Following are excerpts from an interview with former Guantanamo army chaplain James Yee, which aired on Syrian TV on October 19, 2007.
Interviewer: How was religion being used against those prisoners [in Guantanamo Bay]?
Yee: Great question. One, we've all heard how the Koran has been desecrated down in Guantanamo and as Koran, the holy Koran - the words which Muslims all over the world consider the literal words of God – was being desecrated in Guantanamo in many different ways.
Interviewer: It was thrown into toilets and whatever, that's what we read.
Yee: The initial report that was printed by Newsweek indicated that perhaps the Koran was thrown into a toilet by an interrogator. It was unfortunate, that Newsweek had to retract that story, but I talked firsthand with prisoners who were held in Camp X-Ray, which was the first prison camp of Guantanamo, very early on in 2002, and prisoners told me directly that the Korans that they had brought with them were tossed into buckets - buckets which were used as toilets in that makeshift camp. I myself…
Interviewer: So… Buckets basically of urine and feces, is that correct?
Yee: Right, right, exactly. This was before I got there and this was in Camp X-Ray, where, again, it was a quick makeshift prison, set up for the first prisoners who arrived there. When I got there, Camp Delta, which was a little more sturdy and each cell had its own toilet, was already built by the time I got to Guantanamo in late 2002. The Korans were thrown on the floor by guards when they conducted cell searches. It has been reported and I have learned now that interrogators also were throwing the Korans on the floor or stomping on it. This was happening when I was there, and this was an issue.
Interviewer: You actually saw this happening?
Yee: I didn't see it because I wasn't a part of the intelligence operation, but I was aware directly from the prisoners, when they came to me with the complaints and concerns. It became such an issue that prisoners carried out massive protests. Some of them even attempted suicide in response to how awful the Koran was being abused. So this is something that was occurring, was addressed officially...
Interviewer: And did it stop?
Yee: ...by myself and many others down in Guantanamo. It did come to a stop at a certain point. And one of the reasons is when one of the prisoners attempted suicide, the intelligence officers got a little bit smart, because they realized at that point that if a prisoner ended up killing himself, then they could no longer interrogate that prisoner. So they said we don't want prisoners killing themselves…
Interviewer: Because we can't put them to use anymore.
Yee: Exactly, but it was them who were driving them towards these suicide attempts by desecrating the Koran.
Yee: I learned from the prisoners that female interrogators were a big part of the intelligence gathering operation, and I recall even the commander of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Major General Jeffery Miller, often saying in media interviews that female interrogators were very creative in their approach to gathering intelligence and conducting interrogations.
Interviewer: What did he mean by "creative?"
Yee: What was actually going on in these interrogation rooms with these female interrogators was that they were very ready to conduct their interrogation by stripping off their clothes, being nude in front of Muslim prisoners, thinking that Muslims who come from a conservative Muslim society might break or be shattered by this type of behavior. But they went farther than that, and they would inappropriately rub their bodies against these prisoners. It has even been reported, and suggested in FBI memos that have been subsequently released, that female interrogators even went so far as grabbing the genitals of Muslim male prisoners in the course of interrogating them. For me, as a Muslim, and for many of the other Muslim Americans who were down there, when we learned of this, we thought this was not only degrading towards the prisoner, we thought this was degrading towards…
Interviewer: The women themselves.
Yee: …The women themselves who are engaging in this type of behavior. But we can take that even a step further, and say this was degrading to all women. Because what was essentially happening, these women were presenting themselves as simply sex objects and this is not how we should view women in any society.
Yee: And in my view, it happened to me – all of this – because of three reasons: One reason is because I am a Muslim, and in this post 9/11 era, in the West, in America, we find this tremendous anti-Muslim hostility and Islamophobia, in which, all Muslims are see as potential terrorists. And I'm a Muslim, an American Muslim, and I believe that played a large role in why I was targeted. The second is because of my ethnicity - I'm a Chinese American. I learned that when I was…
Interviewer: So you are not blond and blue eyed and whatever.
Yee: Yes. I learned that when I was under investigation someone had said of me: "Who the hell does this Chinese Taliban think he is, telling us how to treat our prisoners?" So the fact that I was called a Chinese Taliban is an indication that my ethnicity also played a role. That third reason was because I was objecting to the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners down in Guantanamo. I believe this threatened many of those who were engaged in that possibly unlawful conduct, and I believe people might have been afraid that I was going to go public, because I was someone who actually interviewed with the media on a weekly basis, as the Muslim chaplain down in Guantanamo.