‘Guantánamo Kid’: A Graphic Novel Telling the Harrowing Story of Child Prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani by Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc

Promotion for 'Guantanamo Kid' featuring a review by Andy Worthington.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

On Tuesday March 12, the British publisher SelfMadeKid is releasing ‘Guantánamo Kid,’ a graphic novel by Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc, which tells the harrowing story of former child prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani. It was first published last year, in French, by Dargaud.

I’m pleased to note that the publishers asked me to write a review for the book, which they have used in the promotional image at the top of this article, and in which I stated, “Mohammed El-Gharani knows all about the horrors of Guantánamo, as a child subjected to torture by the US authorities and held in the prison for eight years. And yet far too many people still don’t know about Guantánamo’s long and abusive history, and one main reason is that no footage or photos of any of the torture and abuse has ever surfaced. Overcoming this critical lack of images, Jérôme Tubiana, a journalist who spent time with Mohammed after his release in 2010, hearing his story, has worked with the talented comic artist Alexandre Franc to bring his ordeal to life in a graphic novel that deserves to be read as widely as possible, as, in page after page of harrowing memories, Mohammed tells his story with wit, endurance and unbreakable spirit.”

I covered Mohammed El-Gharani’s story extensively while he was held at Guantánamo, originally in my book The Guantánamo Files, published in September 2007, in which I explained what I had been able to piece together at the time about his story, via US military documents, and his lawyers, at the London-based legal action charity Reprieve. Read the rest of this entry »

How Laurie Anderson Brought Guantánamo to New York

Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve with a giant, real-time projection of his client, former Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed el-Gharani, at 'Habeas Corpus," an exhibition by Laurie Anderson in New York on October 2, 2015.I’ve been very busy lately — mainly with the launch of Fast For Shaker, a new campaign for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — and didn’t have the time until now to write about a fascinating project by the artist Laurie Anderson, who staged an event, in New York — “Habeas Corpus” — where she beamed in, live, a giant 3D projection of former Guantánamo child prisoner Mohammed el-Gharani.

Mohammed was one of at least 23 juveniles held at Guantánamo, although only three were officially acknowledged. See Al-Jazeera’s important new documentary, Growing up Guantánamo, for more about this — it focuses on Asadullah Rahman, an Afghan who was just ten when he was seized and sent to Guantánamo with two other Afghan boys.

At Guantánamo, where Mohammed was held between 2002 and 2009, he was subjected to torture, as the US denied his true age (14 or just 15 when he was seized) and tried to tie him in to all manner of ridiculous plots — like an invented al-Qaeda cell in London, which he was supposed to have been part of, even though he was only 11 at the time, and had never left Saudi Arabia, where he was born to parents from Chad. I first wrote about him in my book The Guantánamo Files, in 2007, and then wrote a profile of him in April 2008, Guantánamo’s forgotten child: the sad story of Mohammed El-Gharani, covered a judge granting his habeas corpus petition in January 2009, and his release in June 2009, followed by further complications relating to his return to Chad, despite his parents living in Saudi Arabia — see Mohammed speaking to Al-Jazeera here, for example, and this report from an investigator with his lawyers at Reprieve in December 2009, and please, if you have time, read the long interview with him, by the journalist Jérôme Tubiana, which was published in the London Review of Books in December 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

To Mark 10 Years of Guantánamo, Stern Magazine Profiles Five Former Prisoners

Last week, when I cross-posted an article written for the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo by my friend Todd Pierce, I also noted that when I visited the US in January to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, I was so busy that I did not have time to cross-post other articles of interest that were published at the time, and added, “In the hope of keeping alive some of that spirit of awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that flickered briefly to life around the anniversary, I’m planning to cross-post some of these articles.”

After starting with Todd’s article, I’m now moving on to a detailed article that was published in Germany’s Stern Magazineavailable here as a PDF, and helpfully translated into English for Cageprisoners, via Google Translate, in a translation that I have tidied up.

The article features interviews with five former prisoners — Sami al-Laithi (aka el-Leithi), an Egyptian; Omar Deghayes, a British resident; Mohammed el-Gharani, a Chadian and former child prisoner; Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, an Afghan and a former Taliban ambassador; and Abu Bakker Qassim, a Uighur (a Muslim from China’s Xinjiang province) released from Guantánamo to Albania. The stories of all of these men have been reported before, but fresh eyes and ears are also ways useful to continue to expose the horrific history of Guantánamo, and its ongoing injustices, and the Stern article also featured a collection of powerful photos, as well as quotes from other prisoners — David Hicks (from Australia), Murat Kurnaz (from Germany) and Moazzam Begg (from the UK). Read the rest of this entry »

An Extraordinary Interview with Former Guantánamo Child Prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani

When I began researching and writing about Guantánamo, nearly six years ago, one of the stories that seized my attention was that of Mohammed El-Gharani, a Chadian national, who had grown up with his parents in Saudi Arabia, and, after traveling to Pakistan to study, had been picked up in a random raid on a mosque in Karachi — many hundreds of miles from the battlefields of Afghanistan — when he was just 14 years of age. I included his story in my book, The Guantánamo Files, and also introduced him to readers in my April 2008 article, “Guantánamo’s forgotten child: the sad story of Mohammed El-Gharani.”

Mohammed was horribly abused in US custody, and was never held separately from the adult prisoners, even though that is a requirement of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which the US ratified a year after his capture. The Optional Protocol also requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict,” and not to punish them — but in fact just three of the 22 confirmed juvenile prisoners held at Guantánamo (those under 18 when their alleged crimes took place) were ever held separately from the rest of the prisoners, and treated humanely.

Mohammed’s fortunes only finally turned in January 2009, when Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W Bush in the District Court in Washington D.C., granted his habeas corpus petition and ordered his release, after finding that the government’s claims — primarily, that he had traveled to Afghanistan for jihad — were based on statements made by a mentally unstable prisoner who had provided demonstrably false information against numerous other prisoners, confirming what I and other researchers had discovered in the files made available to the public, and preempting what has been made even more obvious in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April (on which I worked as a media partner). Mohammed had also been subjected to one of the most idiotic allegations of all, which Judge Leon also recognized as idiotic — namely, that, was a member of an al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998, when he was just 11 years old. As his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, explained in his book, The Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice In Guantánamo Bay, “he must have been beamed over to the al-Qaeda meetings by the Starship Enterprise, since he never left Saudi Arabia by conventional means.” Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo

In May 2008, in a submission to the 48th Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (PDF), the Pentagon claimed that it had only held eight juveniles — those under the age of 18 when their alleged crimes took place — during the life of the Guantánamo Bay prison. This, however, was a lie, as its own documents providing the names and dates of birth of prisoners, released in May 2006 (PDF), showed that the true total was much higher.

In November 2008, the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas published a report, “Guantánamo’s Children: Military and Diplomatic Testimonies,” presenting evidence that 12 juveniles had been held, and this was then officially acknowledged by the Pentagon.

The next week, however, I produced another report, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” providing evidence that at least 22 juvenile prisoners had been held, and drawing on the Pentagon’s own documents, or on additional statements made by the Pentagon, to confirm my claims.

Two and a half years later, I stand by that report, and am only prepared to concede that up to three of the prisoners I identified as juveniles may have been 18 at the time of their capture. In the meantime, I have identified three more juvenile prisoners, and possibly three others, bringing the total back to 22, and possibly as many as 28. Read the rest of this entry »

Scaremongers Fail to Undermine WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Revelations

For regular readers of this site, the release, by Wikileaks, of classified military documents relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo will not have yielded any great surprises.

Since May 2007, I have been writing articles on a regular basis dealing exclusively with the horrors of Guantánamo and the Bush administration’s torture program, explaining how few of the prisoners held at Guantánamo had any involvement with terrorism, how many innocent men and boys were seized by mistake or sold to US forces for bounty payments by the military’s Afghan and Pakistani allies, and how the “War on Terror” initiated by the Bush administration was an abomination.

This was because Bush’s “war” — essentially maintained by the Obama administration — involved confusing terrorists with soldiers, and attempting to do away with the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, as well as other traditions more specifically associated with the United States — the Constitution and the separation of powers, for example, sidelined by an executive branch that sought unfettered executive power. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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