Earlier this month, Al Jazeera broadcast a lengthy interview with Walid Muhammad Hajj, who was detained at Guantanamo for several years until he was transferred to his native Sudan in 2008. (MEMRI has provided an excerpt of the interview here.)
When Gitmo detainees (both current and former) make up stories about torture and abuse, they usually stick to the script, claiming they were beaten, waterboarded, or had some other malady inflicted upon them. Even if there is no evidence to back these claims up (e.g. no detainee was ever waterboarded at Gitmo), their stories generally gain traction in the fever swamps online and elsewhere.
Occasionally, however, a detainee will go off script. And so we get Hajj’s story. Hajj claims that when detainees wouldn’t talk to interrogators at Gitmo, the interrogators – Jewish interrogators, that is – would resort to witchcraft.
“The most common method to wear down the brothers was witchcraft,” Hajj told Al Jazeera. “There were, of course, Jews among the [staff of] the Guantanamo base, and they would set traps for the guys.” Hajj explained, “Witchcraft was used on most of the guys.”
Hajj was asked to give some examples of how this Jewish sorcery worked. One detainee decided to urinate in his milk because of a Jewish spell, Hajj says. It gets even more bizarre. From the MEMRI translation:
Hajj: “Once, when I was sleeping – on the floor, not on a bed – I suddenly felt that a cat was trying to penetrate me. It tried to penetrate me again and again. I recited the kursi verse again and again until the cat left.”
Interviewer: “But there wasn't really any cat there?”
Hajj: “Absolutely not.” [...]
Fortunately for Hajj and his other “brothers,” all they had to do was recite some Koranic verses and the Jewish witchcraft would be undone.
All of this is, of course, pure nonsense. That doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that a fair number of people around the world won’t buy into it. The Harry Potter books were especially popular with the detainees for a time and we can only speculate that perhaps Hajj has decided to invent his own tale of sorcery – mixing magic with anti-Semitism.
Who is Walid Muhammad Hajj, in any event? Based on the declassified files produced at Gitmo, including transcripts of his testimony during hearings held there, Hajj is a jihadist who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
During one of his administrative review board (ARB) hearings at Gitmo, Hajj conceded that he fought for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. He defended this by arguing that American forces were not in Afghanistan at the time, and the Russians were the Northern Alliance’s primary backer. “It wasn’t like an organized military,” Hajj said. “I was just a mujahid, a volunteer.”
Hajj admitted that he received brief training on the AK-47. Hajj also admitted that he stayed at Taliban guesthouses where wounded fighters received medical attention, but claimed that he didn’t know they were Taliban-controlled facilities at first.
Hajj said he initially wanted to teach in Afghanistan, but decided to fight instead. One member of his ARB panel asked, “What made you change your mind and decide to fight the Northern Alliance Forces?” Hajj responded, “It’s all part of Islam. The jihad, the teaching, the haj, and the fasting; it’s all part of Islam.”
According to one memo prepared by U.S. officials, Hajj was identified as a “special friend to a known Taliban leader” who was in charge of Arab fighters on the front lines near Konduz and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. This same Taliban commander “reported directly to an al Qaeda commander.” And the al Qaeda commander, in turn, was also an instructor at the infamous al Farouq training camp. Hajj did not deny his relationship with the Taliban commander during his ARB hearing, but questioned whether it was enough to keep him in custody and said he was unaware of any ties between the commander and al Qaeda.
A memo produced at Guantanamo contains this allegation: “The detainee said that if he were in a combat situation, he would attack Americans to defend his country and/or family and he would fight again for the sake of his religion or his family.” Hajj would later deny this, saying that he just wanted to return to his family in Sudan.
Hajj also said he would not speak ill of his American captors. During one ARB hearing, Hajj explained:
It’s no use. I’m not needed to say anything about Americans. The newspapers, the media, people in other countries are talking about Americans. …People who visit Guantanamo know about Americans, [they] know about the injustice that has been done here. So there is no use, no need for me to say anything.
Hajj obviously changed his mind. Someone needed to tell the world about the Jews’ witchcraft at Gitmo. And Al Jazeera was glad to broadcast it.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.