Harrowing memoir by a Turkish citizen residing in Germany who underwent torture, interrogation and humiliation at the hands of American troops in Guantánamo Bay.
Kurnaz’s young life reached a dramatic turning point in late 2001, when the 19-year-old attempted to board a plane to Germany from Peshawar, Pakistan. Arrested but never charged with any crime, he was shunted through various jail cells, questioned by authorities and then shipped out to an American base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His brief time in Kandahar was marked by torture—electrocution, hanging from a hook by handcuffs, near-drowning—and constant questions about his (nonexistent) involvement with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Things were no better after his transfer to Guantánamo. Kurnaz vivifies his grim experiences with an excellent memory and eye for detail, as well as some humorous asides (remarkable, considering the circumstances). Treatment ranged from barbarous punishments to increasingly bizarre attempts to coax information from him: Neither nearly naked women nor a fully furnished prayer room succeeded in eliciting a confession. His depictions of the various Guantánamo camps in which he was detained provoke the full gamut of emotions. A heartbreaking passage about a fellow prisoner who received a daily beating despite the fact that both legs had been amputated is a discomfiting reminder about humanity’s ability to inflict pain on its own kind. Tales about hunger strikes and other forms of protest show the prisoners gaining a modicum of self-respect despite the brutal conditions. Kurnaz was finally released in 2006, but a blistering epilogue by his lawyer, Baher Azmy, gives no thanks to the obstructive authorities in either the United States or Germany.
A vital document that should—rightly—shock and appall.