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Newsweek report on Quran matches many earlier accounts

Raw Story | May 16 2005

Contrary to White House assertions, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek May 6 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States, RAW STORY has learned.

Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it.

If the Newsweek report erred, it was perhaps in saying that the U.S. was slated to acknowledge desecrating the Quran in internal investigations. But reports of desecration are manifold.

One such incident—during which the Koran allegedly was thrown in a pile and stepped on—prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in Mar. 2002, which led to an apology. The New York Times interviewed former detainee Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi May 1, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp.

"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," Times reporters Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt wrote in "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay."

The hunger strike and apology story was also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The people the law forgot," Guardian, 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 World Exclusive," Daily Mirror, Mar. 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, Mar. 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guatanamo detainee who was released to British custody in Mar. 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour 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 it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, (Aug. 4, 2004, deposition available here.)

The claim that US troops at Bagram airbase 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", Apr. 11, 2005). An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners web site (which describes itself as a "non-sectarian Islamic human rights website"): http://www.cageprisoners.com/print.php?id=6862

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with Cageprisoners.com, available at: http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=1611

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, "Ex-inmates share Guantanamo ordeal," May 2, 2005).

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