Not the most festive of reads to choose over Christmas, I grant you, but it was a good one nonetheless.
Since 2002, Mohamedou Slahi has been imprisoned at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In all these years, the United States has never charged him with a crime. A federal judge ordered his release in March 2010, but the U.S. government fought that decision, and there is no sign that the United States plans to let him go.
This is the diary of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, recalling his life before being put into custody, his constant interrogations and life inside Guantanamo. It’s frankly horrific. But most pertinently, it’s important.
To say it’s fair to be suspicious of security services and their treatment of some people is an understatement, and this shines a light on why. Cross-referenced with plenty of footnotes to contextualise many of the (often pointless) redactions, this book gives insight into a world that the USA never wanted anyone to see into.
To be without a charge against him, but face what he has is awful. But within that, you see MOS’s personality, his humour; he himself says it – he doesn’t try to overstate or understate, merely state. If he’s giving snark, if a guard is kind to him, you see it; it’s not one versus the other, good versus bad. He simply writes his way through his thoughts and opinions, experiences and treatment, if someone is worthy of being called Satan, they are. If someone is friendly, he’ll say so.
I can’t recommend this book on the premise that it’s enjoyable in a traditional sense. It isn’t. It’s real, and horrifying, and while there are moments that will raise a smile, this is ultimately something you should read because of it’s standing, the battle to get it released into the world, the picking apart of redactions when possible, to see inside the kind of things that some world powers would rather keep buried.
January 2015 | Canongate Books