Contrary to White House spin, the allegations
of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek on May 9,
2005, are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the
United States. Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram prisons
have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran,
throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it. Prior to the Newsweek
article, the New York Times reported a Guantanamo insider asserting that
the commander of the facility was compelled by prisoner protests to address
the problem and issue an apology.
One such incident (during which the Koran was allegedly thrown in a pile and
stepped on) prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in March 2002.
Regarding this, the New York Times in a May 1, 2005, article interviewed
a former detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said the protest ended
with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp. And the Times
reports: "A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times,
confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression
of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt,
Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005.)
The hunger strike and apology story is also confirmed by another former detainee,
Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The
People the Law Forgot," Dec. 3, 2003). It was also confirmed by former prisoner
Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and
Gary Jones, "My
Hell in Camp X-Ray," Daily Mirror, March 12, 2004).
The toilet incident was reported in the Washington Post in a 2003 interview
with a former detainee from Afghanistan:
"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in
Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping
the Koran in a toilet. 'It was a very bad situation for us,' said Ehsannullah,
who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. 'We cried
so much and shouted, "Please do not do that to the Holy Koran."' (Marc Kaufman
and April Witt, "Out
of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, March
Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo
detainee who was released to British custody in March 2004 and subsequently
freed without charge:
"The behavior of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the
Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible.
They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect
for Constitutional Rights [.pdf], Aug. 4, 2004.)
The claim that U.S. troops at Bagram prison in Afghanistan urinated on the
Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in
the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Américains
pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement," April 12, 2005.)
An English translation is available on the Cage
Prisoners site (which describes itself as a "nonsectarian Islamic human
rights Web site").
Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances
of Koran desecration in an
interview with Cage Prisoners.
Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul
Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid,
Guantanamo Ordeal," May 2, 2005.)
*Calgacus has been employed as a researcher in the national security field
for 20 years.