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
Where the Newsweek report likely erred was
in saying that the U.S. was slated to acknowledge desecrating
the Quran in internal investigations, and in relying
on a single anonymous source to make grave allegations.
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
"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 Guantanamo detainee who was released
to British custody in Mar. 2004 and subsequently freed
"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
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"):
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).
Article originally published May 16, 2005.