On September 18, Associated Press reported that a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay had gone ‘insane.’ According to lawyers, 37-year-old Shaker Aamer has been tortured and kept in solitary confinement for so long that “he considers insects his friends.”
Aamer was working for a charity organization when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. After he organized a prisoners’ council to push for better conditions, he was placed in solitary confinement and kept there for over a year.
Aamer lives in a 6-by-8-foot steel cell. He is beaten regularly, deprived of sleep, and exposed to extreme temperatures. The day before three prisoners hung themselves, guards choked Aamer, gouged his eyes, bent his fingers until he screamed and then covered his face so that he could not cry out.
According to Aamer’s lawyer Zachary Katznelson,
“His only consistent contact with living beings beside his captors is with the ants in his cell. He feeds them and considers them his friends.”
Who is ‘crazy’ here?
Human beings are social creatures. When other people turn against us, we can abandon our humanity or seek connection elsewhere. In the hell of Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer struggles to preserve his sense of belonging. While the objects of his attention are insects, he has no other choice.
Treating torture as normal and the victim’s reaction as abnormal is a form of social insanity. Aamer’s efforts to remain human make him the only sane person in this story.