AFP secured an interview on Monday with Mohamed Saleban Bare (known to the Pentagon as Mohammed Sulaymon Barre), the Somali refugee, released from Guantánamo at the weekend with eleven other men (including another Somali, Ismail Mahmoud Muhammad), who ran a money transfer operation for the Somali diaspora in Karachi, Pakistan, until he was seized in a house raid on November 1, 2001. The organization he worked for was, in the eyes of the US authorities, involved with another money transfer company that had ties to the 9/11 hijackers, even though the 9/11 Commission concluded over five years that this was not the case.
Speaking to AFP reporter Mustafa Haji Abdinur in a hotel in Bare’s home town of Hargeisa, the capital of the northern breakaway state of Somaliland, Bare declared, “Guantánamo Bay is like hell on Earth.” He added, “I don’t feel normal yet but I thank Allah for keeping me alive and free from the physical and mental sufferings of some of my friends. Some of my colleagues in the prison lost their sight, some lost their limbs and others ended up mentally disturbed. I’m OK compared to them.”
Bare told Abdinur that he was “in good physical health,” but the reporter explained that the 44-year old “looks dazed, speaks very softly and walks gingerly.”
After explaining that, at the time he was seized, he had been in Pakistan for many years “with several relatives who had fled the violence in Somalia and were hoping to find asylum in a western state,” he stated that he was held in Pakistan for about four months, and then transferred to US custody in Afghanistan.
“At Bagram and Kandahar, the situation was harsh but when we were transferred to Guantánamo the torture tactics changed,” he explained. “They use a kind of psychological torture that kills you mentally.” This, he added, “included depriving prisoners of sleep for at least four nights in a row and feeding them once a day with only a biscuit.” He also explained, “And in the cold they let you sleep without a blanket. Some of the inmates face harsher torture, including with electricity and beating.”
Abdinur noted that Bare was “reluctant to answer questions about his alleged ties with Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya, a Somali Islamist movement which produced many of the current leaders of the Al Qaeda-linked Shebab,” which was, I think, understandable given that he had finally been released after eight years’ detention without charge or trial by the US authorities, who would not have done so had there been any evidence of such an involvement.
In response to the questioning, he stated instead, “Guantánamo is a place of humiliation for Muslims. All the inmates are Muslims but they (Americans) claim the prison is for terrorists. Why don’t they arrest non-Muslims belonging to these so-called terror groups?”
He also stated, “No human rights convention stands in Guantánamo. Interrogators force inmates to confess crimes they didn’t commit by torturing them and sullying their religion. They would throw Korans into the toilet and raise the volume of their music during prayers.”
In conclusion, he explained that the US authorities had “never told him why he was arrested,” stating, “They used to ask many questions, most of them relating to my background like what I was doing in Somalia and about the people I know. It was all about suspicions and not a clear case.”
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, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.