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Torture in Tunisia: 'They removed the nails from my toes'

Prison-Jail
[file photo]

I glanced this morning through a video bearing the testimony of Bouraoui Makhlouf as he offered his testimony about his tribulation inside the prisons of Ben Ali. I have transcribed the testimony so as to make it available for those who wish to learn more about the testimonies of the tortured in the land of Tunisia:

The peculiarity of my experience is that I refused to answer any question put to me by the guys from the State Security. This represented a challenge between me and them. In the end they said to me: Bouraoui, you will end up having the harshest of sentences and you will be the last one who returns to his home. This is exactly what happened. They sentenced me to life in prison of which I spent 18 years.

I shall talk to you a little about the means of torture they applied to me. In the beginning, they "suspended" us. They were in a rush to extract the information we had. Since I refused to answer them, they would leave me suspended for days and not just hours. Then they moved to other methods including the so-called "bathtub operation". They used to suspend one of us upside down, with head immersed in a bathtub. This would continue until the stomach is filled with water. Then, they would start beating the person until the water comes out. Then they repeat the same process until the stomach is filled with water once more. They would repeat this several times a day. They would take us all the way to death several times in a single day. They do this in a hurry. Since I refused to answer them they felt threatened by my silence which was incomprehensible to them. Then, they moved to the tactic of removing the nails. They removed the nails from my ten toes and I remained unable to walk for nearly two months.

Another method of torture they used was to tie me by the hands and feet and then start beating me on all parts of my body until I lost my voice and remained unable to speak for nearly a month.

Once the Interior Minister Al-Qallal asked them to provide him with precise information extracted from me. So, they brought me into a room in which there were no less than 40 agents. They all started beating me at the same time. Praise be to Allah, and thanks to His Grace, after all this beating, they ended up gasping as I lay on the ground before them. They asked "what soil I was created from."

As I learned from some of the agents, whenever Ben Ali asked them "has Bouraoui spoken?" They would say no and he would respond by shouting abuse at them. After that, they starting taking pictures of me while being tortured to send to him as proof that they "took me to that condition". Some of them lost hope that torture would come to fruition, so they started begging me to give them whatever little information so as to release the pressure maintained on them from "above". They wanted any piece of information whether right or wrong.

Some of the brothers were martyred right in front of us under torture. At times, there were 30 of us in a single room; none of us could pray while sitting. We all had to pray while lying on the floor. We went through a very critical period that was the period when they wanted to fabricate the story of Barakat Al-Sahil. They used to take us out one after the other and then they would return everyone carried on a stretcher.

They took me blindfolded to a house in a village where I found Dr Al-Sadiq Shoro. He was in a room and I was in another. We were being watched round the clock by armed men. They tortured me and Dr Al-Sadiq could hear me being tortured. They tortured me in order to put pressure on him. They did not have as much as an ounce of humanity. None of them had any pity on us; no one would say we had families and young children or that we had wives and siblings. I felt that animals had more compassion than them. They had a grudge at a level I never saw in my life.

I would like to make another observation. To tell the truth, the treatment of prisoners during the reign of Bourguiba was different between two phases. Things would be over after the prisoner is transferred from the interior ministry to prison. Whereas during Ben Ali's reign some of our brothers were martyred under torture in prison.

One of the methods of torture they applied inside Al-Nazur Prison was this: they tied me to a bed from my hands and feet for eight full days. Cells there are equipped with chains to tie the prisoner to his bed for several days without release. A prisoner would be forced to spend that entire period while chained to the bed and would be forced to urinate and excrete in that position in front of other prisoners, some of whom are political prisoners and some are criminal convicts.

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In 2003, that is after around 12 years, they transferred us to Mirnaqiyah Prison. They confined each of us to a solitary cell that is two metres long and 1.5 metres wide. We were denied books, newspapers and television. They put a special company of security men in charge of observing us. We were not allowed to leave the cells for more than nine minutes a day. To force them to change this situation we went on hunger strike for 49 days, some of us were left with varying degrees of damage. Some suffered bleeding and some had their stomachs damaged. Some others continue to suffer to this day due to these illnesses.

In the prison, we were denied all rights that are enjoyed by criminal convicts. They used to put us far away from where our families were. A family whose residence is in Monastir for instance, their son would be transferred to Al-Nazur or Al-Qasrain prison. To add to the suffering of the families, the basket would be allowed in on one day while the family is allowed the visit on another day. Of course, we were also banned from communicating with our families. They persecuted us and persecuted our families. I must here salute every single one of our sisters, whether she was a mother, a sister, a wife or a daughter, because they were our true support. A person inside prison is in need of great support and they provided that support.

This is quoted from Dr Izziddin Abd Al-Mawla. The video of the testimony is on the website of Assabeel online published 21 November 2016. It was video recorded in 2010 by human rights activist Zuhair Makhlouf.

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