The story of Guantanamo survivor Murat Kurnaz

You can read part of Kurnaz’s story at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/opinion/sunday/notes-from-a-guantanamo-survivor.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Murat%20Kurnaz&st=cse

The Constitution of the United States of America has always protected its citizens from unlawful and unfair treatment by giving them the right to due process.  It is unacceptable that the government that should uphold this Constitution allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens and foreigners without substantial evidence.

Stories emerging from Guantanamo Bay are brutal, violent, and are obscured into darkness – usually never reaching the general public. One such story covered by The New York Times, is of Murat Kurnaz, who was proved innocent by the U.S. after suffering years of torture for the crimes he never committed.

One of the documents used to convict Kurnaz stated that the military thought he was dangerous because he had prayed during the American national anthem.

Kurnaz, who is from Germany, spent five years as a detainee after being captured in Pakistan, where he went to gain more knowledge of the Qur’an and Islam.  The U.S. offered a bounty of $3,000 to anyone who could capture him or anyone else who was suspected of terrorism.  At that time, he was 19 years old.

Living in a consumer society, we know money can buy anything.  And, money is a major incentive for poor villagers in Pakistan and Afghanistan to hand over terrorist suspects to the U.S. military.  According to Kurnaz’s article in The New York Times, one of the bounty fliers in Afghanistan read that the U.S. would provide “Enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.”

During his early interrogations in Afghanistan, Kurnaz was chained to the ceiling for days and punched in the stomach as they “dunked [his] head under water”.  According to the American interrogators, this was not waterboarding.

Even if this act has no legal name, it is still torture.  And, for the U.S. to consent to such barbaric actions undermines the Constitution, which stands for justice and fairness and the right to a fair trial.

After Kurnaz was transferred to Guantanamo, he suffered beatings, solitary confinement, forced sleeplessness and was exposed to extreme temperatures. He was also once punished for feeding iguanas with bread that he had hid from his own meal; lacking any human connection, he wanted to feel kinship with animals.  Yet, he was abused for this. This is the extent of cruelty that is inflicted on the prisoners.

Unfortunately, as of January 2012, Guantanamo still has 171 prisoners. Forty-six prisoners will not be given trial because the U.S. government lacks evidence against them, but at the same time, these men will not be released because they are alleged to be dangerous.

Most Americans believe that detainee camps are filled with terrorists. On the contrary, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, the government data shows that 92% of detainees at Guantanamo were never al-Qaeda fighters.

It is horrific that the U.S. government consents to continue with this practice.  Guantanamo Bay has become a shameful chapter in the history of the United States much like Japanese internment during World War II.

Murat Kurnaz is the author of “Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo,” and was detained from 2001 to 2006.