Recruit Rahell Siddiqui died in March 2016 after falling down three flights of stairs at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. The Corps maintains Siddiqui committed suicide but the family has disputed this finding.
Born in Taylor, Michigan, a town of about 60,000 people in the eastern part of the state, the Muslim Siddiqui was ridiculed by drill instructors as a “terrorist,” according to a military investigation into the young man’s death. One instructor, apparently inebriated at the time, ordered the recruit to be placed in a dryer that would otherwise be used for finishing up laundry, according to the probe. The Michigan native suffered burns after the dryer was turned on by the instructor several times as he interrogated the young man about whether he was a "terrorist" who was "part of 9/11."
The lawsuit, filed October 16 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleges that the service “fostered a culture of abuse and hazing,” was negligent “on multiple levels of command,” and ultimately is liable for the recruit’s death as a result of “recurrent physical and verbal abuse of recruits by drill instructors, with a noted insufficiency of oversight and supervision.”
The drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, faces a court martial starting October 30, according to Military.com. Felix’s supervisor, Lt. Col. Joshua Kisson, was mentioned in the preliminary investigation as bearing liability since he kept Felix on as Siddiqui’s drill instructor even though the gunnery sergeant was already under investigation for putting another Muslim through the dryer treatment in a previous incident.
Up to 20 officials on Parris Island face administrative and potential criminal charges for their complicity in the culture of hazing. The USMC has denied that it promotes needless abuse. “Everything we do has to have intent,” Maj. Steven Allshouse said in May, adding that all training activities must have a specified purpose, not simply disorienting recruits for the sake of disorienting them.
Siddiqui graduated with the best grades of his high school, earning the coveted designation of valedictorian, and told his loved ones before shipping to boot camp he wouldn’t quit “no matter how hard it is,” according to the family. They say he never had a history of mental illness that might make him inclined to kill himself.
Parris Island gained a bad reputation in 1956 when an instructor walked his platoon into a swamp where six trainees died. It was also featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film, “Full Metal Jacket,” as a place home to sadistic instructors.