What you are allowed to think and what you do think are two different things, aren't they? That's another way of saying that this forum may be NSFW, if your boss is a Republican. A liberal won't fire you for it, but they'll laugh at you in the break room and you may not get promoted. Unless you're an engineer, of course, in which your obsession with facing reality is not actually a career-disabling disability.


Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:02 pm

by Murat Kurnaz
© 2007 Rowohlt Berlin Verlag GmbH, Berlin
English Language translation © 2006 by Jefferson Chase




To all the Guantanamo detainees and their families

Table of Contents:

Inside Cover
Foreword, by Patti Smith
Translator's Note
Chronology of Events
1. Frankfurt Airport
2. Peshawar, Pakistan
3. Kandahar, Afghanistan
4. Kusca, Turkey
5. Guantanamo Bay, Camp X-Ray
6. Bremen, Hemelingen
7. Guantanamo Bay, Camp X-Ray
8. Guantanamo Bay, Camp Delta
9. Guantanamo Bay, Camp Echo
10. Guantanamo Bay, Camp 4
11. Ramstein Air Base, Germany
12. Bremen, Hemelingen
Epilogue, by Baher Azmy

"Do you know what the Germans did to the Jews?" he said. "That's exactly what we're going to do with you."

-- Five Years of My Life, by Murat Kurnaz
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:02 pm

The Gripping Account of an Innocent Man Held Prisoner In Afghanistan and Guantanamo for Five Years

A Turkish citizen born and raised in Germany, Murat Kurnaz was only nineteen when, in October 2001, he traveled to Pakistan to study the Koran and learn more about his Muslim faith. A few weeks later, on the day that he was scheduled to return home, Kurnaz was taken off a bus at a police checkpoint and arrested without explanation. After being held in Pakistani jails for several days, Kurnaz was handed over to the U.S. military and transported to an American base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Two months later, he was taken to Guantanamo, where he was registered as prisoner #61.

For more than 1,600 days, Kurnaz lived through hell. He was kept in a small mesh-wire cage and endured brutal daily interrogations, unspeakable abuse, sexual humiliation, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and other forms of torture. Despite his best efforts to communicate his innocence, Kurnaz was charged as an "enemy combatant" by a Guantanamo Tribunal in September 2004. Finally, in August 2006, without explanation or apology, Kurnaz was released and returned to his family in Germany. Throughout his ordeal, he maintained his indefatigable faith and will to live.

Told with lucidity, precision, wisdom, and wit, Kurnaz's story of struggle and survival is both sobering and poignant. Beyond its importance as a testimony of the horrors of Guantanamo, Five Years of My Life is an inspiring account of the endurance of the human spirit.

"Murat Kurnaz's story will leave you both moved and outraged at the injustice of imprisoning innocent men without due process of law." -- Jonathan Hafetz, Litigation Director, Liberty & National Security Project, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law


Murat Kurnaz is a Turkish citizen and legal resident of Germany, where he was born in 1982. He was in the process of becoming a German citizen when he was arrested in Pakistan and held prisoner for five years. He now lives in Germany.

Praise for Five Years of My Life

"The most compassionate, truthful, and dignified account of the disgrace of Guantanamo that you are ever likely to read."
- John le Carre

"I thank God that Murat kept his sanity in the hell of injustice and torture in Guantanamo so he could tell his story. May it be studied in every school and college around the world. May it help to close down all the illegal and secret prisons and camps, as well as Guantanamo, and restore the prisoners to their families. I am sure Murat's book will educate a whole generation about justice and the defense of human rights."
- Vanessa Redgrave

"Five Years of My Life inspiringly demonstrates that, even in the face of great injustice, human dignity can shine through. Kurnaz, one of the many victims of the war on terrorism, delivers a powerful firsthand account of the abuses at Guantanamo, which should serve as a wake-up call for all those who value freedom."
- Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union and Professor of Law at New York Law School

"Murat makes the horrors and inanities of Guantanamo so real; his voice is by turns young and headstrong, wry and wise. Murat's mother came to the United States to hear our first Guantanamo case argued before the Supreme Court back in 2004 -- when I met her, I didn't know whether she would ever see her son again. Now he is safe at home and has produced this riveting and moving account of his torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government to shine a light in a dark place and try to help all those still languishing without hope. This is a must read."
- Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and attorney representing the Guantanamo detainees

"Like many of the men imprisoned in Guantanamo, Murat Kurnaz was held for years without proper charge or trial. After intensive campaigning by his friends, family, and Amnesty International members all over the world, he was finally released. This book is a profound and detailed account of his experiences. After suffering torture and detention without trial, it is a testament to his great strength of character that he is able to tell his story with such power and clarity."
- Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

"A powerful and gripping account of one man's life in America's infamous prison beyond the law at Guantanamo Bay. Murat Kurnaz's story will leave you both moved and outraged at the injustice of imprisoning innocent men without due process of law."
- Jonathan Hafetz, Litigation Director, Liberty & National Security Project, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

"Kumaz recounts his woes, and those of his fellow prisoners, with modesty and compassion. ... He has written a measured and readable account, which is often even humorous in a Swiftian sort of way."
- The Economist

"Harrowing. ... Kurnaz vivifies his grim experiences with an excellent memory and eye for detail, as well as some humorous asides (remarkable, considering the circumstances). ... A vital document that should -- rightly -- shock and appall."
- Kirkus Reviews
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:04 pm

by Patti Smith

MURAT KURNAZ WAS ARRESTED IN THE WINTER OF 2001 in Peshawar, Pakistan, known as the "City of Flowers." The subsequent five years Murat spent as a detainee in the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval base, with no formal charge lodged against him, reflects a terrible flaw in our judicial system. In the case of Murat Kurnaz, the accuser had the greater power over the accused. This violation of the basic civil right to due process poses a great threat to our safety and stability as a free people.

My reaction to his ordeal is one of a mother, as well as an artist and concerned citizen. Murat Kurnaz is the same age as my own son. I could only imagine the horror and frustration his mother experienced while attempting to penetrate the labyrinth of bureaucratic secrecy that surrounded Murat's internment. I considered deeply how I would feel if my own son languished in prison, detained for years of his life without formal charge, without trial.

To compound the injustice, it was reported that most of the evidence held against Murat Kurnaz was found to be exculpatory. In truth, I had to consult my dictionary to understand the meaning of this word. I was shocked to learn it means that someone is free of guilt or blame. This information would have been a godsend to his family and council and should have enabled his quick release. Instead, Murat languished in prison for another four years, even after it became clear to both U.S. and foreign authorities that he was innocent.

In the summer of 2006, after exhaustive negotiations on his behalf, Murat reclaimed his freedom. This long-awaited moment, his release after nearly five years of harsh detention, turned instead into a shocking continuation of his confinement. Muzzled and shackled for the duration of a seventeen-hour flight, Murat was returned to his homeland in the same manner one might transport a dangerous animal. The image of this young man, who had already experienced years of deprivation and humiliation, limping in chains drew from within me a deep sense of outrage.

Yet this final dehumanizing act did not break Murat Kurnaz. He found the strength to meditate on these events in his memoir, to reclaim his individuality, to openly practice his faith, to once again ride a motorbike and listen to music. Though the crown of his youth was taken from him, he offers us his experiences unfettered by the poison of bitterness.

When in prison Murat Kurnaz prayed for patience and strength. Surely the Most Excellent Protector shepherded him through his suffering, and the qualities that he prayed for will continue to illuminate his life.

four long years
was I a man
dreaming in chains
with the lights on
a netherworld
nothing to say
thoughts impure
at Guantanamo Bay

now I'm learning
to walk
without chains
I'm learning
to walk
without chains
without chains
without chains

born in Bremen
played guitar
a young apprentice
building ships
loved and married
heard the call
is attaining wisdom
a pursuit of fools?

journeyed to Pakistan
to study Koran
taken in custody
no reason why
then a prison camp
no freedom to breathe
branded an enemy
an enemy


no fault was found
yet do they believe
then flown home
a version of free
chained to the floor
muzzled and bound
a last humiliation
left to endure
they say I walk
that may be so
its been a long time
since I walked at all

now I'm learning
to walk
without chains
to talk
without chains
to breathe
without chains
to pray
without chains
to live
without chains
without chains

Without Chains, by Patti Smith
copyright 2007
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:05 pm


DESPITE BEING BORN IN GERMANY AND HAVING LIVED his whole life there, Murat Kurnaz was not a German citizen at time of his detention in Guantanamo. German citizenship law is based primarily on ethnicity and family relation. Thus, the descendents of the numerous Turkish immigrants who worked to help rebuild postwar Germany, though born in the country, are not automatically issued German passports. Since obtaining German citizenship is a complicated process -- and residence permits entitle holders to most of the rights afforded by the state to citizens -- many "foreigners" in Germany simply opt to live as permanent resident aliens.

Kurnaz wrote this account of his years in Guantanamo in conjunction with a German journalist named Helmut Kuhn, who helped him shape his story into a narrative. I have chosen to omit some typical German narrative techniques -- chiefly transitions from the narrative past to the present tense to build tension -- from this translation. These techniques are unfamiliar in English and would, I felt, only have created confusion.

The issue of how to translate the Koran is highly contentious, as there is no standard English rendering of the book. I have tried to convey the sense of the Koranic quotations and other religious material in this book as neutrally as possible and would ask for readers' indulgence of any infelicities.

May 2007
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:05 pm


OCTOBER 3, 2001: A few weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States, 19-year-old Murat Kurnaz flies to Karachi, Pakistan, without telling his parents he is leaving. He spends some eight weeks traveling the country and visiting various mosques.

OCTOBER 7, 2001: The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan begins.

OCTOBER 11, 2001: Prosecutors in Bremen begin investigating Kurnaz and three others "on suspicions of their having formed a criminal organization," The investigations come after Kurnaz's mother tells police that her missing son had changed recently, growing a beard and becoming religious. One of Kurnaz's teachers at his shipbuilding school cites unnamed students as reporting that Kurnaz was going to Afghanistan.

DECEMBER 1, 2001: On the way to the airport in Peshawar, Kurnaz is stopped at a police checkpoint. He spends several days in Pakistani jails before being handed over to the U.S. military, who take him to a U.S. military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

JANUARY 9, 2002: The German Intelligence Agency informs the German government under Chancellor Gerhard Schroder that Kurnaz -- a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany -- is being held in Kandahar.

JANUARY 11, 2002: The first prisoners are brought from Afghanistan to the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

FEBRUARY 1, 2002: Kurnaz's mother writes to the German Foreign Office asking for help in obtaining information about her son. Police inform her that he is to be transferred to Guantanamo.

FEBRUARY 2, 2002: Kurnaz is flown to Guantanamo.

FEBRUARY 15, 2002: The German Federal Prosecutor's Office refuses to take over the investigations concerning Kurnaz from local Bremen prosecutors, citing the lack of "clear evidence" indicating "the formation of a terrorist association."

FEBRUARY 20, 2002: Investigators from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bremen interview Kurnaz's fellow students, including some openly hostile to him. A note from those interviews records "no direct statements that [Kurnaz] wanted to fight against the Americans in Afghanistan."

APRIL 28, 2002: Together with some three hundred other Guantanamo prisoners, Kurnaz is transferred from Camp X- Ray to the newly built Camp Delta.

MAY 27, 2002: German attorney Bernhard Docke begins representing Murat Kurnaz.

SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2002: Two officials from the German Intelligence Agency travel to Guantanamo and interrogate Kurnaz for twelve hours under CIA supervision. After the interrogations, one of the officials notes that "in the estimation of our U.S. allies a considerable number of the detainees are not part of the terrorist milieu." His colleague, however, notes: "Against the backdrop of Kurnaz's possibly imminent release, the question must be addressed as to whether the return of this Turkish citizen is in Germany's interest, or whether, in light of the expected media attention, everything possible should be done to prevent his return."

SEPTEMBER 26, 2002: The German Intelligence Agency informs the government in Berlin by cable that "the U.S. sees Murat Kurnaz's innocence as established" and that he will be released in six to eight weeks.

OCTOBER 13, 2002: Bremen authorities suspend their investigations of Kurnaz.

OCTOBER 27, 2002: Three Afghans and a Pakistani become the first inmates released from Guantanamo. They reveal to the international media that they had been physically abused and held in solitary confinement.

NOVEMBER 8, 2002: After weeks of deliberations, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution tells the CIA that, should Kurnaz be released, it is their "express wish" that he not be returned to Germany.

MARCH 19, 2003: The U.S.-led war in Iraq begins.

NOVEMBER 19, 2003: German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer raises Kurnaz's case with Secretary of State Colin Powell, but no agreement is reached.

MAY 12, 2004: The city of Bremen declares that Kurnaz's German residency permit officially expired in May 2002. This decision would later be overturned by a Bremen court.

JUNE 28, 2004: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that prisoners in Guantanamo have a right to challenge their incarceration via the American legal system.

JULY 2, 2004: Kurnaz's mother petitions a U.S. court for her son's release on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and international law concerning human rights. Similar petitions are filed on behalf of sixty-three other prisoners.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2004: Murat Kurnaz appears before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal in Guantanamo. He -- together with all the other prisoners who appear before such tribunals -- is classified as an "enemy combatant."

OCTOBER 8, 2004: U.S. attorney Baher Azmy visits Kurnaz in Guantanamo for the first time.

JANUARY 31, 2005: Senior U.S. District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green rules that some of the conditions and treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo, including the trials conducted by the military tribunals, violate the U.S. Constitution. She specifically addresses the case of Kurnaz, citing the fact that, in the estimation of German authorities, there is no hard evidence connecting him with terrorist activities.

NOVEMBER 22, 2005: Angela Merkel succeeds Gerhard Schroder as German Chancellor.

NOVEMBER 30,2005: A Bremen court reverses the decision concerning the expiration of Kurnaz's residence permit.

DECEMBER 19, 2005: Kurnaz's German attorney, Bernhard Docke, writes to Chancellor Merkel, reminding her of his client, who he says "has been held in Guantanamo for four years in inhumane conditions."

JANUARY 13, 2006: Merkel raises the issue of Kurnaz with President George W. Bush during an official visit to Washington.

JANUARY 17, 2006: The German Chancellor's Office decides that Germany will readmit Kurnaz to the country, should he be released.

JUNE 29, 2006: The U.S. Supreme Court rules by a 5-3 margin that the military tribunals in Guantanamo are unconstitutional.

JULY 13, 2006: At a meeting in the German city of Stralsund, Merkel and Bush once again discuss Kurnaz. The U.S. and German governments are actively engaged in negotiations concerning his release.

AUGUST 24, 2006: Kurnaz is released and flown to the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein, Germany. He remains under the surveillance of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution until December 2006.

NOVEMBER 22, 2006: Kurnaz testifies before of the European Union Parliament's Special Investigations Committee Concerning the CIA.

JANUARY 17-18, 2007: Kurnaz testifies in front of a special investigations committee of the German Bundestag, established to determine whether he was physically abused by German soldiers while being held at the U.S. military base in Kandahar.

JANUARY 23, 2007: The EU Parliament's Special Investigations Committee Concerning the CIA releases its final report, which includes Kurnaz's descriptions of being tortured. The report states: "As early as 2002 the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and Germany concluded that Murat Kurnaz had no connections to either Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and did not represent a terrorist threat."
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:06 pm


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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:07 pm



Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing of detainees to the temporary detention facility on January 14, 2002. Department of Defense photo.


A shower stall adjacent to the recreation and exercise area at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on December 3, 2002. Department of Defense photo.


A detention unit at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on December 3, 2002. Department of Defense photo.


Detainees and Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on January 11, 2002. They are still wearing the goggles, face masks and soundproof headphones from the flight to Cuba. Department of Defense photo.


Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on January 11, 2002. Department of Defense photo.


An aerial view of Camp Bravo at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Department of Defense photo.


U.S. Army Military Police escort a detainee in an orange jumpsuit to his cell in Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on January 11, 2002. Department of Defense photo.


Camp X-Ray, shown here under construction, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 2002. Department of Defense photo.


Murat Kurnaz, age 16.


Murat and his mother, Rabiye Kurnaz, after his release from Guantanamo in August, 2006.
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:08 pm


IF I HAD TOLD MY MOTHER THAT I INTENDED TO TRAVEL TO Pakistan, she wouldn't have let me go. Even though I was nineteen years old, she would have forbidden me to get on the plane.

The problem was how to say good-bye to her without making it look like that was what I was doing. I decided to tell her my back was hurting and ask her for a massage. I could hug her in thanks afterward. That would be my good-bye.

I went upstairs, saying: "Ana, my back hurts. Can you give me a massage?"

"It's very late," my mother said. "I'll give you one tomorrow."

I stood on the stairs. My mother was in her bedroom. I couldn't see her in the darkness.

"Salam alaikum," I said.

"Alaikum salam," she answered.

I wouldn't see my mother again until I was twenty-five.


My bags were packed, and I had my passport, my visa, and my plane tickets. My friend Selcuk would be waiting for me in the car. My plane vas scheduled to take off from Frankfurt Airport around noon.


I also wanted to say good-bye to my brothers, but I couldn't just give them a hug. Ali always wanted me to lie down next to him in bed while he was trying to fall sleep. He'd ask me questions until his eyelids started to droop. So the night before I left, I said: "Ali, I'll come to your room. Let's talk for a while." That made him happy. After a while, just before he fell asleep, I said that I was going to my room for a minute. I gave him and my baby brother Alper a kiss and then turned off the light.


At the airport I felt uneasy. I wanted to tell my mother that I would be back and that she shouldn't worry about me. At 10 AM, I called her from a pay phone.

"Where are you?" she asked.

She had already discovered that I'd packed my things and left.

''I'm in another city ... not in Bremen. I'm going away for a little while, but I'll be back soon. Don't worry ..."

She started crying.

"Where are you going? Come back here immediately," she said.

''I'm just going traveling for a couple of weeks. Don't cry."

She didn't stop crying, but I had to hang up because I didn't want to miss my plane. There was no way I could tell her that I was flying to Pakistan.

She wouldn't have let me go.

And that would have been a good thing.
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:08 pm


I'LL NEVER FORGET THE DATE: DECEMBER 1, 2001. THAT WAS when I was supposed to fly from Peshawar back to Germany. My friend Mohammad had helped me pack my gifts, and I had said good-bye to other tablighis, or Muslim pilgrims, at the mosque. Then we boarded the bus to Peshawar airport.

"Are you looking forward to getting home?" Mohammad asked me. "Tomorrow you'll be seeing your mother."


I had a second piece of luggage with me, a backpack with my personal belongings, as well as a belt in which I kept my money and papers. Mohammad was carrying my bag. I was originally supposed to fly back to Germany from Karachi, and Mohammad was accompanying me to the airport to help change my flight so I could depart from Peshawar. I couldn't wait to .get back to Bremen. My wife was scheduled to arrive there before the end of the year from Turkey.

For the first time since I had arrived in Pakistan, I was wearing my shiny black Hugo Boss overcoat. It had remained in my backpack for the entire trip because it was much too warm. I'd thought the fall weather in Pakistan would be the same as it is in Germany and had brought heavy pants and sweaters with me from Bremen. I wanted to look stylish in Koran school and on the street.

When I arrived in Karachi on October 3 in my wool sweater and overcoat, I'd discovered that autumn in Pakistan was as warm as summer in Bremen. So most of the time I just wore T-shirts and my KangaROOS-brand hiking boots. A year later in Guantanamo, a representative of the German government would accuse me of walking around Pakistan in combat boots.

I had bought some sweets for my parents. The packages were lovely, like little works of art-it would have been a shame to eat them. For my baby brother, Alper, I had bought a handmade wooden toy, a game, with rings on a tree with braches. For myself, I had bought a pair of motorcycle gloves made of quality leather that would have cost a couple hundred marks in Bremen. I also had a handmade necklace for my mother, made of wood, leather, and blue lapis lazuli.

The bus we took to the airport was painted in bright colors and decorated with ornamental figurines. There were little bells and strings of red and yellow blinking party lights-it looked like a disco. All the buses in Pakistan look like this. The one I was traveling in was a small vehicle with a sliding door with maybe ten people in it-there was no room for anyone else. Two men had sat next to Mohammad so I had to take a seat in the row behind him.

We came to a checkpoint. I had already been through four or five such checkpoints while traveling from mosque to mosque with Mohammad and the other tablighis-there are checkpoints all over Pakistan. They're part of normal everyday life.

Checkpoints are usually located at police stations and are manned by one or two officers. The police attach a cord or rope to a house or a pole on the other side of the street and an officer sits in a chair sipping tea. Whenever he wants someone to stop, he'll pull the rope taut, and the approaching cars have to brake. If he doesn't feel like checking anyone, he just leaves the rope lying slack on street and everyone drives over it. Sometimes he'll pull up the rope and take a quick glance through the windows of a vehicle before waving it on. I had never been checked personally.

On the day I was set to leave Pakistan, the policeman at the checkpoint pulled the rope. The little bells in the bus jingled as the bus came to a halt, Traffic piled up behind us. The policeman got up from his chair and peered through the window, noticing me. I looked different than the other passengers-I have fairer skin, and that's probably what attracted his attention. He knocked on the window and said something to me in Urdu. Mohammad opened the window and answered for me. I have no idea what he said to the policeman.

Then the policeman addressed me again. I told him in German that I couldn't understand because I didn't speak his language.

Of course, he didn't know what I was saying either. He asked me for my papers-at least I think he did. I got them out of my belt and handed them over. Then he said something else and motioned for me to get out of the bus. I took my backpack, squeezed my way through the other passengers, and got off. Behind us, in the line of cars, people were honking their horns.

Mohammad tried to get out with me, but it took him a while to get to the door because the bus was packed with passengers holding luggage on their laps. The policeman motioned for the bus driver to move to the side of the road. The bus driver closed the door, Mohammad was still inside. I never saw him again.


I had met Mohammad a couple of weeks earlier in Islamabad where I was hoping to join a group of tablighis. Tablighis are students of the Koran who travel from mosque to mosque, praying and studying the holy book. I only knew a few words of English at the time. Mohammad was several years older than me and spoke English quite well since he was Pakistani, and Pakistan used to be a British colony. He also spoke some Turkish so he could translate and explain things to me. We traveled together until I was arrested that day in Peshawar.

The name Peshawar is Indian in origin, Mohammad told me, and means "city of flowers." I found that fascinating. Peshawar is a very old city, and Mohammad told me that many major historical figures, including Alexander the Great, had visited it. Muslim Arabs and Turks went to Pakistan a thousand years ago and brought Allah's revelations with them.

When he introduced me to the imams at the mosques we visited, Mohammad always said with pride: Murat is German, but he's also Turkish, like our forefathers. The Pashtun tribesmen, who introduced Islam to what is now Pakistan, are thought to originally come from Turkey. It was they who cultivated Pakistan, building gardens and parks
with palm trees and flowers.

The last mosque we stayed at with the other tablighis was one of the largest in Peshawar. It was so big that all the mosques in Bremen could fit inside it. The rooms for Koran students were located on a spacious interior courtyard, and there, too, flowers were everywhere. The minarets stretched toward the sky. When I knelt on the rugs in the prayer halls, I felt almost intoxicated by the decorations on the walls and under the domed ceiling. Mohammad told me that a century ago there had been a huge fire in the bazaars in front of the mosque but the mosque itself had been spared from any damage because the faithful had congregated there and prayed. Mohammad said Allah had protected them.

In the weeks before we arrived in Peshawar, we had visited a number of mosques in Islamabad. Every day we studied the Koran. We were taught how to read and interpret the Koran and how to pray. We were also given hadith instruction- the Prophet Mohammed's oral teachings. We learned how we were supposed to behave as tablighis and how we could help other people. Twice daily, we had meals together. We went shopping and argued about who would get the honor of paying.

We would sleep in one mosque and then spend the whole of the next day in the other mosques, visiting the other tablighis and drinking tea with them.

The streets and bazaars of Peshawar are crowded, sticky, and hot. They stink of exhaust fumes and rotting garbage. Taxi drivers constantly honk their horns along with the drivers of the motorcycle rickshaws, which look like miniature three- wheeled trucks with a single headlight. The roads are always jam-packed with cars, horses, donkeys, completely overloaded trucks, pedestrians, and bicycles, which are sometimes used to transport large objects like refrigerators or sofas. The people on the streets come from everywhere, from India and Afghanistan, China and Kashmir.

Some of the streets have marked lanes, but everyone ignores them-it's every man for himself. As taxis, mopeds, and rickshaws push their way through the crowds, you have to be quick on your feet to avoid getting run over.

The day before I was scheduled to leave, I walked through the bazaars to buy some gifts to take back home. The bazaars in Pakistan reminded me of the open-air markets in Germany and of Oktoberfest, only much more colorful and wild. There are gold- and silversmiths, spice dealers and butchers, rug merchants and potters. There are shops with electronics, cell phones, and cameras. You can buy fake Nike sneakers, Rolex watches, and Fila jackets. The merchants sell anything and everything a person might need. There are also storytellers and shows with exotic animals and snakes. I had never seen anything like it, even on television. A snake charmer laid rope out in a circle and then sat in the middle. He removed the lids of the baskets around him, and various kinds of snakes slithered out-cobras, vipers, and other highly poisonous reptiles. The charmer closed his eyes and touched the snakes, tapping on their heads. He didn't hurt them; he was just playing with them. All of this took place in the middle of the street for free. People gave him money only if they felt like it.

I was particularly fascinated by the martial arts, shows at the Kung Fu schools. Pakistan borders China, so there are many good martial arts coaches there and Kung Fu and ninja schools abound. Mohammad and I often went to watch ninjas throwing Chinese stars and knives and show-fighting. There are no laws against this kind of show in Pakistan -- you can live the way you want. I found I liked this kind of freedom.

That is, until the day I took the bus to the airport.


I was told to go inside the police station with the officer. He nodded twice and pointed to the entrance of the building, which had no door.

Okay, I thought, they want to check my visa and my passport. Mohammad would wait for me, and as soon as this was over, I could continue on my way.

The station was a squat structure, and I entered a room with rugs on the floor as in a mosque. There were no furnishings. A naked light bulb hung from the ceiling. There was no desk, just a small wooden table for drinking tea in the corner. The policeman tried to tell me something, but it didn't work. We couldn't understand each other. From his gestures, I gathered that he was leaving, but that he would be right back.

A short time later, another officer appeared, probably the first one's boss. He was of medium height and slightly overweight. He had a huge moustache and a five o'clock shadow. He was wearing a turban and traditional Pakistani dress, a knee-length cotton tunic with white cotton pants. He said something to me in English. I think he was asking me where I came from. I said was from Germany. Then he wanted to know if I was a journalist.

"No," I said.

Was I an American?


Was I working for the Americans?

I told him I was a Turkish citizen who lived in Germany.

He asked whether I worked for Germany. Or for the Germans -- I couldn't really tell.

The man with the turban was holding my Turkish passport in his hands. He didn't seem to understand how I could be both German and Turkish, how Germany could be my home country even though I didn't have a German passport. He probably thought he had caught me out in a lie. Maybe he thought I was a spy or something.

"Do you have cameras?" he asked.

I tried to tell him that he was welcome to look through my things and held out my backpack. "Look! Look!"

They went through my backpack. The man with the turban said something to the other officer, who then fetched a telephone from one of the other rooms in the building. It was a regular landline phone with a cord. The boss called someone-I assumed he was talking about me with his superiors. Then he hung up and said something to the other officer. He took the telephone away and reappeared with a key, a tiny mirror, a razor, and some shaving cream.

His boss shaved.

Like the entrance to the building, the room had no doors. While the head policeman was calmly shaving his face, I could hear a loud exchange of words outside. I was sure it was Mohammad, trying to get in to see me.. But I could only make out the voice of the first officer.

I was standing in the middle of the room with my backpack on the floor in front of me. The first officer came and went as his boss ordered him to bring him one thing or another. One time it was a submachine gun.

Other policemen, also carrying machine guns, came into the room. They grabbed me and led me away, but not back to the street, where I thought Mohammad would be waiting. Instead I was taken to a courtyard where a four-door pick-up truck was waiting. The driver and one of the policemen got in up front, and I got into the backseat flanked by two other officers with machine guns. Another two policemen climbed onto the tailgate.

We drove through the city for maybe half an hour until we reached an affluent-looking part of town, full of large villas with big gardens and tall gateways. We drove through one of the gates, across a kind of park and through a second gateway, behind which there were a lot of fruit trees. It looked like private property, but there were guards at every entrance. We stopped and a man with blond hair and glasses approached the truck. I couldn't tell whether he was American or German. For all I know he could have been Russian, but he was wearing European clothing, a white shirt and black pants, which isn't all that common in Pakistan.

The two-story villa had orange trees in front, a real Turkish garden. I estimated the blond man to be between thirty-five and forty years old, although he was already losing his hair. He rubbed his hands together, as if pleased about something, and spoke to the policemen in a language I didn't understand. He told me in English to come with him. The policemen followed us. He led me into a room that reminded me of a four-star hotel. It had a double bed, a framed mirror, carpets and large plants.

He disappeared for a short time and then returned with another man who looked Pakistani and wore civilian clothing. They began questioning me.

Was I American?

Was I German?

Was I a journalist?

I tried as best as I could to explain that I wanted to catch a plane back to Germany, that I didn't have much time if I failed to make a flight today. That I had missed the date on my return ticket, November 4, but that it was still valid for another flight for ninety days.

The men said they would come back and ask me some more questions. I was to wait there.

I waited for about an hour.

The two men in civilian clothing never returned. Instead the policemen came back.


Should I have tried to flee while I was alone in that room? The doors in the villa weren't locked. But where could I have gone? Guards and policemen were everywhere with machine guns. I thought there was probably just a problem with my visa. I hadn't done anything wrong in Pakistan. I hadn't stolen anything or hurt anyone. I was sure that they weren't going to detain me for more than a couple of hours. They just wanted to ask me a few questions -- that was all, I wasn't worried. I was merely irritated that they were taking so much time.

I didn't think that being stopped at the checkpoint might be connected with the war in Afghanistan. I had nothing to do with that country although it did occur to me that maybe they thought I was a drug dealer. Afghanistan is one of the world's biggest opium suppliers. But I wasn't carrying any drugs, and I hadn't had contact with any dealers. As soon as they found out I wasn't a dealer, a journalist, or an American, I thought, I'd be set free.


The officers drove me in the pick-up to a police station near the villa. They told me I was going to have to spend the night there. The following morning I would be taken to the airport and I could fly to Turkey. Why Turkey? I asked. I was from Germany! Then it occurred to me that Mohammad still had my bag. The bag with my gifts. I hoped that he would be at the airport the next day and could somehow help me to get back to Germany.

We arrived at the police station. It looked exactly like the first one: the entrance didn't have a door, and the first room I saw was carpeted. I hadn't been handcuffed. The place didn't feel like a prison.

"You sleep here," said one of the policemen in English. "Tomorrow we come, bring you to airport. You Turkish, you fly to Turkey."

I thought he meant that I was to sleep on one of the carpets, but I was wrong. They opened a door, behind which I saw bars. This was a jailhouse after all.

The policemen led me through the door, opened the single, large cell and pushed me in. The cell was fifteen by thirty square feet, and it was full of people, all of them dark-skinned men, most likely Pakistanis or Afghans. There were around fifty of us crowded in there. They looked me over and then greeted me. They were friendly. Suddenly everyone stepped aside and formed an aisle. A young man in his thirties came up to me. He seemed to be the boss of the cell. He greeted me.

"Salam alaikum."

"Alaikum salam."

The man's name was Raheg, and he shook my hand. "Do you want to be my guest?" he asked in English. "Will you come with me, please?"

Raheg led me through a door at the back of the cell into a separate room-his own private prison cell. It was comfortable. He had a bed, a pillow, and a low table with a tea pot, glass tea cups and some cheese on a silver platter.

Raheg was powerfully built and much bigger than me. He must have been at least 6'3" and 250 pounds. In contrast to the other prisoners, he seemed like a rich man. He might have been incarcerated with the rest of us, but when he told the policeman to go and fetch something for him, they went and got it-pizza, hot dogs, whatever he desired. He asked me what I wanted.

Nothing, I said.

People visited him the whole afternoon. Every time the policemen would unlock the door, it was almost as though they were announcing visitors to a lord. They seemed to be afraid of him. Raheg was apparently not just the boss of the cell, but the boss of the whole jailhouse. He had gas tanks and a stove in his room. It was Ramadan at the time, and I was fasting during the day. He fasted, too. In the evening, he rolled out his prayer rug and invited me to pray with him. He gave me a brand-new shirt. My shirt was covered with dust-in Pakistan you have to change shirts every day because of the heat. Raheg told me he'd have my shirt washed. I took a shower in the main cell and changed my clothes, and then dinner was ready. The other prisoners had cooked it. There was meat, potatoes, and rice-even a salad. We talked almost the whole night through.

He told me that he had once been a major drug dealer. It was a family tradition-his forefathers had traded opium, and all his relatives were involved in the business. He had smuggled in large quantities from Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass, and now he couldn't get out of jail. He had fresh fruit brought to him and made some mint tea. He told me not to say a single word to the police. Whoever I was and whatever I'd done, I should under no circumstances tell them anything. I said I'd already told them everything.

"From now on, no more," he said. "You don't say anything. That's better for you."

Okay, I thought, he's been in prison for a number of years. He should know what's right and what's wrong here.

Raheg told me about his family, Pashtuns, some of whom lived in Mghanistan and some in Pakistan. Among Pashtuns, it's a rule that whenever someone seeks refuge in your home, for whatever reason, you should provide them protection, accommodation, and assistance. I knew from Mohammad that this tradition was like a law. Raheg said he would talk to the policemen and try to secure my freedom. He gave me several telephone numbers-of his brothers and other relatives. I could call them when I got out, he said, and they would take care of me. He told me not to worry about money. They would give me some.

"No problem," he said. "You can fly to Germany."

Pashtuns have their own rules. Raheg was good to me.


The following day, we prisoners all prayed together. Then the guards came. They were carrying chains and were going to shackle me, but Raheg flew into a rage. He came up to them, screaming. The other prisoners stood behind him. It looked as though the situation was about to escalate, but then the guards withdrew. After a while, they reappeared without the chains. I took my leave of Raheg, giving him a hug. The guards led me away. A car-a limousine with tinted windows-was waiting outside. Two policemen were sitting there, carrying machine guns.

After we had turned the first comer, we stopped. One of the policemen got out and retrieved the chains from the truck of the vehicle. They bound me, and we drove on. The policeman apologized to me with a word I recognized from Turkish.

"Mecburi," he said. That means: I have no choice-it's my duty.

We drove for several hours before stopping in front of a building. I couldn't tell whether it was a prison. One of the policemen got out and started talking with someone, who got excited and raised his voice. I saw kids on bicycles. They came up to the car and peered through the windows, pointing their fingers at me and laughing.

"Osama, Osama!" they cried.

When the policeman got back to the car, he was carrying a sack. He slipped it over my head. Everything went dark.


We drove for hours-at least that's how it seemed to me. It was so hot in the limousine that I thought I was going to suffocate. I tried to make this clear to the policeman sitting next to me. He lifted the sack a bit so I could breathe more easily, but the other officer yelled at him. From time to time, he lifted the sack a bit so I could get some air.

We stopped.

The policemen led me up some stairs, and I could hear a number of doors closing behind me. We went down a long corridor. Our footsteps echoed. Then I heard another door closing. From the sound, it had to be made of metal.


They removed the sack from my head. I was standing in the middle of an empty room. There was no sink, no toilet, nothing other than brick walls. Behind the metal door that I had heard was another one made of heavy wood. The floor was concrete. High up one of the walls, directly under the ceiling, was a deep round hole that allowed light into the room. They took off the chains. Then they closed the door behind them. I still thought that they would come, ask me some questions, and then take me to the airport.

Hours later, I heard footsteps. A man in civilian clothes, a long shirt, vest and turban, came and asked me questions in English.

Who are you? What's your name? How old are you?

Where do you come from?

Are you a journalist?

Are you German?


Why did you come here?

What did you do in Pakistan?

Are you married?

Are you married to a Pakistani woman?

The questioning went on for hours, The man's English was hardly any better than mine. I told him about the tablighis and about Mohammad. Repeatedly, I asked him if I could use a telephone.

Finally he agreed to bring me a phone. "No problem," he said. He left the room and shut the door behind him.

I never saw that man again.


I tried to count the number of days, but I could only guess. I didn't know whether it was night or day. The light was always on. Whenever I thought it was night because I was tired, I'd try to sleep. When I thought it was daytime, I'd get up and say my morning prayers. They had taken my watch, my belt, and my shoes. I was barefoot. The only things I had in my possession were the pants I'd been wearing the whole time and the shirt Raheg had given me.

Two guards watched over me. It seemed to me that they worked in shifts of twelve hours each. But their comings and goings were irregular. Sometimes, one would appear a number of times in a row, and then the other. Sometimes, suddenly, there was no one there at all. I was able to talk with one of them a bit. The other remained silent the entire time.

They brought me food. Red lentils. Always red lentils that had been boiled but were no longer warm. Half a glass of red lentils per day. And a glass of water twice a day-at least I think it was twice a day. The times varied. Sometimes I imagined they were skipping the odd meal. I always had to ask for water by kicking the wooden door.

I also had to kick the door with my bare feet when I needed to go to the toilet. Outside there was another, equally bare room with a "squat toilet"-a hole in the floor that can be flushed. Further on there was a second metal door behind which the guards sat. Sometimes I had to kick the wooden door for hours, before one of the guards would open up and let me go to the bathroom. I refused to use the floor of my cell. I had no choice but to hold out for as long as it took.

I had to hold out.


At some point during my confinement, I became afraid. What would happen if my plane ticket expired? I didn't have any money to buy a replacement. Would they buy me one? Even if it was only a ticket to Turkey, anywhere was better than here.

I kicked the wooden door and paced across the floor of my cell.

The cell was six by nine feet. I paced back and forth. Life can't go on like this, I thought. I'll go crazy. Back and forth. I had read once that people can go insane if they spend too much time in solitary confinement. Back and forth. I needed something to occupy my mind. I went back to the door and kicked it with my bare feet. I had to do something to keep my wits.

I heard steps and the sound of a key turning.

It was the guard who talked.

I asked him if I could have a Koran. "Koran, Koran," I said. "Can I have?"

"Yes, yes."

He nodded, smiling, and shut the door. The sound of his footsteps receded, and I heard the second metal door closing. I waited, pacing around my cell. For hours and hours.

As best as I can guess, it was two days before the guard brought me a Koran.

"Koran," he said, as he handed me the book.

"Elhamdulillah," I said.

Thanks and all praise be to Allah.

The guard immediately left, and I stood holding the book in my hands. It was a beautiful moment. I opened the book and read: "In the name of God, the Mercy-giving, the Merciful! Praise be to God, Who created Heaven and Earth and granted darkness and light! Yet those who disbelieve make other things equal to their Lord. He is the One Who has created you (all) from clay; then fixed a term. A deadline [for the Day of Judgment] has been set by Him."

The sixth sura. I could hardly believe 1was hearing the words of the Koran. I listened to my own voice as I read the verses. I was a prisoner, but at least I had something to do, something worthwhile even. I could study the Koran. I knew that this would be a good deed earned to my credit.

"He is God in (both) Heaven and Earth. He knows your secrets and anything you publish; He knows whatever you earn."

Suddenly I heard footsteps and keys. The door opened.

Pakistani policemen in turbans and uniforms came in and took the Koran away from me. They were carrying chains, heavy, rusty iron chains. The cuffs they clamped around my wrists were as thick as bars of chocolate. Using an Allen key, they attached the chains with screws to the inside of the handcuffs, tightening them until pain shot through my wrists. They used the same procedure with my feet. There was a further chain attached to the handcuffs with which they could lead me. I knew what was coming next.

One of them slipped the potato sack over my head.

It went dark again.

The chains rattled as they led me from the cell. I heard the wooden door and the metal door close behind it. They pulled me through the empty room with the toilet, the second metal door, the room where the guards waited, and then another metal door and a long corridor. I heard door after door closing behind me. Then I sensed light. It was daytime. I was sitting in a car, policemen to my left and right.

The sun did me some good, although I could only feel and not actually see it. Even under the sack, the air smelled mild. Where were they taking me, I wondered. And how long had I been in the cell?

I thought back. I had said ten sets of morning prayers.


We drove for a couple of hours. Every once in a while we stopped, and I could hear the policemen getting out for some tea. I could hear the spoons clinking in their glasses. They were laughing and shooting the breeze. I was left alone back in the car and had to listen to Pakistani pop music on the radio. That was a true punishment.

After about half a day, we arrived somewhere. Again I was led up some stairs. I heard a lot of doors. There were always steps, up and down, and then another door. A policeman put his arm out in front of my chest-a sign for me to stop walking and stand still.

Someone took the sack from my head. I found myself in a cell that was scarcely bigger than the one from which I'd been moved. But one of the walls was open. There were metal bars and behind them a hallway about three feet wide. Artificial light streamed in from somewhere.

A man was squatting Indian style in one corner of the room. The police released me from my chains and left the two of us alone.

About three feet in front of the other prisoner was a container about as big as a shoe box. It contained sweets, green, yellow, and red. Cookies.

Never before my life had I felt so hungry. For days all I had eaten were those red lentils. I wanted nothing more to pounce on the box of sweets.

"Salam alaikum," I said.

"A1aikum salam," said the man on the floor.

I could tell he was an Arab.

I asked him who he was and he answered in Arabic. I couldn't understand him. I sat down in another corner of the room. The man stared at the box. I stared at the box, too.

After a while, the Arab asked me if I wanted something to eat. At least, that was what I gathered from his hand gestures.

No, I signaled back. No, thank you.

The Arab put his hand to his mouth, nodding.

I should eat, he was trying to tell me.

I ate the entire box. I would have given all the money I have ever earned in my entire life for that one box of cookies.


Soon there would be four of us. Two Arabs were brought back to the cell. I discovered that they were being interrogated when I arrived. The man who gave me the sweets was from Bahrain. His name was Kemal. One of the other two men was from Oman, let's call him Salah. Today he's back home, but I don't want to him to get any trouble. I spent four years of my life with Salah. I saw him over and over again in different cellblocks in Guantanamo. Salah spoke very good English. He told me that he had gone to university in the United States. As of 2007, Kemal is still imprisoned at Guantanamo.

On the one hand, my situation had improved-at least I could make myself understood to Salah. On the other hand, things had definitely taken a turn for the worse. The cell was damp and cold, and it was crawling with cockroaches, beetles and strange, exotic spiders with fat bodies and hairy legs. There was no toilet, just a bucket. I soon got sick and started vomiting. Though our meals now consisted of rice and Pakistani bread as well as lentils, all I threw up was water or acidic yellow froth.

A piece of bread the size of a pita and a plate of rice or lentils twice a day-that's all the four of us were given to subsist on. We shared the food, but at some point I couldn't eat any more. It was strange, I was permanently hungry, but I couldn't eat anything. That was" completely new to me. In Bremen, we fasted during the daytime during the month of Ramadan. But we filled our bellies in the morning and the evening. Your stomach might have grumbled in between, but it didn't hurt.

Now my stomach definitely hurt. I felt a constant burning, acidic sensation in the back of my throat. Everything hurt, my stomach, my throat, even my tongue, which had become heavy, swollen, and dry. After a few days, I started feeling weak and getting headaches. I couldn't sleep, and over time I found I didn't have enough strength to move. But I could talk to Salah. I learned more English from him than in all the previous weeks I spent in Pakistan.

The Pakistanis interrogated me twice in this cell. They always asked the same questions. They photographed me and took my fingerprints.

What are you doing here? they asked.

Where do you come from?

What have you done?

Then they took me for my first interrogation with Americans.

We drove for a while by car through the city. I could hear the sounds of city streets, motorcycle rickshaws, and shouting in the marketplace. I was shackled and had a sack over my head. It was very hot. When we stopped, a policeman took the sack from my head so I could see the building we were about to enter. It was a large, brightly painted villa. Inside, it was cool-there was probably air conditioning. I was led through the house. There was a nice-looking salon with plants, armchairs and books, then a corridor, thick white wooden doors with windows in them, and high ceilings with spinning fans. I was taken to a room where I was told to wait. The policemen took their seats next to me on a bench.

After a short while the door opened, and an American came in and looked me over. He almost seemed startled. What had he expected? He was probably surprised that I looked so European. Even though I was dirty and unshaven, and my clothes were unwashed, I still had fair skin.

"The German guy!" he exclaimed

Then a second American came in and examined me. Both of them were wearing civilian clothing, cotton pants and shirts. The second one also sported a V-neck sweater. He had salt-and-pepper hair and a moustache. He almost looked German.

I said, "I come from Germany. I'm German."

The two Americans exchanged smiles.

"Yeah, the German guy," said the one with the sweater.

The policemen motioned for me to get up and follow them. The two Americans took the lead, and we trotted along behind them. I was taken to an interrogation room where there were three chairs and a table. I was still wearing chains, and my guards stood holding machine guns. Maybe, I thought later, the Americans were afraid I was going to attack them. All I wanted was to ask them when I could go home. As far as I was concerned, Turkey would do. I still believed they just wanted to ask me some questions and would then let me go.

The man with the sweater rolled up his sleeves and began the interrogation. The questions were similar to the ones the Pakistani police kept asking me, but this time I could understand them better.




When did you come to Pakistan?

All of that information was contained in the passport and the plane ticket they had in front of them.

Then the Americans wanted to know why I was in Pakistan. I tried to explain to them that I was a student of the Koran, that I had wanted to study at the Mansura Center in Lahore but had been turned down after being told it was too dangerous at the moment for them to accept foreigners because the Americans had just invaded Afghanistan. But I didn't say that.

At first I'd been upset about getting turned away by the Mansura Center. But I didn't want to turn around and go home, now that I was already here. I knew from some other tablighis in Bremen that Koran students in Pakistan move from mosque to mosque in small groups. I wanted to join these groups, I explained to the American.

He then wanted to know what I had been doing since the day I entered Pakistan, which was over two months before. I told him that I had traveled with other Koran students and that we had slept in the mosques, which we had gotten to know after praying there.

My English was still very bad. He didn't seem to understand a lot of what I was trying to say. But he understood enough to ask who these Koran students were, what their names were, and where they were now. I told him I didn't know. There were always new students joining the groups, while others went their own way. But I could make myself understood. I told him about Mohammad, whom I hadn't seen since I had been forced to leave the bus at the checkpoint in Peshawar. Surely he had asked about me.

Then the American wanted to know where exactly I'd been in Pakistan.

"Karachi," I said. "Airplane: I landing. No speak language. Nobody speak English. I meet Hassan in the plane. Hassan is from Islamabad. So I go to Islamabad. But not with Hassan. Hassan take the airplane to Islamabad."

"So you went by bus or by train to Islamabad?" asked the American. "Airplane. I buy new ticket and take the airplane, later. But in Islamabad I don't find Hassan. Telephone number he gave me-no good. I go to Lahore, to Masura Center for Islam. They say: no German, too dangerous. I go to Islamabad. I meet Mohammad. We sleep in the mosques. We study Koran. We study hadith. Hadith!"

One of the Pakistani policemen nodded.

"Then we take train to Peshawar."

What had I been doing in Bremen? asked the American.

I couldn't understand why he wanted to know that, but I answered anyway.

"I live in Bremen. I live in the house of my parents. I study ships, and then I study Koran. I marry Muslim woman from Turkey, so I want to study Koran."

Proudly I showed him the wedding band on my finger.

Suddenly, the American asked: "Are you a terrorist?"

"Terrorist? No, I'm German. I'm Turkish, but I live in Germany. I'm born in Germany, in Bremen."

"Do you know Osama?"


"Where is Osama? Tell me!"

"I don't know."

"Tell me and I'll let you go ..."

"No! No! I don't know ..."


The Pakistani policemen brought me back to the cell with the others. We stayed there for several days. Then some Pakistani soldiers came. Their commander, perhaps a general, was short and stocky and brought us some blue overalls-a kind of prison uniform. We were forced to put them on. We weren't allowed to wear anything underneath. Our own clothes were taken away. Then they chained our hands and feet.

Salah and the others knew that we were to be handed over to the Americans. But they hadn't told me.

The general said, "Mecburi. Mecburi." He looked me in the eye. Then he said in English, "Forgive me!"-before he put the sack over my head.

I'll never forgive him. Not even in the afterlife.

After we had gone up some stairs and had been loaded into a truck, the sack had slipped somewhat and I was able to nudge it further up without the soldiers noticing. I saw that we were in a military truck covered by a camouflaged tarpaulin. Suddenly a hand pulled the sack down over my eyes.

We only drove a short distance-probably no more than ten minutes. Then I heard airplanes, propeller-driven motors. I thought: they're taking me to Turkey. The planes' motors were already running. They were ready for takeoff. I heard other trucks that sounded just like the one we were in. Then I heard voices. American voices.

As we got out of the truck, I was able to push up the sack a little bit again. I saw lots of American soldiers in uniform, light-colored camouflage gear. I still thought they were going to take me to an American military base in Turkey. I was glad to be finally leaving Pakistan.


They searched me-even though I was wearing nothing underneath my overalls and had nothing left to my name, not even a pair of shoes. I felt their hands everywhere, and they were rough. Someone grabbed my right hand and tugged at my ring finger. He's after my wedding ring, I thought, the ring inscribed with my wife's name. One of the soldiers tugged at it. I balled my hand and tried to make a fist, but I was too weak. I was too weak to offer much resistance, and my fingers had gotten thin. They pried my fingers apart, and the ring slipped off.

I heard a soldier throw the ring away.

It clattered on the asphalt.

I was enraged, but there was nothing I could say. I was half-starved and bound in chains. I could hardly stand on my own two feet, when a deafening sound almost knocked me over.

The sound of hydraulics. An airplane hatch being opened mechanically.

We were pushed inside. I felt cold, raw metal against the soles of my bare feet.

"Sit!" a GI screamed in my ear. "Sit! Sit down, motherfucker!"

I fell on my behind and cowered on the metal floor. The soldier pressed my head down. I heard yelling and shouting. It came from a large number of other prisoners in the plane.

Suddenly I felt a blow to my head. I fell over to one side and lay there. Then I received a kick to the stomach.

It was the first time I was beaten.

They kicked my arms, legs and back with their boots. I had no way of defending myself. All I could do was cower.

I didn't have the strength to scream. There was only one thought in my head: they're taking me to Turkey. They're taking me to a base in Turkey, where they'll hand me over to the Turks.

They chained me to the floor. Soon, I thought, it will be all over.

They kicked me in the back.

I heard the hydraulics. Commands were barked out. The loading hatch shut.

Soon it will be all over.
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:11 pm

Part 1 of 2


I'D BEEN SOLD, FOR A BOUNTY OF $3,000, TO THE AMERICANS. That's what the Americans themselves told me in one of the endless interrogations in Guantanamo Bay. "I know," I told my interrogator, "you expected more for the $5,000 you paid for me."

"$3,000," said my interrogator. "We only paid $3,000 for you."

That's when I knew the story was true.

When I was apprehended, everyone knew that there was money to be made by turning in foreigners. Lots of Pakistanis were sold as well. Doctors, taxi drivers, fruit and vegetable sellers, many of whom I later met in Guantanamo. I don't care who got paid the reward money in my case. It could just as well have been the policeman at the checkpoint in Peshawar or the blond European or the American man at the villa. Maybe the officers at the police station in Peshawar split the money. $3,000 is a lot in Pakistan. A man can get married with a sum like that, or buy a car and an apartment.

Everyone, except me, knew about the reward money. I only discovered later that the Americans paid for us, as if we were slaves.


As the plane got ready to take off, not only were we shackled and chained, we were bound up like packages. I could hear the noise of the propeller and the shouts of the soldiers and the other prisoners. From beneath the sack covering my head, I could see a bit of the plane's aluminum wall. We were bound tightly to the walls with long belts so that we couldn't move the lower half of our bodies. My legs were stretched out straight and manacled. Chains constrained my feet above the ankles. The only thing I could move was my head.

On board the plane with me were the four other men from my cell and around twelve more prisoners. I couldn't see how many soldiers there were, but to judge from the confusion of voices, it must have been a lot. They went from one prisoner to the next, hitting us with their fists, their billy clubs, and the butts of their rifles. It was as cold as a refrigerator; I was sitting on bare metal and icy air was coming from a vent or a fan. I tried to go to sleep, but they kept hitting me and waking me.

"Keep your head up!" they'd yell.

They never let up hitting, kicking, and insulting us. Sometimes they'd forget about me for a couple of minutes, but then they'd strike me all the harder.

"You're terrorists," they shouted.

"We're Americans! You're terrorists. We've got you! We're strong! And we will give it to you!"

They never ceased screaming.

"You fuckers!"

Prisoners, I thought, are often beaten in Turkey. It's a well-known fact, and so it seemed almost normal to me that the Americans would do the same. If I had been put in a Turkish prison, they would have beaten me there as well. At some point, I also thought, this will be over. But the soldiers never tired of beating us, laughing all the while. I imagine they made jokes at our expense.

It was night when we took off, but the lights were on inside the plane. All I could see were my bare feet and the bright light. My thin overalls were no match for the cold, and my feet and hands had swollen from being tightly shackled. I was afraid I would never be able to use my hands again. I knew that a hand can die, if the blood flow is cut off, and that the skin can turn black from the cold. I watched my feet slowly turning dark blue. I couldn't feel them any more. All I could feel, throughout my entire body, was pain. I was barely able to breathe.

I didn't try to speak to any of the other prisoners. If you spoke, you would have been beaten even more, so none of us did. I was far too weak and hurting. I wasn't afraid. But it was clear to me that I might die. I didn't want to die, but in my situation it seemed like the easier option. Better. I thought about my family. If I was going to die, would someone tell them how my life ended and what had happened to me? Would my family be able to live with that? No doubt they had no idea where I was or what was happening to me. I thought above all about my mother. I hoped at least she would find out how I died.

I prepared myself for my death.

I didn't cry. I'd admit it if had, but I simply couldn't. Even our Prophet cried after the death of his son, but I couldn't cry in the plane. I believe we have a saying: The tears of the heart are worse than the tears of the eye. But maybe this isn't really a saying. Perhaps I invented it during the flight. In any case, I kept repeating the words: Kalbin aglamasi gozlerin aglamasin dan cok daha siddetlidir.

I quietly prayed for patience. Allah, give me patience and strength and protect me. I know you are The Most Excellent Protector, and I expect protection only from you because you are The Most Strong.

I said prayers like this for the next five years.


I don't know how long the flight lasted. At some point, we started our descent. I heard the motors cut back, and I knew the plane would land. Nothing can happened to me, I thought. I was strapped in tight.

I heard the hydraulics of the rear section of the plane opening. I felt a blow to my head, and as I stood up, I saw bright flashes through the sack. Flashbulbs. From beneath the sack, I could make out soldiers filming and photographing us. They were standing on the runway. I could look down at them from underneath the sack. They never entered the plane.

Suddenly I realized something. Just as they had repeatedly called us terrorists during the flight, they were taking photos to depict us as terrorists to the world. Either they truly believed I was a terrorist, or they knew I was innocent but needed scapegoats to proudly present to the public. That made me upset. They were going to say to America and the rest of the world: "These are the terrorists we've been hunting for. These are the criminals who are responsible for the attacks of September 11. Now we have them, and this is how they'll be treated!"

What I didn't know at the time was that the photos were to be used as "evidence" in the media that we had been captured in the war zone in Afghanistan by American soldiers-even though we had all been taken prisoner in Pakistan by Pakistani police. I discovered all this later when I faced the military tribunal in Guantanamo.

In the plane, I had only one thing on my mind: the singular mission of proving my innocence to my captors. The soldiers had to assume I was a terrorist, if that's what they had been told. If that was true, they had good reason to beat me. Although it was unjust, I could understand them. But one way or the other, so I thought back then, my innocence would be proven, and I would be released. It would only take a few days. I intended to clear up the situation at my next interrogation.

I felt a new sense of hope.

The soldiers loosened my restraints. When they lifted me up, I felt too weak to stand on my own two legs. They linked our arms together with a thin but robust strip of plastic. I was swaying on my feet, and then I felt something cut into my arm: the plastic band attaching me to the prisoners in front of and behind me. I sensed a dull ache as I took a few steps. It was like walking on something strange, like stilts, that burrowed into my body. But I was lucky. Other prisoners had broken legs. Some of them were trying to walk on one leg. Two soldiers dragged one of the prisoners across the floor of the airplane. I saw his foot bent at a severe angle at the ankle.

I heard dogs barking. We stumbled out of the plane down a ramp. Whenever someone fell, the plastic strip would drag me down as well. I heard dogs growling and barking. They were everywhere around us, and I could hear them biting. You can hear a dog's bite. They were German shepherds and Belgian shepherds, or malinois. Back in Bremen, I had had dogs, and I was able to recognize the breeds from beneath the sack. Malinois are bigger and stronger than German shepherds. They have shorter fur, and it's usually one color.

We walked for a few minutes and then they threw us to the ground. We were ordered to lie on our stomachs. A soldier sat on my back. My breath condensed under the sack. I felt the cold of the freezing stone ground. As far as I could understand what the soldiers were saying, they were going to come collect us one by one and take us away. I heard helicopters and the motors of jeeps and trucks. First one, then the next, then a third. It took a long time. I lay on the ground for what could have been hours, or minutes. Then I lost consciousness, probably because of the cold.

I woke up when someone hit me in the face.

"I feel his heartbeat again," said the soldier who had been sitting on my back.

It was my turn.

Someone picked me up, and I tried to walk. The soldier rammed his fist into my back, and I pressed forward until someone stopped me, The sack was removed from my head. I was in a tent. In front of me sat a man at a table with paper and a pen. Two soldiers cut open my overalls so that they wouldn't have to loosen my bonds, I was naked. I saw some other clothes, orange overalls, lying on a chair.



"Place of birth?"

Someone pulled out some of my hair. I was weighed, and a saliva sample was taken. Soldiers motioned for me to pick up the orange overalls. I heard shots outside and what I believed to be a bomb exploding. The man on the chair flinched at the sound. Then I was given the number 53. I was the fifty-third prisoner. There was another muffled bang. The same number was imprinted on the green plastic band that they fastened round my wrist. The soldiers seemed nervous.


I heard the unmistakable sounds of airplanes and battle. Rockets hissing and whistling, then muffled bangs on impact.

It was then that I realized I wasn't in Turkey, but in some sort of war zone.

"Hurry up!"

The Americans were being attacked, and they were returning fire. Planes and helicopters took off and landed. The impact sounds of the rockets were close. The man at the table looked pale.

"Look down!" he yelled.

I felt the soldiers' fear as they grabbed me by the arms. They pushed my head to the ground with all their might. It seemed to me that they were less afraid of the bombs than of me, although I was naked, bound and unarmed.

The officer asked me some more questions, but I wasn't able to answer them. I could hardly stand and lacked the strength for anything more than a yes or no. They led me back out of the tent.

It was night-time. I saw a barricade made of coiled, barbed wire. The barricade was out in the open in the middle of a pen, measuring about thirty-three by sixteen feet and was guarded by soldiers in groups of two. There was no door to the pen, only two poles on chains that were raised and lowered. Twenty to thirty prisoners crouched inside. A soldier hit me in the back of the head with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the ground.

"See that?!"

He motioned with his weapon.

"Can you see that?!" he yelled.

"Don't move!"

I understood. If I moved, he was going to shoot me. Other soldiers took off my restraints. When they removed the handcuffs, I found I could no longer move my fingers. They were dark blue and numb, as were my feet. They threw the overalls on the ground. I started to pick them up and put them on.

They pointed their rifles at me.

"Don't move'"

"Sit!" they yelled.

I sat down. Edging backwards, the soldiers began to exit the pen.

"Sit! Don't move!" they kept yelling, even after they were outside.

I was forced to remain seated like that, naked, with the overalls beside me, until the following day. I was terribly cold. After a while, I lay down. I was tired and fell asleep. I slept very well.


When morning broke, I looked around. I saw tents, barbed wire and a tall Structure, perhaps a guard tower. The landing strip, where their planes and helicopters took off and landed, couldn't have been far away. There was a long hangar made of wood and corrugated metal as well as the frame of a second hangar. The metal of the first hangar was full of holes. Bullet holes, I thought.

Alongside the tents, I could see other open tents that consisted merely of olive-green tarpaulins on wooden poles. There were soldiers hammering and drilling everywhere. I saw bulldozers. The camp seemed to be still under construction. Next to the tower, I could make out a kind of wall made of metal, perhaps tin. It may have run all the way around the camp, but I couldn't see that far. In the distance, behind the hangars, there were white shafts that looked like crosses on graves. But they couldn't have been graves because the shafts were at least ten feet high. On the other side, somewhat at a distance, we could see a second barbed-wire pen with other prisoners.

The military camp was surrounded, as far the eye could see, by mountains. They were gigantic. I'd never seen so many mountains of that height. I was sitting in a camp in the desert surrounded by tall, silvery-gray mountains. There was snow on their peaks. The ground in the camp consisted of frozen soil that had been dug up like the rock bed of a dried-up river. I could still hear helicopters taking off and landing. Fog rolled in.

Some of the prisoners sitting on the ground were naked like me. Others had already put on overalls. Some of them were still wearing the rusty metal shackles from Pakistan, thick rings around their ankles with a bar in between. I noticed that the guards were occupied with a prisoner far off from me and quickly put on my overalls. They didn't say anything. I buried my chin beneath the material and blew my breath across my chest. That warmed me up a bit. I moved my hands, flexing them. But it would be days before the feeling returned to my fingers.

I tried talking to the others. We were forbidden from talking, but we did so anyway. Whenever the soldiers would stray from the barbed wire, we tried to exchange a few words. But I didn't know either Arabic or Farsi, the Afghan language, and my English was poor. I couldn't find Salah or any of the others from the prison in Pakistan. They must have been put in another pen. But I did discover that the Americans were using this as a base to fight the Taliban in the mountains. So we had to be somewhere in Afghanistan. Was this a former Russian airbase, perhaps? We talked in English as best we could, occasionally gesturing with our hands and feet. But that was conspicuous.

Some of the people in the pen were Arabs who lived in Afghanistan. Others were Arabs from Pakistan, taxi drivers or shopkeepers or small entrepreneurs. One was a doctor, so that's what we called him: the doctor. He, too, was a foreigner who had been sold to the Americans. He was in orthopedics. He communicated this by tapping on his elbows and knees. As far as I could gather, he had been brought here as part of the first group, twelve hours ahead of me. I was part of the second group that had come from Pakistan. If I interpreted his gestures correctly, this first group had been beaten even worse than we were.

I met the doctor again later in Guantanamo, and we spoke often. I asked him a lot of questions, including medical ones. He was indeed an orthopedist, as I had gleaned in Kandahar, and he was also an expert on nutrition. I found that interesting. I asked him what you should eat and not eat if you had broken a bone. What a layman should do to treat a broken bone and things like that. Broken bones were a constant threat in Guantanamo. The doctor had lived in Pakistan for twenty years. His children had grown up and gone to school there. Almost everyone in the city where he lived knew him. One night, the Pakistani police hauled him out bed. They kicked in the doors and broke the windows of his house, then entered his bedroom from every direction. He was tied up on the ground. His wife and children were terrified. He had been imprisoned for a while in Pakistani jails, then they handed him over to the Americans, claiming he was a terrorist who had worked together with other terrorists. But it was really only about the reward money.


I didn't care about anything on this particular morning. I was hungry and I had to go to the toilet. But there was no toilet.

I tried to ask one of the soldiers on guard.

"Toilet, toilet," I said.

"Shut up! Sit down!"

He pointed his gun at me.

I couldn't sit down because I had to go so badly. I just didn't care anymore. I approached the barbed wire. The soldier yelled at me, as though he was about to shoot me.

I ignored him and let it all out.

The soldier disappeared and returned a few moments later, accompanied by an officer. The officer was carrying a blue plastic bucket. He threw it over the barbed wire and said we could use it. Almost all the prisoners got up and made use of the bucket. It was humiliating. Whether we were young or old, religious or not-we all had to strip naked to do our business in the bucket because we were wearing nothing but overalls. Men like me who follow the rules of Islam are forbidden from exposing our bodies between the navel and the knees. It's also prohibited in the hamam or Turkish bath. Even in my fitness club back in Bremen, I used to shower with my shorts on.

Female guards also patrolled the grounds outside our pen. It wasn't easy.

We sat the entire day in the pen. Other groups of prisoners were locked in with us and in the other pens. They, too, were naked and initially had to leave their overalls lying beside them. I'd estimate the total number of prisoners at around sixty.

At sunset, soldiers would come and lead us away in groups of about ten. On average, the way this happened was that about a dozen soldiers would enter the pen waving machine guns. We stood up one by one and approached the barbed wire. Our hands and feet were bound, and they led us to the hangar. The hangar was empty-there were no planes. All I could see was a long corridor, a number of pens with walls of corrugated metal, topped by barbed wire. We were herded toward the spaces enclosed by the metal walls and made to lie on the ground. It consisted of sand, rocks, and frozen soil just like our pen. The space was locked from the outside. Each of us received an MRE in a plastic container, which was thrown over the barbed wire.

MRE stands for "Meal Ready to Eat." Pronounced in Arabic, the acronym sounds like "Emarie," so that's what we called the packages. They were supposed to contain approximately 2,000 calories. Typically, they contained food like potatoes packed in tin foil or rice, meat or chicken, some vegetables and pudding, porridge, crackers and something sweet. The forks, spoons and knives were made of plastic. There was also a small flameless heater to warm the food up. Each Emarie was numbered from 1 to a number above 30. Some of them contained pork. The Emaries that they threw over the barbed wire for us only contained a bit of rice or porridge and a couple of pieces of meat, all mashed together, The other food had been removed from the plastic containers, leaving less than 600 calories. Human beings need more than 1,500 calories a day to survive. I knew that from my training as a fitness coach in Bremen.

My first Emarie happened to contain pork. The word was written on the side of the package. It was just a couple of cold, dried-out pieces of pork in rice. But I couldn't eat pork because it's against my religion so I tried to get something else. I got up, went to the barbed wire and attempted to speak to one of the soldiers.

"Shut up'" he yelled at me.

I warmed up my food.


In Bremen, I competed in a few boxing tournaments. I used to give karate lessons and had worked as a bouncer. When I looked at the guards, I knew that I could have any of them on the ground within a couple of seconds. That made me even more enraged. There was a soldier behind a wall of barbed wire who, despite his machine gun, seemed to be afraid of me and kept yelling at me. But he had the right to abuse me. Maybe it sounds immature when I describe my nineteen-year- ld rage in this situation. Other people may see things differently. But for me it was hard to swallow.

I took a seat back on the ground and ate the crackers.

One of the younger prisoners had witnessed the scene. He edged over to me and offered to share his Emarie. I tried to refuse, but he insisted. The word "chicken" was printed on the side of his Emarie. I realized then that there were good people among the prisoners. In a situation like this, food is all you have, your sole possession. And although he was hungry, this young man still found it within him to share his food with me. He couldn't have been more than sixteen-he didn't even have a beard. But he had a good heart.

Then the door in the barbed wire opened. The soldiers hit the boy for sharing his food with me.

That was difficult for me to watch.

I never saw the boy again. Maybe he is dead. Or perhaps I simply didn't recognize him in Cuba. Torture changes people.


That night we were moved. We were led away in groups of twenty to a new barbed-wire pen, holding about sixty of us. I tried to go to sleep, but that was the night of my first interrogation. Two soldiers came into the pen.

The Americans called them the "escort team."

I knew the word escort from my time in Bremen as a bouncer at clubs. It referred to women who accompanied gentlemen for an evening. Now I was being taken away by escorts. It was always the same procedure.

They would call my number.

"Zero Five Three, get ready!"

I would lie down on my stomach near the entrance to the pen, my hands behind my back. Everyone else would get up and go to the opposite side of the pen, their faces turned toward the barbed wire. The escort team then stormed in and put me in handcuffs and shackles. One of them punched me in the back with his fist. The other picked me up in his arms. One of them grabbed my hair from behind and pushed my head down. I was frog-marched out.

I was led to a tent. There were several officers there. They spoke to me in English, although I hardly knew two words of the language. They asked:

"Where is Osama?"

"Are you part of Al Qaeda?"

''Are you a Taliban?"

That's as much I could understand.

They kept repeating the same questions.

''Are you part of Al Qaeda?"


One of the soldiers punched me in the face.

''Are you a Taliban?"


The soldier punched me again.

"Where is Osama?"

"I don't know."

The other soldier punched me, this time square on the chin.

"Are you part of Al Qaeda?"

"No ..."

Another punch to the face. My lips were split, and blood was dripping from my nose.

''Are you a Taliban?"


Every time I said no, they hit me.

"Do you know Mohammed Atta?" One of the officers suddenly asked. The name seemed familiar. I thought it over. My head was pounding. Where have I heard this name before, I asked myself. Everything was spinning.

"One moment," I said. "Yes, I know. I hear. That name. I don't know where ..."

Then I remembered. In the news. It was the name of the man accused of masterminding the attacks on September 11. I tried to explain in English.

"Yes," I understood the officer as saying. "He was a friend of yours."


"He was your friend!"

"No, I only know him from the news ..."

I felt the next blow.

"TV! TV! News! You understand?"

"You're friends with him!"

The officer got up. I was kneeling on the ground, my hands bound behind my back. The officer came up and punched me in the face. He wasn't old, maybe in his early thirties. He asked me what I was doing in Pakistan. I told him, as best I could, about the tablighis and Mohammed. He yelled: "You're lying! Your visa is a fake!" I replied: "You can check it. You've got it!" He went back to the table and picked a file off the ground. He emptied out the contents on the table's surface. It was my wallet, my plane tickets, my passport, and my German identity card.

"There," I said. "Look in my passport. My visa is in there."

He examined my passport.

"It's faked," he said.

He showed me the stamp from the consulate.

"You made that yourself."

"Call them up. I got it from the Pakistani consulate in Germany. I was there! Why would I fake my visa?"

"You wanted to go to Afghanistan!"

"No" -- the next blow came down.

"You know Osama!"

"No, no! Call Germany! Call my mother, my school ..."

"Where is Osama?"

"No, no ..."

He punched me.

"You're a Taliban!"

"No, no ..."

He punched me.

Suddenly the American asked me about a name I do know. It was the name of a friend of mine from school. He recited a number but I didn't understand. Was it a telephone number?

"Zero-zero-four-nine-four-two-one ..."

"I know ... friend! He's a friend from school!"

He recited a second name. It was a friend of mine from the mosque in my home district of Hemelingen in Bremen. Again he read out a number, first the name, then a number from a piece of paper.

"Yes, I know, friend ..."

He repeated the numbers. I made out the area code for Bremen and a couple of the other digits. How did he get these telephone numbers?

"Fatima. Zero-zero-nine-zero ..." the American said.

"My wife! My wife! In Turkey ..."

Suddenly he asked:

"You sold your cell phone before you left Germany. Why did you sell your cell phone?"

That I understood. It was true. I had sold my mobile before I'd flown to Pakistan.

"Yes! I sell handy. How you know?"

"Handy" is the German word for cell phone. He punched me in the face.

"Who did you sell it to?"

I couldn't remember. I was always purchasing the latest cell phone and selling off my old one. Was it to a second-hand electronics store? Or to one of my buddies? I didn't know. But I did sell it. That much was true ...

I felt a blow to the back of my head.

"I don't know ... I always sell handy ..."

I asked myself: How does he know these things? But I didn't have time to ponder the question because someone was hitting me again. I saw stars.

"You took money from your bank," the officer said. "1,100 German Marks from Bremen Bank. I know that. What did you use it for?"

The only words I understood are Bremen Bank. That was my bank. How did he know that? I hadn't brought my ATM card to Pakistan!

"Quick! Answer! What did you use that money for?"


"1,100 German Marks!"

"Ticket! I buy ticket to Pakistan and back!"

"Who is Selcuk Bilgin?"

Selcuk? How did he know about Selcuk? I never told anyone about Selcuk. Why wouldI have? They wouldn't have understood ...


I felt a kick to the stomach. I collapsed, thinking I was going to be sick.

"Friend! My friend! Together to Pakistan ... but no come ..."

Hour upon hour, they repeated the same questions accompanied by punches and kicks. It was no use. The officer simply refused to understand who I was and what I intended to do with Selcuk in Pakistan. We wanted to go to Koran school. I had waited for Selcuk for days at the airport in Karachi, but he never arrived, as he had promised he would in Frankfurt. It was no use. The officer wasn't listening. He just asked the same questions and recited the same names and numbers, and then they hit me. I don't know how long I was interrogated that day. But I can still remember the words he kept repeating.

"You're a terrorist! We know that. We're going to keep you forever. You're never going home!"

When I regained my senses, I was back in the pen. My face was swollen, and every bone in my body ached. I heard them call out the number of another prisoner. The escort team came and led him away.

The escort team was always coming and going from the pen, bringing someone back or taking someone away for interrogation. I, too, was interrogated again that first day. Or was it the next morning? In any case it had been dark for a while. It was always the same game with a different officer asking the questions and different soldiers hitting me. Names, numbers, accusations, blows. By the time I got back to the pen, I could never remember a thing.

But I tried to concentrate. How did they know the names and telephone numbers of my friends? Where did they get Selcuk's name? Then it occurred to me. Germany and the United States were allies! They probably cut a deal. They probably called up the German authorities. There was no reason for them not to. They probably called up and said: We've got someone here from Germany, and we'd like some information about him. Who is he?

That's how I imagined it. But if they knew that I'd sold my mobile phone, surely they'd also know I was innocent. They might have gotten the telephone numbers and the names from my cell phone. Maybe they were still saved there. I had saved the names of my friends and relatives, my brother-in-law and my sister in Bremen's Sebaldsbruck district. They could have also gotten many of the names from business cards in my wallet. All my friends in Bremen had business cards. I had many of these cards in my wallet, from colleagues from work and school friends. It doesn't cost much to have them printed.

But they also knew the name of one of tablighis from Bremen. I didn't have his business card. Of course, they knew who I was! It had been several days since the American had interrogated me in Peshawar. Surely they had gotten in touch with the relevant authorities in Germany to check that everything I was saying was true! That I came from Germany, that I wanted to visit a Koran school, that I was an apprentice shipbuilder ... but that would also mean that the German authorities had called my family and Selcuk. They must have found out that I wasn't a terrorist! I heard a number being called. It wasn't mine.

The following day, I was interrogated three times for about one and two hours each time. In between interrogations, I sat in the pen. It was bitterly cold. I could hardly feel my toes, which were still blue. Sometimes I thought back on how my mother used to bring me warm socks when she went to the shopping mall in Bremen. I hated wearing thick woolen socks with my sneakers. They were itchy. But when I thought of those socks, it was enough to drive me half-crazy. How nice it would have been to have a pair of those woolen socks now.

At the appointed hours of the day, we prayed, guessing the time from the position of the sun: in the morning, when it was getting light but still before sunrise; at noon, when the sun was at its peak; in the evening, after sunset but before it had gotten completely dark; and at night. Each of us prayed on his own, either quietly or silently, and we remained seated.
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