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Halim survived, remarkably, and I learned more of his troubled story. He had been in detention for almost a year. He'd attended college in Indiana and he spoke English, but he'd barely talked when he first arrived in Gitmo. He always had a dazed look, as if he didn't know where he was. Eventually the camp psychologist put the Bahraini on some heavy meds. Halim would fake taking his medication each day and hide the pills in his cell, planning to store up enough so he could take them all at once and end his life. But one of his cellmates ratted him out, and the MPs introduced him to the IRF. The IRF process was a little more ad hoc then: it meant receiving a good old-fashioned a__ whipping, after which the lucky detainee would be hog-tied--made to kneel with his hands behind his back and the shackles on his hands and feet locked together--for four hours.
Halim didn't speak in the weeks after the treatment. He just stared straight ahead. But the day the MPs were transferring detainees from Camp X-Ray to the newly built Camp Delta, Halim received another beating. Vanessa saw him two days after the move and noticed that his face was black and blue. She tried to investigate why Halim was IRFed the day of the move, but her questions went unanswered.
Soon after Halim got to Camp Delta, he tried to end his life again. He thought he could scrape enough paint chips off the cells to eat all at once and do himself in, but it only gave him an upset stomach. Then for a while it appeared that he was starting to improve--until the day he requested a razor in the shower, supposedly to shave his body hair. It seemed insane to me that a detainee who had twice tried to kill himself would be allowed to take a razor into the shower. But at this point, things not making sense at the camp was starting to become the norm.
The International Committee of the Red Cross broke its customary public silence in October 2003, pushed to do so, it said, by a spate of suicide attempts. "One cannot keep these detainees in this pattern, this situation, indefinitely," a senior official said. By then, the official number of suicide attempts was 32, though I knew it was actually far higher. The military kept the number low by labeling most attempted suicides as "manipulative self-injurious behavior" or "self-harm" incidents, a practice that became more frequent as time went on. In January 2005, the Pentagon disclosed that 350 "self-harm" incidents had occurred in 2003, including 120 "hanging gestures." •