soul,
it is worse than -- it's the most severe pain. i have experienced many pain -- beating, torture, you name it. but the worst thing i experienced, them that touched my soul. amy: i wanted to ask you about the hunger strikes. you participated in these for years and you were force-fed. >> you know, amy, were in a place we ted to survive. as i told you, we had only each other. and there is no way -- we tried to stop the torture, the abuses, the mistreatment. you know, we tried to find why we were held there and what was going to happen to us. so when the first time, at camp x-ray, when they -- they were harsh, stopping us from praying together. one day, they came. one of the brothers were praying. they opened his door. they beat him and they threw the holy book onto the floor. so we -- you know, this is the first protest together.
so we discussed amgst ourselves, what should we do? you know, ok, the first time i heard about the hunger strike -- i never heard about it before -- we went on hunger strike. it was -- i spent nine days. it was a mean trying to survive, a mean -- we were hurting ourselves. i always tell the people, you know, our bodies was the battlefield because americs torture us, abuse us and beat us on our bodies. also we were torturing our bodies by hunger strike, by trying to resist. and i wrote about it, the hunger strikes. it was a slow journey death, toward death. that's hunger strike, you know? they also become very experienced how to break the hunger strike. we spent almost -- every year we had, like, to go through many hunger strikes, over and over, over and over again. we were force-fed in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013. some of the brothers, i spent -- some of the brothers spent three years, five years, 10 years, 15 years.
there are brothers until now force-feeding until that day. amy: and what was that force-feeding? can you describe it? i remember, i mean, we're just learning -- we were just learning about what was happening at guantánamo at the time, the tubes that were used, how big they were, that this was used as a form of torture, as well. what it meant when they were forced to stop force-feeding you? >> you know, like as i told you, they were also -- the doctors, they were experimenting on us. they used to bring -- they tried to bring the hunger strike -- i was one of the very first five detainees who was on the brink of death in 2005 before they approved the force-feeding. i remember when the camp commander came. he said, "now the congress approved the force-feeding." wh they took us, they bring tubes they took through our nose -- our noses, like a drill, bleeding.
amy: through your nose. >> yeah, through our noses to our stomach. at that time, we were in bed, you know? then the situation got worse. they brought something called feeding chair, force-feeding chair, which, like, they tie our heads -- eight points -- our shoulders, our wrists, our waist, our legs on the force-feeding chair. then they brought also really large -- they call it 9 french tube, really, really large, and they put it through our nose. we were screaming, shouting. "eat!" that way. "eat!" in 2005, they forced all of us to stop the hunger strike. what they did, they used to force-feed us -- regularly, they should force us twice a day, but when they wanted to break the first, the hunger strike, they used to feed us five times a day. nobody could last. they used to bring piles of ensure and just pour in our stomach,
one after another, one after another. if we throw up, it doesn't matter. "eat!" eight hours to 12 hours in the force-feeding chair. they used to bring those -- amy: this is to put the ensure through your nose. >> yes. you know, during -- they used to pour the ensure, one can. after we was to throw up -- if you threw up, you would get more. they also used to mix some laxatives in the ensure. we [beep] ourselves on the feeding chair. and we were taken to solitary confinement, really cold ac. they said -- i remember that time there's a general who came. he said, "i was sent by the white house just to break your hunger strike." the first time he met me, he said -- he took my file -- "sir, 441" -- he was so mean. like, you can see in his eyes and words. he said, "i am here today to tell you, sir, eat. because tomorrow there will be no talking." i tried to explain to him why we were on a hunger strike. he said, like, "i don't give a [beep] about anything.
eat. tomorrow, there will be no talking." i didn't last for two days. i stopped. i couldn't take it. you know, it was too much. in 2007, again, i went on hunger strike. then i spent from 2007 to 2010 on force-feeding until things changed in the camp. and even, amy, our hunger strike was viewed by the camadministration as a jihad. they said we are an al-qaeda cell and launching jihad against the united states -- the way how they understood our protest and hunger strike. and we told them, "this is our demand. you know, stop the torture, stop the interrogation, improve the living condition. and we need to figure out what's going to happen to us." so what they did, they ud to also hide us when the icrc came. i remember one day i was on force-feeding. the icrc, his name hatim, sudani guy, he walked in the block and was like -- on the force-feeding, i called him, "hatim! hatim!" he looked at me, and he covered his eyes. i said, "what's wrong with you?"
he said, "we are not allowed to see you in that way." even the icrc at guantánamo, you know, we asked them to leave many, many years. we boycott them. we give them official letters. we signed many letters asking them to leave guantánamo because being at guantánamo as icrc, it just give legitimacy to whatever americans do here. amy: we're talking to mansoor adayfi. he was detainee 441 at guantánamo, imprisoned without charge for 14 years and has written a memoir about his life, "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." so i then want to ask you about what happened in 2016. why, after 14 years without charge, in at 19 years old, now in your 30's, you were released. and how you ended up, a yemeni man, in serbia.
>> i was sent to serbia. i refused to come to serbia. i was forced. they told me, "you have no choice. eith leave or rot in here." then, the icrc, when i protest -- i went on hunger strike protesting going to serbia. the icrc came and they issued -- obama administration issued new rules. if any detainee accepted by any country, he will be forced to leave regardless. basically, i had no choice. they bought me with money, and they gave the serbian government money to take me again. so this is the game. we have no say. amy: and so you end up in serbia. you end up in belgrade. i was just listening to an interview that frontline did with you. and when pbs partnered with npr to do this documentary series,
you did an interview with them. and ultimately, you were beaten for that interview. can you explain what happeneto you? this, not long after you got to serbia. >> you know, when they came to interview me, i was on hunger strike on my 25 days. i spent 48 days on hunger strike protesting my condition because the agreement between the united states government and the receiving countries, it was a resettlement agreement. but when you arrived at the hosting countries, they said, "no, we had an agreement. we had a new contract to come here for two years. you'll live in our countries under restrictions. nothing. you have no education, no courses, no, no, no, no." you know, they made us promises, especially in my case. i was recommdation to finish my college education. so i talked to my lawyer. i said, "i cannot live here. i cannot stay here. i want to leave." so i went on hunger strike. when i was -- even one of the universities, i was accepted. when they found out i came from guantánamo, i was expelled.
you know, this is one of t things that hurt me most after antánamo. so i went on hunger strike. whenhe frontline came here, the first, we had -- they went to the government. they said they were fine, and they were doing well. when they came to see me, i was on hunger strike. they were surprised. the first time, we had ainterview. then, the second day, some people came to my apartment, took me down. they would send you messages, "stop lying. you are lying. you're a liar. you're a liar." and so on. and, you know, i don't want to cause any problems because i didn't know what to expect. because, as you know, the serbians, they have their history with bosnia in the 1990's. scary place. so then i disappear. then i contact my lawyer. i contacted the frontline, and we continue again. after the interview was aired, a serbia newspaper really represented me in the worst way -- newspaper, tv.
i was arrested, interrogated, threatening to be entrapped. you know, i wrote a lot about it, and you' read it here. i don't want to talk much detail this, because they're going to kick my [beep] again. but what i have learned at guantánamo, i will never keep silence, you know, because keeping silence only give the oppressor a mean to oppress you more. so i will never keep silence. whatever they do, i will keep -- you know, because i have done nothing wrong. even if i had done something wrong, there is a justice system. you cannot just beat people, arrest them or interrogate them because you have a power. so basically, yes, i mean, then, in 2018, they came to me. they said, "now wi the two years finished, you have the choice -- go to saudi jail or to go to the refugee camp." and that guy -- his name is nikola -- told me, "americans [beep] you. the interview cost you a lot," literally, word by word.
and my lawyer was there listening to him. he was like, "what?" when i talk about our life after guantánamo, we still live in guantánamo 2.0. you know, just to let you know, amy, i studied in another college. i will be graduating on the 29th of december. and my thesis is about rehabilitation and reintegration of former guantánamo detainees into social life and the labor market. i have been doing a lot of research for the last five years. i have interviewed around 150 brothers released from guantánamo. amy: you can't leave serbia, mansoor? >> you remember when i told you the worst pain that touchour soul? you know, i wanted to get married. i found really a woman that i thought she is going to be my wife. the only thing -- the only thing was like the piece of paper in a travel document where i can get married. so i couldn't travel, so i couldn't marry.
and finished. not just me. i think i'm lucky. there are -- one of the brothers, lotfi, he died last year. he had heart diseases. he was relocated from kazakhstan to mauritania, where they didn't have a good health system. he needed to go to somewhere where he can -- he'd be treated, because he needed emergency surgery. and his doctor told him, "you have only six months." so he needed $30,000. cage organized, raised fund for him. and they said his surgery will be covered. he needed just a travelocument, either to travel to tunisia or other country, just to have the surgery and get back. he lost his life. you know, it's one of the saddest moments. like, when i was talking to him, -- talking to icrc, was talking to human rights organizations, to governments, nobody cares. simply, nobody cares. amy: former guantánamo prisoner mansoor adayfi. when we come back, he will talk about how faith and art often survive
amy: "is it for freedom?" sara thomsen. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. as we continue our conversation with mansoor adayfi, who was jailed by t united states at guantánamo for 14 years. he is author of the new memoir "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." i asked him about reports that the biden administration is considering holding haitian refugees at guantánamo. >> creating another guantánamo, you know, i hope western nations
could solve the crisis within the country. the crisis of refugees and immigration and so on. it inot gointo help. they should help the countries have accountability so people can of their lives. one of the biggest crisis in the 21st century, mass gratian and refugees. creating guantánamo -- i tweeted out it. i don't want anyone to be detained in that place, especially the name of guantánamo. i love guantánamo. i have made peace with it. but the idea of guantánamo, you know? amy: well, let me ask -- when you sd, "i have made peace with it," you held up your scarf, that's orange, that's wrapped around your neck right now as you speak to us. you were forced to wear orange from head to toe.
why wear orange now? >> i wear orange all the time. [laughter] because because at guantánamo, the psychologist and the icrc told me, "wow! if you see the orange color, you will be be shocked, if you heard the --." i said, "no, this is part of my life, and i will never let guantánamo change me." i choose to fight to close guantánamo and to try to help anyone who are wrongly detained or, you know, stripped his freedom, because i don't want anyone to suffer the same fate i have suffered, although i have made peace with guantánamo. i almost, like, every day talk about guantáno, write, talk, give interviews and so on. my other brothers, they don't want to remember because it's like a trauma. it reminds yourself over and over agn.
but for me, i took it in another way. and, alhamdulillah, i have some kind of strength. allah subhanahu wa ta'ala gives me strength. so i would use that strength to support those helpless people and also to bring the truth about guantánamo. so i use my social one and my emails and my names everywhere. and i use the orange color all the time also to bring the awareness to the people the misuse of power, how can damage us as humans. amy: finally, if you can talk about how you survived through guantánamo, what hope meant for you? and was it hope that kept you going through the forced feedings, through the hunger strikes, through the beatings, through the torture? what got you through? >> first of all, amy, faith as muslims. the first thing, we stick to our faith as muslims because --
before guantánamo, i was studying in the islamic institute. that's where i got the mission to go for research. so most of us, even the u.s. government viewed us as terrorists or the faith as source of terrorism. it's not. first it's our faith, stick to it, praise to allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, knowing that everything in the hand of allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and americans have nothing to decide our fate. secondly, we had each other because we were kept at that place. we had no books, nothing, just totally disconnected from the world outside. so we had each other. i wrote about it. i wrote about it, a piece called "the beautiful guantánamo," which is -- i just took all the bad things and i wrote about how we survived guantánamo. imagine, amy, around 50 nationalities, 20 languages, different background. people who were at guantánamo, they were artists, singers, doctors, nurses, divers, mafia,
drug addicts, teachers, scholars, poets. that diversity of culture interacted with each other, melted and formed what we call guantánamo culture, what i call "the beautiful guantánamo." imagine -- i'm going to sing now two songs, please. imagine we used to have celebrate once a week, night, to escape away pain of being in jail, try to have some kind of like -- to take our minds from being in cages, torture, abuses. so we had one night a week, in a week, to us, like in the block. so we just started singing in arabic, english, pashto, urdu, farsi, french, all kind of languages, poets in different languages, stories. people danced, from yemen to saudi arabia, to rap, to all kind. it's like, imagine you hear in one block 48 detainees. you heard those beautiful songs in different languages.
it just -- it was captivating. however, the interrogators took it as a challenge. we weren't challenging them. we were just trying to survive. this was a way of surviving because we had only each other. the things we brought with us at guantánamo, whether our faith, whether our knowledge, our memories, our emotions, our relationships, who we are, helped us to survive. we had only each other. also the guard was part of survival because they play a role in that by helping someone heldometimes and singing with us sometimes. also we also had the art classes. i think you heard out the -- especially in that time when we get access to classes, we paint. so those things helped us to survive at that place. hope also. hope, it was a matter of life or death. you know, you have to keep hoping. you know, that place was designed just to take your hope away, so you can see the only hope is through the interrogators, through americans.
we said, "no, it's not going to happen that way." so we had to support each other, try to stay alive. also we lost some brothers. and i lost very good brothers in that place. it's one of the hardest and saddest moments at guantánamo. and, hamdulillah, managed -- i don't know if i survived, to be honest with you because someone asked me last month -- i had an interview with the -- i had an interview last month. someone asked me, "how did you spend your 20's and 3's?" i said, "i don't know." i didn't know what this means, 20's or 30's. i am now at my late 30's but i'm not sure yet. so imagine i have a huge gap in our life, like 15 years ago until now five years now. and physically, you know, technically, practically -- you know, chnically, i feel like i'm 30, 38, 39. but practically, i feel like i'm still in my twenties, this mentality. even you can see in my behavior,
the way i talk, the way -- that's who i am, actually. so we have this huge gap. and when i was released, different society, language, community. anyone i get to interact or friend with get arrested, interrogated. people stay away from us because of the stigma of guantánamo. so basically, but i'm trying now -- i'm trying to make a life, to get married. yeah, i can sing a song for you. amy: yes, you said you'd sing two. >> yeah. the first one, when we, like, supporting -- because especially when general miller arrived, he tried to crush us. the first day he arrived, he searched all of us, beat all of us, cavity search. you know, they put dogs, fc teams, pepper spray. it was like a message -- "i am here. [beep] those terrorists. i'm going to kick your [beep]" but at guantánamo, we don't treat people wrong. it dsn't matter. the only thing we have with guards is rpect for respect and [beep]
not all of us, but a group of us. i am sorry for these words, but we are talking about guantánamo. so because guantánamo is designed to extract the worst of us, so when someone was to go to the interrogation or for torture, we tried to support him, you know, and we would sing for him. ■ and like around 48 -- two blocks sometimes sing together collectively. it was encouraging. amy: and what did it mean? what did that mean? >> "go, go with peace. may allah grant you more peace and safety." and when they came from appointment or interrogation or torture, or people can arrive at guantánamo, new at guantánamo, especially when a new group arrived at guantánamo, we would say -- we would welcome them, that songs.
imagine, you just new arrive at guantánamo, and three blocks, around 150 detainees, sung for you. ■ it means, "welcome, welcome, they who come." imagine when the brothers first time arrived, you sing for them. you know, it was like they were surprised. "are they detainees, or they're like living in kind of like kind of a beach, laying or something?" one of the brothers used to tell us, "we thought that you guys live in some kind of like lovely life, enjoying yourself." then when they took the hood, "whoa! it is cages." i said, "what did you expect?" he said, "i heard the voice. i thought, like, everyone is happy, singing." so we can, like, give them the first impression that everything is ok. amy: mansoor, last two questions. one is, you talked about the art classes that you took. can you describe what art meant for you?
and what did you create? what did you draw? >> you know, amy, when we started negotiating with the camp adnistrationn 2010, when we negotiated in 2009 and 2010, we negotiated an art class. the camp commander said, "art class? you guys are terrorists. you don't know how to paint." so we asked the brothers, "can you paint, please?" the second meeting, we showed them. they were shocked and surprised. they said, "ok." it was a process, the negotiation, asking over and over again. but, alhamdulillah, art class was one of the most important classes at guantánamo, because it helped us to express ourselves. it was a mean, a way of escaping being in jail because you need to escape that feeling. so art connect us to the world outside. you can see the brothers. we paint sea, trees, the things we missed most -- sky, the stars, you know, homes, deserts and so on.
so art actually help us to connect to our life that we almost forgot. the art connected us to ourselves because it brung that memories back. it connected us to each other. it connected us to the guards. you know, when someone saw arts, it can, like, mutual admiration and love for arts. and some of the guards asked for the brothers to paint for them. they will give them like arts for gifts. brothers used to teach guards art. same thing, guards who has background teach brothers. also, you know, in the arts, one of the brothers, sabry, one of the artists, he said, "mansoor, wa alallahi, when i paint, i saw myself in that painting, like on the hill, on the boat, on the ship, on the sea, sometimes like running here and there." so he said, like, "it just takes my mind and calm people down." and, you know, it was like a therapy, too. also one of the things we did, we had painting everywhere.
ourselves. we changed the blocks to be like a hotel. you can see the rooms, the painting, the art, everything changed, the light. we needed to change everything. amy: mansoor, i wanted to ask you about your choice to have a woman voice your book. usually, it's the author, when a book is done through audio, that someone can listen to it. it's either the author or an tor. but you chose to have a woman read, voice "don't forget us here." why? >> yeah. i remember, like, talking to sam from hachette -- hi, sam -- antonio and julia, my agent. i said, "guys, i need a woman -- i want a woman to read my book." "no, why? it doesn't happen before. you know, typically, the man" -- i said, "no, i want a woman to read my book."
"mansoor, that doesn't make any sense." i said, "what makes sense about guantánamo [beep] happened to us, you know? men have been kidnapping me, torturing me, kicked me, imprisoned me. and, like, they have done a lot of things, you know? the one who eated us nicely was women, so i want a woman to read my book. so why not?" at the same time, i told him, it is like kind of racism against women. so first they send me some kind of like men. i said, "no, i don't want. i want a woman to read my book." so when they found it turned out good, they said, "well, it was a good idea." i said, "i know. i told you." amy: former guantanamo prisoner mansoor adayfi. author of the new memoir titled "don't forget us here: lost and found at guantanamo." democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to email@example.com