MY GUANTÁNAMO DIARY by Mahvish Rukhsana Khan
Kirkus Star


The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me
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Based on what she learned as a translator at the notorious detention center, the American-born daughter of Afghan immigrants indicts the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners there.

Khan explains how she found her way inside the heavily guarded Guantánamo Bay facility. Her parents had made sure she learned the Pashto language of their homeland, and while she was a law student at the University of Miami she became outraged by what she learned about Guantánamo operations, which she judged “a blatant affront” to American principles. Khan did not assume that all detainees at Guantánamo were innocent of terrorism-related crimes. She did believe, however, that each had the right to a lawyer and a fair hearing on the charges alleged by the federal government. She contacted Michael Ratner, an attorney at New York City’s Center for Constitutional Rights who was challenging government policy at Guantánamo. Because none of the lawyers trying to assist the detainees spoke Pashto, Khan’s usefulness was apparent from the time of her initial visit in 2006. Despite the security precautions, she kept notes; the text alternates between the stories she heard from detainees and her personal experiences inside the facility. She was stunned, for example, by the treatment of Ali Shah Mousovi, a pediatrician in Afghanistan who was classified as a terrorist for reasons that neither he nor Khan could discern. Arrested while trying to open a medical clinic in an Afghan town, Mousovi told Khan that he had been beaten, spat upon, stripped naked and forced to remain awake for days while standing stock-still. Khan heard similar accounts from detainee after detainee; she judged them credible, and her outrage grew. She holds back little in her searing debut, realizing that few other observers are in a position to reveal the truth as she found it.

A gutsy and disturbing exposé of U.S. civilian and military personnel out of control.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-58648-498-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2008