Former Guantánamo Prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi Embarks on a UK Speaking Tour


A screenshot of former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi) speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Lewes Amnesty Group on January 11, 2021 (the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison), which also featured journalist and activist Andy Worthington.

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I’m delighted to report that former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi) has safely arrived in the UK for his first ever speaking tour, and appeared yesterday evening (March 3) at the University of Bristol’s Human Rights Implementation Centre, where, according to the human rights activist Bernard Sullivan, who has organised his tour, he spoke “to a packed auditorium of academics, students and guests, with many others watching via Zoom”, and where copies of his book Guantánamo Diary, which he was signing, sold out.

Mohamedou is here for the rest of the month, taking part in nine other events, and I’m pleased to note that I will be joining him for two of these, at the University of Brighton and at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. Some of the events will also involve a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’, the feature film based on Guantánamo Diary, directed by Kevin Macdonald, and featuring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’ve been following Mohamedou’s story since I first began working on Guantánamo full-time 16 years ago, and I first met Bernard when he and his wife Susie helped to arrange a Parliamentary meeting about Mohamedou’s case, in April 2016, hosted by the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, at which the actors Sanjeev Bhaskar and Toby Jones read out passages from Mohamedou’s book, and those in attendance also heard from his brother Yahdih, who lives and works in Germany, Nancy Hollander, Jo Glanville, the director of English PEN, and Jamie Byng of Canongate Books, Mohamedou’s UK publisher.

After Mohamedou’s eventual release, in October 2016, we established contact via social media, and he has, on several occasions, taken photos of himself with the posters marking every 100 days of Guantánamo’s existence that I’ve been running for several years via the Close Guantánamo campaign that I established in 2012 with the US lawyer Tom Wilner. We also took part in a Q&A session together (although he was on Zoom) at a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’ in Lewes in November (where I first met Kevin Macdonald, and for which Nancy Hollander also joined us by Zoom), and we have also taken part in a number of powerful Zoom events together over the last year, but we haven’t yet met in person, and so I’m very excited that I’m finally going to do so.

Full details of all Mohamedou’s events are below:

Monday March 7, 5pm: Cambridge Union, 9A Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UB
Mohamedou will be in conversation with James Vitali, the Cambridge Union Society’s President for the Lent Term. The Facebook page is here.

Wednesday March 9, 6pm: Cynthia Beerbower Room, Newnham College, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DF
In an event hosted by the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement, Mohamedou will undertake a Q&A session from 6-7pm, followed by a screening of ‘The Mauritanian.’ For the events page, see here or here.

Thursday March 10, 6pm: Chatham House, 10 St. James’s Square, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4LE
An event for Chatham House members only, entitled, ‘The legacy of Guantanamo Bay prison.’ For the event page, see here.

Monday March 14, 5pm: Old College, the University of Edinburgh, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL
Hosted by the Global Justice Academy and the Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law, this event is entitled, ‘The Past, Present and Future. A Conversation with Mohamedou Ould Salahi, author of Guantánamo Diary.’ The event page is here, and you can book a place via Eventbrite here.

Wednesday March 16, 5pm: Hong Kong Theatre,  London School of Economics (LSE), New Academic Building, Clement House, 99 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BG
Mohamedou will be in conversation with Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director of Human Rights Watch. You can book a place via Eventbrite here.

Thursday March 17, 5.30pm: The University of Brighton, Moulsecoomb Campus, Brighton BN2
Mohamedou will be joined by journalist and activist Andy Worthington (author of The Guantánamo Files) for a Q&A session following a screening of ‘The Mauritanian.’ The event is primarily for students and university staff, but if you’re in the area and would like to attend please email Sara Birch, law lecturer and Convenor of the UK Guantánamo Network, who is hosting the Q&A.

Sunday March 20, 7pm: Trinity Theatre, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1JP
Mohamedou will be joined for a Q&A, after a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’, by director Kevin Macdonald, journalist and activist Andy Worthington (author of The Guantánamo Files), and, via Zoom, his lawyer, Nancy Hollander. Book tickets via the event page here.

Thursday March 24, 7.30pm, Ammerdown Centre, Radstock, Somerset, BA3 5SW
Mohamedou will be in conversation with Prof. Simon Keyes, Professor of Reconciliation and Peacebuilding at the University of Winchester. The event page is on Facebook here, and you can book a place via Eventbrite here.

And finally, on Tuesday March 29, Mohamedou will meet with MPs for lunch and a tour of Parliament. Further details to follow.

For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Bernard Sullivan by email or by phone: +44 (0)7884 263132.

Here’s the biography that Bernard sent out with his press release:

Mohamedou Ould Salahi was born in Rosso, Mauritania, the ninth of twelve children of a camel herder. His family moved to the capital of Nouakchott when he was a child, where he attended school and earned a scholarship to study electrical engineering at Gerhard-Mercator University in Duisburg, Germany.

In 2001, he was living and working in his home country of Mauritania when he was detained and renditioned to Jordan, beginning an ordeal that he would chronicle in his internationally-bestselling Guantánamo Diary. The manuscript, which he wrote in his isolation cell in the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, remained classified for almost eight years and was finally released, with substantial redactions, in 2013.

It was first published in the United States and United Kingdom in January, 2015, and has since been published in twenty-five languages. In 2021 it was adapted into the film ‘The Mauritanian’, directed by Kevin MacDonald, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim.

After fifteen years of detention, Mohamedou was released on October 17th, 2016 to Mauritania. The following year, he published a “restored edition” of Guantánamo Diary, filling in the US government’s redactions, and in February 2021 his first novel, The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga, was published by Ohio University Press.

He is now living and working in the Netherlands as writer-in-residence at Club Guy and Roni, writing the script for ‘Freedom’, an explosive high energy and poignant dance performance.

As a writer, Mohamedou Ould Salahi advocates for a world where freedom is an inherent right and forgiveness a core value.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    I’m delighted to publicise the first ever UK speaking tour — throughout March 2022 — by former Guantanamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi), with events in cities including London, Cambridge and Edinburgh, and also in Brighton and Tunbridge Wells, where I’ll be joining him. Some of the events will also feature screenings of ‘The Mauritanian’, the film based on Mohamedou’s memoir, ‘Guantanamo Diary’, featuring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch.

    I’ve done online events with Mohamedou before, but I’ve never met him in person, so I’m excited that I’m finally going to do so!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone taking an interest in this. I hope some of you are in – or close enough to – the places these events are taking place in to attend. I’m particular looking forward to seeing some of you at Brighton University on March 17th and Tunbridge Wells on March 20th!

    And for US readers, of course, the shame remains that no former Guantanamo prisoner is allowed onto US soil, to explain to US citizens what was done in their name – and is still being done in their names – at the prison. Fortunately, we have had some great opportunities recently to hear from former prisoners – and in some cases their families.

    Amnesty International has just put together this video, from the online vigil on Jan. 11, featuring Abdul Latif Nasser speaking for the first time since his release last summer, Mansoor Adayfi speaking from Serbia, and the family of Sufyian Barhoumi in Algeria, still awaiting his return home five years after he was approved for release:

  3. Anna says...

    Hi Andy, this is wonderful. I was confused with info which amazingly seemed to suggest he was in Holland but now I understand :-). As we discussed here already quite some time ago, I would love to organise a cinema tour as the one with you and Moazzam way back in 2011, so please ask Mohamedou whether he would be interested in that.
    In the foreseeable future there is no point as of course all attention is directed at the drama unfolding at our next-door neighbours’ and he will be in the UK anyway. But maybe in spring ?
    PS : I’m glad he has a sense of humour for I once committed a dreadful faux pas when telling a Mauretanian camel owner (an MD) that Mauretanian camels seemed to be smaller than Nigerean (from Niger) ones …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Mohamedou has a residency in Holland, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about that when I finally get to meet him, Anna, when I’ll also ask him about whether he’d be interested in a Polish visit.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Check out Bernard’s account here of how Mohamedou was detained and harassed on arrival in the UK, and my response about how this is frustratingly common for former Guantanamo prisoners, who bear the stigma of having been designated by the US as “enemy combatants’ without fundamental rights, a lawless situation that needs to be challenged.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    The closest we have are a few former guards and a couple of journalists that try to explain but they cannot capture the true pain, degradation and fear that comes from being a victim of Guantanamo.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, agreed, Jan. It’s actually profoundly shameful that legislation prevents any former prisoners from coming to the US to explain what was done to them.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Lorraine Barlett wrote:

    What a miracle is this man’s life. And you Andy are a blessing.💕👏

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you for the lovely supportive words, Lorraine!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Jessy Mumpo wrote:

    So glad you will meet. He seems absolutely delightful, authentic and such a big hearted man ❤️

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, well said, Jessy. His focus on the importance of forgiveness is inspirational.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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