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My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me Hardcover – June 24, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her moving debut memoir, a young journalist recounts her time as a translator for the detainees of notorious Guantánamo Bay prison. As a law student and American-born daughter of Pashtun (ethnic Afghan) immigrants, Khan seeks a translator position at one of the private law firms that represent the Guantanamo inmates, some of whom spend years in prison before offered a "fair" trial-or even access to counsel. Shockingly, many of the detainees Khan encounters are average citizens placed in prison due to unfortunate circumstances, the blind aggression of modern anti-terror tactics and the incompetence of its enforcers; one detainee, elderly stroke patient Nusrat, was detained after questioning the authorities regarding the arrest of his son (accused of having ties with al-Qaeda). Revealing near-universal abuse, both mental and physical, inflicted on the prisoners, Khan's account is plenty powerful-and that's before she travels alone to war-torn Afghanistan in order to prove her clients' innocence. Khan also divulges her poignant reunions with several prisoners following their release, a bittersweet breath of fresh air amid a nightmarish, eye-opening and important account.
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From Booklist

Khan, the daughter of Afghan immigrants and a recent law-school graduate, began volunteering as an interpreter for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) following the 2004 Supreme Court decision stating that Guantánamo prisoners had to be allowed access to U.S. courts. She first visited the base in January 2006 and met prisoners with widely diverse backgrounds, from a 22-year-old picked up in Pakistan, probably by bounty hunters, and turned over to U.S. forces to detainee #1009, Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner, an illiterate old man from the mountains of Afghanistan. Acknowledging that she had no access to the 14 high value detainees with obvious ties to the Taliban, Khan interviews many whose incarceration appears dubious at best. Each has a story of being savagely beaten, deprived of sleep, sexually abused, left in solitary confinement for months, exposed to extreme cold and constant noise—all with no opportunity to prove their innocence. Stunning details all but hidden from the daily news reports may bring American readers to conclude, as has Khan, that my government has duped me. --Deborah Donovan

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; F First Edition edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484989
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,638,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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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".
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Format: Hardcover
There are only three books that I have on the topic of Guantanamo Bay:

For God and Country by James Yee
Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg
My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Khan.

The reason I own these informative books is because they are first hand accounts of experiences at that prison. These are not written by journalists who were only given a tour of the area. The inside information they have is what I seek. I want to know what really goes on there and these books offer that.

Khan's book offers great insight of the human toll that occurs in this prison. It's really difficult reading some of the stories. Even when some people are released, you are left with the empty feeling of knowing there are still people there that may be innocent. There is no evidence against them and those individuals are probably there so certain Afghanis could capitalize on a $25,000 reward for turning in "terrorists". This is a country where the average yearly income is three-hundred dollars.

The only problem I had with the book is something which is not the author's fault. In an interview, she stated she had to first get approval from the US government to print her material. They did not allow everything she wanted citing security reasons. The book is great as it stands now, but who knows, except the author, how much more detailed this book could be. I wish authors, like Khan, would be allowed to give the full story without someone on their back.

I give the book five stars without hesitation. It was well worth my time.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was great. Some very heart-wrenching stories about some of the inmates who were clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time and hardly 'terrorists.' A very sad indictment on our ability to uphold democratic freedoms. This book was very interesting given the writer's own cultural and religious background which gave her a unique insight into the cultural difficulties and barriers faced by the detainees. I also found her discussions and observations about working at Guantanemo, those that work there and those who are working to free the detainees or have their cases heard very interesting. I have gone on to buy books by some of those people. Ms Khan - if you are reading this - congratulations on a good book and your attempt to bridge the cultural divide. Let us hear more from you!
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