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Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo Hardcover – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“The most compassionate, truthful and dignified account of the disgrace of Guantanamo that you are ever likely to read.” ―John le Carré

“I thank God that Murat kept his sanity in the hell of injustice and torture of nearly 5 years in Guantanamo so he could tell his story. May it be studied in every school and college in Europe and the USA. May it help to close down all the illegal and secret prisons and camps, as well as Guantanamo, and restore the prisoners to their families. I am sure Murat's book will educate a whole generation about justice and the defense of human rights.” ―Vanessa Redgrave

“Like many of the men imprisoned in Guantánamo, Murat Kurnaz was held for years without proper charge or trial. After intensive campaigning by his friends, family and Amnesty International members all over the world, he was finally released. This book is a profound and detailed account of his experiences. After suffering torture and detention without trial, it is testament to great strength of character that he is able to tell his story with such power and clarity.” ―Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“Murat makes the horrors and inanities of Guantánamo so real; his voice is by turns young and headstrong, wry and wise. Murat's mother came to the Unites States to hear our first Guantánamo case argued before the Supreme Court back in 2004 - when I met her, I didn't know whether she would ever see her son again. Now he is home safe and has produced this riveting and moving account of his torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government to shine a light in a dark place and try to help all those still languishing without hope. This is a must read.” ―Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and attorney representing the Guantánamo detainees.

“Kurnaz recounts his woes, and those of his fellow prisoners, with modesty and compassion. . . . He has written a measured and readable account, which is often even humorous in a Swiftian sort of way.” ―The Economist

“A vital document that should - rightly - shock and appall.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A plainspoken account, Five Years of My Life focuses on the daily humiliations and surreal texture of life at Guantanamo” ―Mother Jones

“May well represent our best hope yet of preserving the truth about this depraved chapter in American history...Kurnaz describes the varied tortures to which he was subjected for the next five years with such a level-headed lack of self-pity that they come across as neither bitter rallying cry nor unbearable litany of torment. In his gentle, understated way, Kurnaz describes the reality behind the euphemisms used to describe the 'enhanced interrogation practices' the Bush administration has openly authorized in the 'war on terror'.” ―The Santa Barbara Independant

“This is a book politicians should read, and should inspire anguished soul-searching among the rest of us.” ―The Washington Post

“Kurnaz…avoids sensationalism for a harrowing record of barbarities carried out in the name of democracy…[written] in stark, unadorned prose, with no scores to settle, knowing that his account is beyond most people's imagination.” ―The Guardian (UK)

“Kurnaz reveals Guantanamo shorn of media spin.” ―The Guardian (UK)

“[An] indispensable document” ―The Washington Post

“Kurnaz' book is an invaluable document, a testament that juxtaposes the impossible courtage of one individual against the paranoia, irrationality and cruelty that can take hold when a regime loses its moral courage.” ―Cary Gee, Tribune

About the Author

Murat Kurnaz is a Turkish citizen and legal resident of Germany, where he was born in 1982. He was in the process of becoming a German citizen when he was arrested in Pakistan and held prisoner for five years. He now lives in Germany. Five Years of My Life is his first book.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230603742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230603745
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's rare (at my age, anyway!) for a book to keep me up all night. But Murat Kurnaz's memoir of his five years in the Guantanamo prison camp did just that. I spent most of the night hours reading it, alternately grateful that we finally have an insider's view of Gitmo and horrified at Kurnaz's descriptions of what he and the other prisoners endured. The rest of the night I spent pacing, too agitated by what I'd read to sleep. If even a small part of what Kurnaz says is true--and we have independent evidence that suggests his tale is accurate--the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo is indecent and, by any reasonable person's standard, illegal.

Kurnaz, a German-born (in 1982) Turk, traveled to Pakistan in late 2001 to study at a madrassa. Shortly thereafter, through a combination of false evidence, police corruption, alleged guilt by association, and bureaucratic incompetence, he was arrested and handed over to American military authorities. After a three-month imprisonment in Afghanistan, he was transferred to Gitmo, where he would stay until his exoneration and release in August 2006. (This despite the fact that the U.S. authorities quickly realized, as Kurnaz's lawyer, Baher Azmy, compellingly argues in the book's epilogue, that Kurnaz was innocent.)

Kurnaz's first three months in Gitmo were spent in Camp X-Ray, so called because the prisoners where in open air cages where everything was "completely transparent" to the scrutiny of the guards. The cages were 15 square feet (smaller than German requirements for caging animals), open to the weather as well as spiders, snakes, and scorpions. prisoners were irregularly fed, denied medical treatment, and given bad water to drink. They were also forbidden to stand, lie down during the day, or touch the sides of the cages.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Barrie-John Murphy on December 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I consider myself well-read but had no idea of the scale of abuse at Guantanamo until I read this excellent but harrowing account by former detainee Murat Kurnaz.
Kurnaz manages to maintain a sense of humor despite five years without a decent night's sleep, regular beatings, casual racism and indifferent interrogators. A copy should be sent to Cheney home, for he was the prime motivation behind this grotesque gulag.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gillian A on July 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this book, translated from German, Murat Kurnaz, a German Turk, tells his tragic story. When only nineteen and an apprentice shipbuilder, while taking time off in Pakistan for religious study, he was hauled off a bus and imprisoned for a short time before being `sold' to the US Administration for $3,000. This was a bargain - the Americans were offering $5,000 - $25,000 to locals for anyone suspected of being Taliban or Al Qaeda. With such tempting offerings, many innocent men - usually foreigners - were gladly exchanged for the money which converted into huge amounts in the local currency.

Murat was sent first to a prison camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan and then later to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In both places he was repeatedly and relentlessly tortured. Among other things he was constantly beaten, often for no reason, he was water boarded, he was electrically shocked on the soles of his feet, he was hung from the ceiling by his arms tied behind him for hours on end, he was deprived of sleep for weeks at a time, he was forced to stand for days, he was starved, he was force fed, he was put in an air-tight metal container and subjected to extreme heat and cold and of course there were the months of solitary confinement. In Guantanamo he came across prisoners as young as 14 and a few even in their 80s and 90s.

Like all the books on Guantanamo, there is almost a shock a page. Besides the main tortures listed above, what I found almost as deplorable was how vindictive, sadistic and cruel the soldiers were to the detainees in little ways, all the time and always there were endless lies. Also appalling were Murat's descriptions of female soldiers in one of the camps, watching while naked male prisoners defecated in a communal bucket in the open pen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Peterson on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
Every American citizen should read this book. It's a first hand account of a man being tortured, imprisoned with no civil rights, no trial, no habeas corpus as a result "laws" of the Patriot Act stating the President of the United States can he himself accuse anyone of being an enemy combatant and lock them up indefinitely. Guantanamo Bay operates behind this indispicable curtain of secrecy using the justification that everything done at Guantanamo is classified in the interests of national security. You would never treat a junkyard dog how the prisoners at Guantanamo are treated. You know how we (America) get these prisoners? Pakistani and Afghani warlords (mostly drug lords) capture innocent people and hand them over to the U.S. government for $3,000 - $5,000 per inmate (a huge sum of money in the middle east). Many of the prisoners held at Guantanamo are doctors, lawyers, laborers, teachers, and ordinary people with absolutely no ties to terrorism, Al Qaeda or to the Taliban. I've read this book and many others and just about all legal scholars around the world universally say the "enemy combatant" piece of the Patriot Act is ethically and morally wrong, and is unconstitional. Knowing about the truths behind Guantanamo and how our government tirelessly tries to cover it up makes me ashamed to be an American.
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