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My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me

My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me [Kindle Edition]

Mahvish Khan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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"(U)nforgettable... Of all the many books about the evil that is Guantanamo... this one, though full of pain, has enough joy, jokes and insight to make it my recommendation for anyone who still wonders what Guantanamo is really like." The Guardian "(b)y focusing on the personal accounts of her clients and giving them names, faces and stories, Khan's book is a powerful reminder that theses men have all been away from their families for more than five years - and that they have all been denied a fair hearing. My Guantanamo Diary argues persuasively for this aberration to US law to be resolved." FT"

Product Description

Mahvish Khan is the only Afghan-American to walk into Guantanamo of her own accord. This unique book is her story, and the story of the men she grew to know uniquely well inside the cages of Guantanamo. Mahvish Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Afghan parents. She was outraged that her country, the USA, seemed to have suspended its tradition of equality for all under the law with regard to those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and so she volunteered to translate for the lawyers - including British lawyer and founder of Reprieve Clive Stafford Smith - acting pro bono for the prisoners. Because she spoke their language, understood their customs and brought them Starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home, they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away at home. Some at Guantanamo are terrorists who deserve to be convicted and sentenced as such. Some are paediatricians and school teachers. We cannot tell the difference until we see them as individuals with their own unique stories. They deserve that much. No other writer has had access to the detainees. This book is a testament to their captivity. It documents the voices of men who have been tortured and held in a black hole of indefinite detention without legal recourse for years. It shows who they are and also allows readers to see that these men are more similar to us than they are different.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1468 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (11 Jan 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009W7H9RY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #642,199 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
From the moment that I picked up this book I could not put it down. Having heard a lot of the news about Guantanamo and the politics behind it I wanted to hear and understand the other side of the story. All too often we only think of evil terrorists who have plotted and killed hundreds of people who have been locked up in Guantanamo so that they can receive just punishment. This book puts into question the entire basis of American democracy and the 'just' system of equality that they boast about having. Mahvish Khan tells the story of a number of men whom she came in contact with at the prison. From the outset she portrays these men as human beings not simply the numbers they are given in jail. She tells the story of each of these men and how they were taken from their homes without any warning, beaten, tortured and flown over to Guantanamo sometimes for the simple reason that they were wearing a particular watch (i.e. One of the men was arrested for having a Casio watch that American intelligence thought that al Qaeda used to detonate bombs) or they were handed in to the Americans by a person who collected a bounty of $25, 000 for handing them in. This book throws into question how the detainees are actually found and the allegations made against them. What stood out for me in particular was the fact that often there was not substantial enough evidence against the men for them to be held in the first place. America is able to get away with this as these men do not have any rights according to the Americans as they are acting against the country. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars What the TV news do not tell you! 23 Dec 2009
Now and then, the news in my country has shown pictures from Gitmo but all in all I and most people do not know a thing what is going on there. Who is imprisoned there and why, that is what I have been asking myself for many years. The only thing I have understood has been that the people sitting there have not received a trial. when I saw this book on a library shelf, I grabbed it to finally find out something about this strange phenomena. It felt like a diary written by a woman visiting the "camp" would be easier to digest than perhaps a memoir written by a released prisoner. And I was right. It is a gripping book that is both shocking but also filled with love and in some cases, humour. I can only say after reading this book that I hope that the men mentioned in it will be released and returned to their families and that the US can come up with a better way to fight terrorism. Guantánamo Bay is not a righteous one and not worthy of a country that calls itself a democracy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 23 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was apprehensive reading this book. I didn't want to read a book that would upset me greatly, but i was pleasantly surprised. Yes it contains some very sad stories but it is balanced with some humerous stories. The goat herder who couldn't remember how many goats he used to look after or the nasty letter the author got from the American army which she has hung up above her toilet. Super. Super. Super.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What a read...!! 18 Dec 2009
By NaVsKi
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I couldnt put this book down once I started to read it. It was captivating, the truth about the way the detainees at Guantanamo are treated is appalling and will fill your eyes with tears if you have any morals and ethics! A must read...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book 16 Jun 2008
By CUBUFF - Published on
This book is one of those books that you will not be able to get out of your thoughts. The book beautifully written. It is almost impossible to put down. What I enjoyed most about My Guantanamo Diary, is that it it transcends the story of Guantanamo. It is a human story about relationships, love and betrayal that I think many people will be able to relate to.

Mahvish Khan is a brilliant writer. The book is joyous, and smart and at the same time distressing. She has a pleasingly cynical sense of humor, one that cuts right through the material. This is such good material that is well considered and presented.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular book And a MUST read in an election year 28 July 2008
By Beth DeRoos - Published on
In this book My Guantánamo Diary the author shows why in an election year, we citizens have to know what our government is doing. Mahvish Khan is an American born lawyer, which I hope people remember.

She is not an enemy of the United States, but such a lover of the United States Constitution, which I wish more supporters of the Bush administration were. She even notes that when she first went to Guantánamo even she assumed she would be meeting terrorists.

The author also is a very positive person so please don't assume the book is all gloom and doom. As an American I found the book to be a wonderful insight into how far we have come since Washington was President, to a place I personally don't like.

The book will or should make you ask yourself if you were arrested, how long do you think you should be held without contact with a lawyer or visits from family? And the author also shares that those men who have been freed after six or more years of arrest, because they were not guilty, do not have hatred toward the American citizen. Would you be as gracious if you were in their shoes?

The book also reminded me that George Washington wrote in a March 24, 1784, letter to his aide Tench Tilghman, saying that Muslims should be hired. Thomas Jefferson owned and read the Quran. Muslims have been in America since the early 1700's.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me 16 Jun 2008
By allison - Published on
A MUST read book - An insightful, heartrendering, and beautiful piece of literture. I laughed, shed tears, vacilated between the shock of the governments torture methods and pride of the author's courage and determination to uphold the tenable principles of the United States Constitution.

The author allows readers to experience events, tribulations and personalities through her eyes, cultural knowledge and objectivity. I vicariously journeyed the route - Florida - Guantanamo -Afghanistan with Mavish talking to me.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Rick Shaq Goldstein - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author is an American born of Afghan immigrants. Her Father became a successful cardiologist and her Mother became the director of neonatology. Mahvish grew up caught in between the realities of two worlds... her parent's restrictive, conservative, old world disciplines, and her longing for a bit more of the looser American way. She graduated from the University Of Michigan and then attended law school at the University Of Miami. In 2005 while in law school, "she was studying the federal torture statues and how policy makers had cleverly circumvented legal principles in creating the military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where prisoners in the "war on terror" could be held indefinitely without being charged with any crime." Mahvish felt the pain of September 11th as an American... "But also understood the need to invade Afghanistan and destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But I also felt the suffering of the Afghans, when hundreds of Afghan men were rounded up and thrust into the black hole of detention at Guantanamo." This led her to volunteer to become an interpreter between volunteer lawyers and the detainees. And this leads to the core of this heart-breaking... heart-warming... educational odyssey... into what is really going on in Guantanamo, and the horrifying abuse in route to there .

In an attempt to convey to potential readers, the "delicate" power in the words and meaning communicated by the author in this book... I feel it would be helpful to share with you how it affected me. I am an honorably discharged Viet Nam era Veteran, who has always felt very strongly that America was losing a lot more of our precious American lives in battle, because we seem to be the only country that adheres to true "RULES OF ENGAGEMENT". While other countries entire military plans are built around suicide bombers blowing up and murdering innocent civilians, women and children... our soldiers literally have to call lawyers from the battlefield before they make their next move! But here is where this wonderful young woman EDUCATED ME like no newscast or newspaper was able to do. She so perfectly "straddled" both sides of the ethnic line between her heritage and her birthright.

What I learned made me both mad and disappointed in the lack of legal "equality-of-justice" to other human beings. Believe me... I know there are some pretty despicable characters at Gitmo... but there are also innocent men who were snatched out of their families... out of their jobs... out of their countries. I also know that in every jail and prison in the world everyone says they're "innocent", and as one of the volunteer lawyers at Gitmo said: regarding the "face of evil... how normal it looks, how so many of the men who perpetrated some of the worst crimes in history - Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot - had been men who appeared perfectly ordinary, who were kind to children and dogs."

But here's what I learned from this book, and feel must be done, so some of the tarnish can be cleansed from America's name: Lawyers must be assigned immediately to any "enemy combatants" arrested. There must be a time limit as to how long someone can be held without a trial or evidence. (Due to most cases involved at Gitmo being international in scope, the period does need to be much longer than a normal case in America... but no one should be allowed to be kept in such de-humanizing conditions for five years without a trial and conviction.) All sexually demeaning atrocities, such as being made to stand or lay naked for extended times should be outlawed. Rape and sexual perversion (imagine me having to state this in America!) should be outlawed and perpetrators should face heavy jail time themselves. Prisoners should be allowed to have writing supplies and receive mail on a timely basis. (Not holding up letters for a year or more.) AND HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POLICY THAT SHOULD BE CHANGED IMMEDIATELY: **UNLESS IT IS A HIGH RANKING ENEMY SUCH AS BIN LADEN, ETC. STOP THE POLICY OF PAYING REWARDS FOR TURNING PEOPLE IN!

*** HERE'S WHY ** "Many of the men insisted that they they'd been sold to the United States. During the war after September 11th, the U.S. military air-dropped thousands of leaflets across Afghanistan promising between $5,000.00 and $25,000.00 to anyone who would turn in members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Considering that the per capita income in Afghanistan in 2006 was $300.00 or 82 cents a day, that's like hitting the jackpot. The median income for each American household was $26,036.00 in 2006. If a bounty system of equal proportions were offered to Americans, it would be worth $2.17 MILLION. The average American and the average Afghan would have to work for eighty-three years to make that kind of money." Pakistani's and Afghan's who had a grudge against a neighbor were turning people in... getting the reward... and the poor soul who was "fingered" spent years and years in the hell that was constructed at Gitmo. One of these unfortunate men had gotten into an argument with a worker that was supposed to connect water to his house and didn't. They got into a fight, and the worker turned the homeowner in, and he wound up spending over three years in the bowels of Gitmo hell. "THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) has said it was unaware of any sort of bounty being paid for the prisoners." **YET INCLUDED IN THIS BOOK ARE TWO PICTURES OF THE LEAFLETS THAT WERE DISPERSED ALL OVER PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN! "Pakistani president Musharraf even bragged about it in his memoir, "In The Line Of Fire": "We have earned bounties totaling millions of dollars, he wrote, admitting that his agents had handed over 369 men to the U.S. military in exchange for CIA "prize money". According to Amnesty International reports, two-thirds of the men who landed in Guantanamo were picked up in Pakistan, where many were "groomed" in local jails to grow out their beards and look more like Taliban before being sold to the U.S. military.

It is a FACT that most of the prisoners being held in Gitmo were never on a battlefield. If this book can make such a big impression on this patriotic veteran... I can't wait to see the effect it will have on people who don't start out with as hard core beliefs as I did. One of the biggest goals of every book ever written is to educate... and this book has sure as hell educated me!
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone in the US should read this 9 July 2008
By RhodeIsland 1969 - Published on
This well-written expose of Guantanamo Bay puts a human face on the prisoners that are incarcerated there. The shameful detention of 'enemy combatants' in miserable conditions by the US government, in some cases for years without a trial, needs to be better known.
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