Extract: ‘Guantánamo Diary’, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

‘We were staring at each other, not knowing what was going on. My heart was pounding because I knew a detainee was going to be hurt. Yes, and the detainee was me’


A beating

All of a sudden __________ and I heard a commotion, guards cursing loudly (“I told you, motherfucker . . . !”), people banging the floor violently with heavy boots, dogs barking, doors closing loudly. I froze in my seat. __________ went speechless. We were staring at each other, not knowing what was going on. My heart was pounding because I knew a detainee was going to be hurt. Yes, and the detainee was me.

Suddenly a commando team, consisting of three soldiers and a German shepherd [dog], broke into our interrogation room. Everything happened quicker than you could think about it. __________ punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor.

“Motherfucker, I told, you, you’re gone!” said __________. His partner kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. He, too, was masked from head to toe; he punched me the whole time without saying a word, because he didn’t want to be recognised.

Thanks to the beating, I wasn’t able to stand, so __________ and the other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would go on for the next three or four hours.

After 10 to 15 minutes, the truck stopped at the beach and my escorting team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat.

Water diet

In the secret place, the physical and psychological suffering must be at their highest extremes. I must not know the difference between day and night. I couldn’t tell a thing about days going by or time passing; my time consisted of a crazy darkness all the time. My diet times were deliberately messed up. I was starved for long periods and then given food, but not given enough time to eat.

“You have three minutes. Eat!” a guard would yell at me, and then, after half a minute, would grab the plate. “ You’re done!” And then it was the opposite extreme: I was given too much food and a guard came into my cell and forced me to eat all of it. When I said “ I need water” because the food got stuck in my throat, he punished me by making me drink two 25oz bottles.

The guards were briefed that I was a high-level, smart-beyond-belief terrorist.

No sleep was allowed. In order to enforce this, I was given 25oz water bottles at intervals of one to two hours, depending on the mood of the guards, 24 hours a day. The consequences were devastating. I couldn’t close my eyes for 10 minutes because I was sitting most of the time on the toilet. Later on, after the tension was relieved, I asked one of the guards: “ Why the water diet? Why don’t you just make me stay awake by standing up, like in __________?”

“Psychologically it’s devastating to make someone stay awake on his own, without ordering him,” said __________.

“Believe me, you haven’t seen anything. We have put detainees naked under the shower for days, eating, pissing and shitting in the shower!”


And Americans worship their bodies. They eat well. When I was delivered to Bagram air base, I was like, what the heck is going on, these soldiers never stop chewing on something. And yet, though God blessed Americans with a huge amount of healthy food, they are the biggest food wasters I ever knew. If every country lived as Americans do, our planet could not absorb the amount of waste we produce.

These are edited extracts from Guantánamo Diary (Little, Brown/Canongate)