Terry Holdbrooks was deployed to the Guantanamo Bay detention center to guard detainees. The Phoenix, Ariz., resident has become a devout Muslim and an unlikely advocate for the prisoners’ rights.
Shane T. McCoy/Department of Defense via AP
Roughly 100 prisoners at the facility are reportedly on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detentions.
The ex-U.S. Army employee converted to Islam, inspired by the faith of the Guantanamo detainees he was charged with watching. Since then, he says he has lost his friends, received violent threats, and been labeled a “race traitor” online.
But he hasn’t gone quietly. The 29-year-old has done his fair share of media and has even signed on for a job as a speaker for the Muslim Legal Fund of America. Now the devout Muslim is racking up frequent flyer miles and touring the country with what he calls the “truth about Gitmo.”
“Gitmo was supposed to be a cushy deployment since we were just going to babysit detainees,” Holdbrooks said. “But it changed me.”
The Phoenix, Ariz., resident spent the year between 2003 and 2004 guarding U.S. military prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was often given the job of escorting detainees to interrogation rooms. He says he witnessed atrocities committed by his fellow American soldiers that he never thought were possible.
Terry Holdbrooks self-published a book about his conversion to Islam and about the atrocities he witnessed as a guard at Guantanamo.
Speaking on the phone to the Daily News, Holdbrooks rattled off the grim list.
“I saw people put in stress positions for eight hours until they defecated themselves,” he said. “Then the guards would come in and emasculate them.”
He said he saw prisoners shackled to the ground with the air conditioner set high, then doused with cold water. He said that menstrual blood was smeared on their faces and that they were forced to hear the same music on repeat for hours.
Holdbrooks (not pictured) said he was often responsible for leading detainees to interrogation rooms.
“Gitmo is 100 percent antithetical to the basis of our legal system,” he said. “That’s not the America I signed up to defend.”
While preparing for deployment, Holdbrooks said the Army trained him to think of the prisoners as the “worst of the worst” and “lower than humans.”
The Guantanamo Bay detention center is located on the southeastern coast of Cuba.