Video: “Guantánamo Diary Revisited” – Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Director John Goetz and Andy Worthington

The flier for the online screening of “Guantánamo Diary Revisited,” made available by its distributors in the US and Canada, Cinema Libre Studio, as a fundraiser for Andy Worthington’s work, followed by a Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Slahi, director John Goetz, and Andy. In the film, Goetz assists Slahi in tracking down some of those involved in his torture, the intention being to invite them to tea, and to let them know that he has forgiven everyone responsible for his torture.

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Two weeks ago, Cinema Libre Studio, in Los Angeles, generously allowed the documentary film “Guantánamo Diary Revisited“, for which they are the distributor in the US and Canada, to be shown in an online screening as a fundraiser for my ongoing work on Guantánamo (via my website here, and also via the Close Guantánamo campaign), and I’m pleased to report that it raised several hundred dollars to support my work.

Directed by the journalist John Goetz, the film follows former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi (aka Salahi), as, with the help of Goetz, he tracks down some of those responsible for his torture, meeting with a variety of responses, ranging from guilt to denial, which makes for a very powerful documentary.

The film is available on DVD, and also via a number of streaming services, and if you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll find the opportunity to do so, as it provides a unique insight into the mentality of those who were on the front line of implementing torture at Guantánamo.

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Video: Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Salahi, Kevin Macdonald, Nancy Hollander and I at Screening of ‘The Mauritanian’ in Tunbridge Wells

A screenshot of the Q&A at Tunbridge Wells on March 20, 2022, following a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’ at the Trinity Theatre.

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Last month, I was privileged to take part in a number of events during the first ever UK speaking tour by former Guantánamo prisoner and torture victim Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi), which was arranged by my friend Bernard Sullivan and his niece Oriel, in which the author of the acclaimed memoir “Guantánamo Diary” brought his extraordinary message of forgiveness to Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Chatham House and the LSE in London, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells and a peace centre in Somerset. Mohamedou’s tour culminated in a visit to the Houses of Parliament, where he addressed a number of supportive MPs and peers, and had the distinction of being the first non-British former Guantánamo prisoner to be welcomed into the Palace of Westminster.

As I have previously reported, I met Mohamedou for the very first time at the Chatham House event. I had already taken part in a number of online events with him, so I knew of his charisma, his winning smile and his wicked sense of humour, but, meeting him in person, it was also impossible not to recognize how the torture to which he was subjected continues to haunt him. Like an unsettled day in which the sun breaks out, illuminating everything with warmth and radiance, only for dark clouds to then obscure it, suddenly bringing darkness and cold, Mohamedou alternates between extraordinary sociability and silent seriousness behind which the ghosts that continue to dog him are evidently still at play.

The Chatham House event, on March 10, was my first opportunity to see Mohamedou’s mesmerising effect on audiences, and it was followed, as were all his speaking events, by attendees queuing up to buy copies of  “Guantánamo Diary”, and to have them signed by Mohamedou, as he engaged with them and brought them directly into his world for a few moments.

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“Guantánamo Diary Revisited”: Online Screening of New Documentary as a Fundraiser for My Guantánamo Work

The flier for the fundraising screening next week of the new documentary film “Guantánamo Diary Revisited.”

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I’m delighted to announce that, next week, from April 20-23, filmmakers and distributors Cinema Libre Studio are hosting an online screening of the new documentary film, “Guantánamo Diary Revisited,” followed by an exclusive Q&A session, on April 23, as a fundraiser to support my ongoing work on Guantánamo via my website, and via the website of the Close Guantánamo campaign that I co-founded in 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner.

“Guantánamo Diary Revisited” is directed by the investigative journalist John Goetz, and has just been released by Cinema Libre Studio in the US and Canada on DVD and on a variety of streaming platforms. It follows former Guantánamo prisoner and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi (aka Salahi), after his release from Guantánamo in October 2016, as, with John, Mohamedou set out to find the “Special Projects” interrogators, including the mysterious Mr. X, who tortured him at Guantánamo on the orders of the now-deceased defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “in order to seek revenge … by inviting them to tea,” as the film’s publicity blurb explains.

Mohamedou, extraordinarily, realized that the only way to avoid being trapped by the torture to which he was subjected was to forgive everyone who had wronged him, the significance of which I first noticed soon after his release, when, in a video made for the ACLU, he said, “I wholeheartedly forgive everyone who wronged me during my detention, and I forgive because forgiveness is my inexhaustible resource.”

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How I Finally Met Former Guantánamo Prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi As A Free Man

Mohamedou Ould Salahi and Andy Worthington meeting for the first time at Chatham House in London on March 10, 2022 (Photo: Bernard Sullivan).

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Last Thursday, at Chatham House, the independent policy institute in St. James’s Square in London, I finally got to meet someone I greatly admire, who I’ve been writing about since 2006 — Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi), former Guantánamo prisoner, torture survivor, and the author of the best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, who was taking part in a discussion about Guantánamo with Rachel Briggs, a Chatham House Fellow, and Sonya Sceats of Freedom from Torture, as part of his ongoing UK speaking tour.

I’ve taken part in various online events with Mohamedou over the last year (see here, here and here), but meeting him in person was a particular thrill. He was as witty and as playful as I expected, and, at the event, spoke compellingly about the importance of forgiveness, which he has extended to all those who tortured and abused him, and which is a defining aspect of his philosophy.

I first came across Mohamedou’s case in 2006-07, while I was researching and writing about the stories of all the men held at Guantánamo for my book The Guantánamo Files, published in September 2007.

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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.

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‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’ — Mohamedou Ould Salahi and I Are Keynote Speakers at Brighton University Online Conference on Nov. 12-13

A screenshot from the website of the conference, ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, taking place on Nov. 12-13, 2021.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

I’m delighted to announce a two-day online conference about Guantánamo — ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After‘ — on Friday November 12 and Saturday November 13, hosted by the University of Brighton, which I’ve been organizing with Sara Birch, a lecturer in law at the university and, like me, a longtime advocate for the prison’s closure.

Covid-19 has made the conference an online affair, but what it has also done is to allow us to bring together people who might not have been able to travel for a physical conference; in this case, in particular, former Guantánamo prisoners who, in common with everyone who has been released from the prison over the unforgivably long years of its existence, face restrictions on their ability to travel freely, either because they aren’t allowed to have passports, or because they face often insurmountable problems getting visas.

I’m honoured to have been asked to open the conference on Friday as a keynote speaker, followed by former Guantánamo prisoner and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi, and on Saturday we’re delighted to have former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi and his collaborator Antonio Aiello — on Adayfi’s recently published memoir ‘Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo’ — as guest speakers.

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“The Mauritanian” Perfectly Captures the Horrors of Guantánamo and the US Torture Program

The goody bag for the online screening of “The Mauritanian” that I was invited to attend last Friday, February 5, 2021.

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UPDATE MAR. 3, 2021: “The Mauritanian” is now available for streaming in the US, although UK viewers will have to wait until April 1.

Last Friday I was privileged to be invited to an online pre-release screening of “The Mauritanian,” the new feature film about former Guantánamo prisoner and torture victim Mohamedou Ould Slahi (aka Salahi), based on his best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

French actor Tahar Rahim shines as Mohamedou, capturing his nimble mind, and also capturing something of his gentle charisma, admirably supported by his attorneys Nancy Hollander (played by Jodie Foster) and Teri Duncan (actually a composite of two attorneys, played by Shailene Woodley), and with Benedict Cumberbatch appearing as Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, Mohamedou’s military prosecutor, who resigned after discovering his torture, and how the only evidence against him consisted of statements that he made as a result of his torture.

The screenplay was written by Michael Bronner (as M. B. Traven), working with the writing duo of Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, and the director was Kevin Macdonald, and all involved are to be commended for creating a film that does justice to Mohamedou’s story — and I’m grateful to Nancy Hollander for having specifically included a photo of herself holding up a “Close Guantánamo” poster in the end credits, which I took of her in April 2016 at a Parliamentary meeting for Mohamedou in London.

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Video: Mohamedou Ould Salahi and I Discuss the Closure of Guantánamo with Lewes Amnesty Group on Jan. 11, 2021

A screenshot of former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi speaking to Lewes Amnesty Group on January 11, 2021, the 19th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On January 11, the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was pleased to take part in a couple of events, to make up for my inability, because of Covid, to visit the US to campaign for the prison’s closure, as I have been doing every year since 2011.

To mark the occasion, I was interviewed by Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof, for a video that is available here, and earlier I had taken part in an online meeting organized by the Lewes Amnesty Group, a very active group, dating back to the days when campaigners across south east England, and beyond, including campaigners in Lewes, fought to secure the release from Guantánamo of Brighton resident Omar Deghayes (who was released in 2007), and Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally released in 2015 after a huge campaign that involved MPs, the media, celebrities and two particular groups, the long-running Save Shaker Aamer campaign, and We Stand With Shaker, which I set up with campaigner Joanne MacInnes in 2014, and which involved getting MPs and celebrities to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, to demand his release.

The featured guest of the Lewes Amnesty Group’s meeting was former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the author of the best-selling Guantánamo Diary (UK edition here), and a survivor of US torture in Jordan, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, whose story has been adapted by Hollywood for a new feature film, ‘The Mauritanian,’ which will be released next month.

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Close Guantánamo: Online Events Marking the 19th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison on January 11, 2021

Campaigners from Witness Against Torture and other organizations call for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

For the last ten years, I have traveled to the US from London (since 2012 as the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, which I co-founded that year with the US attorney Tom Wilner) to take part in events marking the anniversary, on January 11, of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, with a particular focus on a vigil outside the White House, with representatives of numerous NGOs including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Witness Against Torture.

This year, sadly, because of Covid, the vigil is only happening online, and my visit has been called off, although I am currently finalizing details of online replacements for events that I usually undertake in person — a panel discussion with our other co-founder Tom Wilner at New America in Washington, D.C., and another at Revolution Books in New York with Guantánamo lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis — as well as some other online discussions. See my post here about the Revolution Books event, which is on Sunday January 17, and begins at 4pm Eastern time. It will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. I hope to have details about the New America event soon.

For this year’s anniversary, I urge you to join Close Guantánamo’s photo campaign, taking a photo with our poster marking how long Guantánamo has been open on January 11 — 6,941 days — and sending it to us at info@closeguantanamo.org. You can also take a photo with our follow-up poster for January 20, the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, when the prison will have been open for 6,950 days. We’ll be posting the photos on our website, and sharing them on social media.

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Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohamedou Ould Salahi and the Extraordinary Power of Forgiveness

Former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi photographed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson for Middle East Eye.

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.





 

In the long and dispiriting history of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, few of the 729 men and boys released have become household names, but one who has is the Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Salahi, best known as the author of the acclaimed memoir Guantánamo Diary, written while he was at the prison.

A victim of the US’s global network of torture prisons, and subjected to a special torture program at Guantánamo that was approved by then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Salahi (generally identified at Guantánamo as Slahi) was mistakenly regarded as a significant player in Al-Qaeda, but was finally approved for release in July 2016, and was released in Mauritania three months later, almost 15 years since his own government, as he so memorably put it, “turned me over, short-cutting all kinds of due process, like a candy bar to the United States.”

Despite being freed, Salahi is trapped in Mauritania, as his government has broken a promise to return his passport to him after two years, a situation that I wrote about in March, when, as I also pointed out, everyone released from Guantánamo — all those men and boys described by the US as “enemy combatants” — are forever tainted by the experience, and continue to live fundamentally without rights.

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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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