Life from a Guantánamo Bay cell

Guantánamo Diary Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Canongate, £16.00

The World Today Published 6 February 2015 Updated 5 January 2021 2 minute READ

Burhan Wazir

Editor, Coda Story

As long as there have been prisons, there have been prison memoirs. Thomas More wrote A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, a spiritual reflection, as he awaited execution in the Tower of London in 1534; Napoleon Bonaparte dictated his memoirs in exile while on Saint Helena between 1817 and 1820.

Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Slahi is noteworthy because it is the first autobiography to be published by an inmate still being held in the US prison in Cuba. Slahi’s story informs the arc of our modern history. He was admitted to the prison in 2002 when he was 32 years old; he is now 44. Since his arrest, governments in Washington, London, Kabul and Baghdad have all been replaced. The Arab Spring has given way to civil war in Syria and the jihadist cult of Islamic State. Both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead.

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