Pages 28-32

Around four p.m., the transport to the airport started. By then, I was a “living dead.” My legs weren’t able to carry me anymore; for the time to come, the guards had to drag me all the way from Bagram to GTMO.

We were loaded in a truck that brought us to the airport. It took five to ten minutes to get there. I was happy for every move, just to have the opportunity to alter my body, for my back was killing me. We were crowded in the truck shoulder-to-shoulder and thigh-to-thigh. Unluckily I was placed facing the back of the vehicle, which I really hate because it gives me nausea. The vehicle was equipped with hard benches so that the detainees sat back to back and the guards sat at the very end shouting, “No talking!” I have no idea how many people were in the truck; all I know is that one detainee sat on my right, and one on my left, and another against my back. It is always good to feel the warmth of your co-detainees, somehow it’s solacing.

The arrival at the airport was obvious because of the whining of the engines, which easily went through the earplugs. The truck backed up until it touched the plane. The guards started to shout loudly in a language I could not differentiate. I started to hear human bodies hitting the floor. Two guards grabbed a detainee and threw him toward two other guards on the plane, shouting “Code”; the receiving guards shouted back confirming receipt of the package. When my turn came, two guards grabbed me by the hands and feet and threw me toward the reception team. I don’t remember whether I hit the floor or was caught by the other guards. I had started to lose feeling and it would have made no difference anyway.

Another team inside the plane dragged me and fastened me on a small and straight seat. The belt was so tight I could not breathe. The air conditioning hit me, and one of the MPs was shouting, “Do not move, Do not talk,” while locking my feet to the floor. I didn’t know how to say “tight” in English. I was calling, “MP, MP, belt...” Nobody came to help me. I almost got smothered. I had a mask over my mouth and my nose, plus the bag covering my head and my face, not to mention the tight belt around my stomach: breathing was impossible. I kept saying, “MP, Sir, I cannot breathe!...MP, SIR, please.” But it seemed like my pleas for help got lost in a vast desert.

After a couple minutes, ___________ was dropped beside me on my right. I wasn’t sure it was him, but he told me later he felt my presence beside him. Every once in a while, if one of the guards adjusted my goggles, I saw a little. I saw the cock-pit, which was in front of me. I saw the green camo-uniforms of the escorting guards. I saw the ghosts of my fellow detainees on my left and my right. “Mister, please, my belt...hurt...,” I called. When the shoutings of the guards faded away, I knew that the detainees were all on board. “Mister, please . . . belt . . . .” A guard responded, but he not only didn’t help me, he tightened the belt even more around my abdomen.

Now I couldn’t endure the pain; I felt I was going to die. I couldn’t help asking for help louder. “Mister, I cannot breathe . . .” One of the soldiers came and untightened the belt, not very comfortably but better than nothing.

“It’s still tight . . .” I had learned the word when he asked me, “Is it tight?”

“That’s all you get.” I gave up asking for relief from the belt.

“I cannot breathe!” I said, gesturing to my nose. A guard appeared and took the mask off my nose. I took a deep breath and felt really relieved. But to my dismay, the guard put the mask back on my nose and my mouth. “Sir, I cannot breathe . . . MP...MP.” The same guy showed up once more, but instead of taking the mask off my nose, he took the plug out of my ear and said, “Forget about it!” and immediately put the ear plug back. It was harsh, but it was the only way not to smother. I was panicking, I had just enough air, but the only way to survive was to convince the brain to be satisfied with the tiny bit of air it got.

The plane was in the air. A guard shouted in my ear, “Ima gonna give you some medication, you get sick.” He made me take a bunch of tablets and gave me an apple and a peanut butter sandwich, our only meal since the transfer procedure began. I’ve hated peanut butter since then. I had no appetite for anything, but I pretended I was eating the sandwich so the guards don’t hurt me. I always tried to avoid contact with those violent guards unless it was extremely necessary. I took a bite off the sandwich and kept the rest in my hand till the guards collected the trash. As to the apple, the eating was tricky, since my hands were tied to my waist and I wore mittens. I squeezed the apple between my hands and bent my head to my waist like an acrobat to bite at it. One slip and the apple is gone. I tried to sleep, but as tired as I was, every attempt to take a nap ended in failure. The seat was as straight as an arrow, and as hard as a stone.

After about five hours, the plane landed and our ghosts were transferred to another, maybe bigger plane. It was stable in the air. I was happy with every change, any change, hoping for the betterment of my situation. But I was wrong, the new plane wasn’t better. I knew that Cuba was quite far, but I never thought it to be that far, given the U.S.’s high speed airplanes. At some point, I thought that the government wanted to blow up the plane over the Atlantic and declare it an accident, since all the detainees had been interrogated over and over and over. But this crazy plan was the least of my worries; was I really worried about a little death pain, after which I would hopefully enter paradise with God’s mercy? Living under God’s mercy would be better than living under the U.S.’s mercy.

The plane seemed to be heading to the kingdom of far, far away. Feeling lessened with every minute going by; my body numbed. I remember asking for the bathroom once. The guards dragged me to the place, pushed inside a small room, and pulled down my pants. I couldn’t take care of my business because of the presence of others. But I think I managed with a lot of effort to squeeze some water. I just wanted to arrive, no matter where! Any place would be better than this plane.

After I don’t know how many hours, the plane landed in Cuba. The guards started to pull us out of the plane. “Walk! . . . Stop!” I couldn’t walk, for my feet were unable to carry me. And now I noticed that at some point I had lost one of my shoes. After a thorough search outside the plane, the guards shouted, “Walk! Do not talk! Head down! Step!” I only under- stood “Do not talk,” but the guards were dragging me anyway. Inside the truck, the guards shouted “Sit down! Cross your legs!” I didn’t understand the last part but they crossed my legs anyway. “Head down!” one shouted, pushing my head against the rear end of another detainee like a chicken. A female voice was shouting all the way to the camp, “No Talking,” and a male voice, “Do Not Talk,” and an Arabic translator, ____________ ________________________________, “Keep your head down.” I was completely annoyed by the American way of talking; I stayed that way for a long time, until I got cured by meeting other good Americans. At the same time, I was thinking about how they gave the same order two different ways: “Do not talk” and “No talking.” That was interesting.

By now the chains on my ankles were cutting off the blood to my feet. My feet became numb. I heard only the moaning and crying of other detainees. Beating was the order of the trip. I was not spared: the guard kept hitting me on my head and squeezing my neck against the rear end of the other detainee. But I don’t blame him as much as I do that poor and painful detainee, who was crying and kept moving, and so kept raising my head. Other detainees told me that we took a ferry ride during the trip, but I didn’t notice.

After about an hour we were finally at the promised land. As much pain as I suffered, I was very happy to have the trip behind me. A Prophet’s saying states, “Travel is a piece of torture.” This trip was certainly a piece of torture. Now I was only worried about how I was going to stand up if they asked me to. I was just paralyzed. Two guards grabbed me and shouted “Stan’ up.” I tried to jump but nothing happened; instead they dragged me and threw me outside the truck.

The warm Cuban sun hit me gracefully. It was such a good feeling.