By Fatima Boudchar
I was abducted from exile in Southeast Asia and secretly jailed in one of Libya’s worst dungeons. But the worst torture of my life wasn’t done to me by Qaddafi’s thugs. It was done in Thailand at the hands of the C.I.A.
It was March 2004. During this nightmare — my detention and “rendition” to Libya — I was pregnant. Shortly afterward, I gave birth. After what the C.I.A. did to me, my baby weighed four pounds.
Now I hear that Gina Haspel, who as a C.I.A. officer ran a black site in Thailand in 2002 that sounds like the one where I was tortured, has been chosen to lead the whole agency. On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will question her to decide whether she is fit to be director.
I know what I’d ask her if I got the chance.
Did you know about my abduction and abuse?
Were you involved with it?
What will you say if President Trump asks you to do something like that again?
I’ll never forget the sight of my kidnappers, dressed all in black and wearing ski masks, waiting for me in a white cell in the Bangkok detention site.
My husband and I had fled Qaddafi’s regime, moving from country to country to stay away from his killers. We were on our way to Europe when we were seized in Malaysia and sent to Bangkok, where the Thais handed us to our kidnappers — people I now know, from documents found in Libya, were with the C.I.A.
A man grabbed my head and shoved me into a truck. They blindfolded and trussed me.
I don’t understand why I was taken. I assume that the C.I.A. went after my husband because he led an Islamist group that openly opposed the Qaddafi dictatorship.
But what did that have to do with me?
I come from a small town in Morocco. I was not a political dissident. I’d never been to Libya until the C.I.A. flew me there, and I never meant the United States any harm. I hardly thought about the United States until I was chained to the wall in the C.I.A. black site.
I have no idea how long I was in the Thai secret prison because no one would let me sleep.
The cell was white and stark, with nothing in it but a camera and hooks on the wall. The masked abductors were waiting. I was terrified. They chained me to the hooks. Because I was midway through my pregnancy, I could barely move or sit.
Some of what they did to me in that prison was so awful I can’t talk about it. They hit me in the abdomen just where the baby was. To move me, they bound me to a stretcher from head to toe, like a mummy. I was sure I would shortly be killed.
For the rendition flight to Libya, I was taped to a stretcher again. The tape caught the corner of my eye. It stayed that way, my eye taped open, tears streaming down my face, for more than 14 hours.
After I spent several weeks in a Libyan prison, Qaddafi’s spies dragged a crib into my cell. I was gravely ill. If I lived through this, I thought, I would be forced to give birth, alone, in this filthy cell.
Shortly before I delivered, they let me go. The birth was hard. My son and I lived in fear in Libya for years. My husband was in prison until 2010 and brutally tortured. We now live in Istanbul with our family.
I don’t know what Ms. Haspel’s part in what happened to me was or what she thinks about it. All I know is what I read: that she ran a prison in Thailand that sounds a lot like mine; that she went back to the C.I.A. to work on counterterrorism; and that later, she was involved in destroying evidence of torture.
The director of national intelligence has said that Ms. Haspel “plans to be totally transparent” about what she did. I hope she will be questioned about my case and whether she condones it. If she played a part, she should apologize. If she didn’t, she should swear under oath that the C.I.A. under her command will never again carry out abductions like mine.
I also read that the C.I.A. says America’s foreign allies respect Ms. Haspel. Maybe so. But if America wants to persuade the Muslim world it means us no harm, if it wants to regain lost trust, the C.I.A. can’t ignore history in the hope that it will go away.
People remember injustice for a long time. The only answer is to explain what happened.
Even now, after everything I went through, I don’t think badly of Americans. In fact, I think Americans deserve honesty from their intelligence officers. I don’t believe most ordinary people would have supported what the C.I.A. did to me if they’d known.
I won’t get to ask Ms. Haspel these questions, but I hope a senator will. And if she wasn’t involved, and feels in her heart that torturing me was wrong, she should say so.
Fatima Boudchar was held in a secret detention site in Thailand and rendered to Libya in 2004. She is the wife of Abdel-hakeem Belhaj, A leader of “Alwatan” political party in Libya.