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.”

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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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Video: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Elizabeth Miller and I Discuss 9/11 and Guantánamo in a WVIA/Bloomsburg University Show, “Conversations for the Common Good”

A screenshot of “Reaction to 9/11: Dialing Back Civil Rights, Violation of Human Rights,” a discussion about 9/11, Guantánamo and the US’s post-9/11 torture program with former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Elizabeth Miller, a Rule of Law Fellow for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, broadcast by WVIA, a PBS-affiliated channel in Pennsylvania, as part of an ongoing series of shows, “Conversations for the Common Good,” produced in conjunction with Bloomsburg University. The moderator was Larry Vojtko.

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 Wednesday (January 26), I was delighted to take part in “Reaction to 9/11: Dialing Back Civil Rights, Violation of Human Rights,” a discussion about 9/11, Guantánamo and the US’s post-9/11 torture program with former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Elizabeth Miller, a Rule of Law Fellow for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, which describes itself as “an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace.” Miller lost her father, a firefighter, on 9/11, but like all the other Peaceful Tomorrows members, believes fervently that the U.S. lost its way in its response to the attacks.

The show was broadcast by WVIA, a PBS-affiliated channel in Pennsylvania, and is part of an ongoing series of shows, “Conversations for the Common Good,” produced in conjunction with Bloomsburg University. The moderator was Larry Vojtko, and the show — 72 minutes in total — is available here on WVIA’s website. I’d like to thank William Hudon, a history professor at the university, and a long-time supporter of the Close Guantánamo campaign, for first approaching me last year about this event, and for helping to make it happen.

It’s always good to hear Mohamedou talk, especially when he discusses the power of forgiveness, and I was pleased to finally meet Elizabeth, who articulated well the feeling of betrayal when her government embarked on a program of kidnap and torture after 9/11, betraying the values her father held dear. It was also interesting to hear about the friendship that developed between Mohamedou and Elizabeth, who found common ground in how the US government failed them after 9/11, and, for my part, I was pleased to have been given the opportunity to explain in detail quite why the prison is, and always has been such a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and why it must be closed.

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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 Bleak Legacy of Donald Rumsfeld: Guantánamo, Torture and Two Failed and Astonishingly Destructive Wars

Former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has died at the age of 88, and a grimly iconic photo of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

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If there was any justice in this world, Donald Rumsfeld, the former US defense secretary from 2001 to 2006 under George W. Bush, who has died at the age of 88, would have been held accountable for his crimes against humanity at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq; instead, he apparently passed away peacefully surrounded by his family in Taos, New Mexico.

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld directed the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, when the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners in wartime were shamefully jettisoned, and he was also responsible for the establishment of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which opened on January 11, 2002.

At Kandahar and Bagram — and at numerous other prisons across Afghanistan — all those who came into US custody were regarded as “enemy combatants,” who could be held without any rights whatsoever. The torture and abuse of prisoners was widespread, and numerous prisoners were killed in US custody, as I reported in When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan, an article I published 12 years ago today.

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Clinton Advisor Anthony Lake and Close Guantánamo Co-Founder Tom Wilner Call on President Biden to Close the Prison

Anthony Lake, national security adviser to President Clinton from 1993 to 1997 (photo via Unicef), and Close Guantánamo co-founder Tom Wilner, photographed calling for the closure of Guantánamo in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2012 (photo via Shrieking Tree).

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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.

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Anthony Lake, national security adviser to President Clinton from 1993 to 1997, and Close Guantánamo co-founder Tom Wilner, who was counsel of record to Guantánamo detainees in the two Supreme Court cases establishing their right to habeas corpus and in the case establishing their right to legal counsel, made a powerful case for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which we’re pleased to be cross-posting below.

Thursday marked the end of the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, and while we’re aware that the new administration has had a huge workload to deal with after four ruinous years of the Trump presidency, and with the unprecedented challenge of dealing with Covid-19, it remains imperative that the scandal of the prison at Guantánamo is dealt with sooner rather than later, because its continued existence is an affront to all of the US’s cherished notions of itself as a country that respects the rule of law.

Using, as a springboard, the recent release of the movie “The Mauritanian,” which tells the story of former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Lake and Wilner run through the reasons why Guantánamo’s continued existence is so shameful and counter-productive — a hugely expensive offshore prison where the US “detains men indefinitely, without charge or trial or the basic protections of due process of law,” whose continued existence also damages US national security by inflaming tensions within the Muslim world.

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A Celebration of Guantánamo Activism Past and Present by Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon

Witness Against Torture activists occupy the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on January 11, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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The following cross-posted article, with my introduction, was originally published on 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.

Two weeks ago, we marked 7,000 days of Guantánamo’s existence as part of our ongoing photo campaign, with supporters sending in photos of themselves holding up posters marking how long the prison had been open, and urging President Biden to close it.

Since President Biden’s inauguration two months ago, his administration has thrown only a few crumbs of hope to campaigners for the closure of the prison, with which we have had to sustain ourselves — defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin telling the Senate that it’s “time for Guantánamo to close its doors,” and press secretary Jen Psaki announcing a “robust” review of the prison, in the 20th year of its operations, and the administration’s “intention” to close it.

As we await further news, we’re delighted that a great friend of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Jeremy Varon, has written a detailed article for Waging Nonviolence, “an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world.”

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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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