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Guantánamo Diary

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,862 ratings  ·  452 reviews
LONGLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2015

THE SUNDAY TIMES and NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Since 2002, Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been imprisoned at the detainee camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In all these years, the United States has never charged him with a crime. Although he was ordered to be released by a federal judge, the U.S. government fought th
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Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published January 20th 2015 by Canongate Books
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Elizabeth Burton Seriously? How about the fact innocent people were kidnapped, tortured, and held in prison without any recourse for years and years based on their…moreSeriously? How about the fact innocent people were kidnapped, tortured, and held in prison without any recourse for years and years based on their race and country of origin? How about the fact two presidents from different parties chose to ignore the Constitutional right of habeas corpus, thus setting a precedent that it can be applied not because it IS a right but at the whim of the government and the spy (I refuse to call them "intelligence") community?

And then there's the fact these people continued to be imprisoned even after it was determined beyond doubt they WERE innocent.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,862 ratings  ·  452 reviews


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Dr Zorlak
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I’m sorry to have to tell you, but the terrorists won. And when I say "terrorists" I mean the Saudi team led by a Saudi millionaire. Yep. This book by Mohamedou Ould Slahi confirms it. The 9/11 attacks achieved what was intended, and what was intended was clearly not just to topple the WTC towers. What was intended was to spin the United States in a cycle of stupidity, violence, ignobility, and abuse; to trap it in a mire of hate; to force it to shed its ideals of justice and due process and ado ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Larry Siems (Editor) is a very thought-provoking and disturbing book. This man was arrested and released in 2002. Arrested again and then held, although the government where he was arrested could not understand why he was arrested but they were doing it for the Americans. He was shipped to a couple of places until he arrived at Guantanamo. Never charged with anything, held from 2002 then was finally told he was to be released in 2009 by Judge Roberts ...more
Jim
Let's be clear about a couple of things: this is not a 5 star read in the way that War and Peace is a 5 star read. While this book is actually quite nicely constructed, it is in the author's fourth language and contains too many colloquialisms for my liking. In spite of that bit of prissiness on my part, I think it is one of the most important books of the past decade. Now I know that there are a lot of "my country, right or wrong" morons out there that will take me to task on this and claim that I a ...more
Alex
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: roosters
Shelves: 2015
In one of your better metafictional gambits, Mohamedou Ould Slahi has managed to get his memoir edited* by his actual torturers. Nabokov would have loved this.

* I guess we call it "redacted" when it's CIA, whatever

It was edited again by actual literary people after a six-year legal battle to get it out of Gitmo, where Slahi has been held since 2002. This second editing process provides some of the most entertaining moments of the book: the latter's exasperated footnotes about the former. "It/>*
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
It was quite a relief to run the last lap of this memoir today knowing that it is literally the same 24-hour period in which Mohamedou Ould Slahi has finally been cleared for release after fourteen years of torture and isolation in Guantanamo without charges. The perfect timing makes this true story far less grim than it would have been even just yesterday. It seems to me that the U.S. Government/the interrogators at Gitmo have known for about a decade that this guy didn't do anything but join t ...more
Sally Green
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading.

Whilst it is upsetting, depressing and shocking, Mohamedou Ould Slahi is also inspirational and even funny in parts. There are many insights into Guantanamo prison life but huge amounts left unsaid or redacted.

'Arrest', rendition to, imprisonment and interrogation at GTMO can be summed up as lawless horror, brutality and torture. Ironically the descriptions reminded me of the interrogations in Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago (which happened under Stalin).
Trish
Mohamedou Ould Slahi wrote this diary in 2005 while in detention in Guantánamo. For years he was considered America’s highest ranking terror suspect; I don’t know when that designation changed, or if it ever did. In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Guantánamo detainees could challenge their detention through habeas corpus. In 2009 U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson heard Mohamedou’s petition and in 2010 ordered his release. Within weeks, Obama’s administration filed a notice of appe ...more
Liz Janet
Update:
I am going to add slam poems that I feel match the feeling of the book.
Sara Brickman - "Letter from the Water at Guantanamo Bay": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhWpC...
"Why are Muslims So...": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_i7w...
Usman Hameedi - "Poem Postmarked for the Middle East": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ8gH...
Amir Safi - "Brown Boy. White House": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mr0IV...
.........................

“Whenever I realized that a guard was mean I pretended that I understood no English..... “We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said. “No English,” I kept replying. I didn/>“Whenever
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Tosh
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this book, because it's too horrifying. And yet, I give it five stars. Mohamedou Ouid Slahi is a very good writer and diarist. What is terrible is the consistent torture he has to go through on a daily basis - and more likely is still treated in this manner. Brutality + brutality never equals peace. What's terrible about this specific story is that the U.S. is behind the brutality here. For whatever reasons it seems that it is perfectly OK to torture another human - for just the ...more
Daniel Simmons
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So very, very, very, very upsetting. Five stars not for the quality of the writing, although that is often splendid, but because this prison memoir (of a man in the midst of his thirteenth year in a Guantanamo cell) is an eye-opening must-read for any American citizen.
Robin Kirk
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, torture
I'm recommending this to everyone -- Slahi is the first and so far only person to have been held in Guantánamo and tortured by the US to have written about and published a memoir. Mark Danner in the New York Times wrote that the diary "is the most profound account yet written of what it is like to be that collateral damage" mentioned by our torturer in chief Dick Cheney. This harrowing tale is but one of what will someday be many direct accounts by victims.
Originally from Mauritius, Slahi,
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Sahbi
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


This review is not about how the book is good or bad. This review is about how a man can have the energy and the patience to learn and write his diary using a language that he barely knew. This review is about how a man can have the courage to stand up and start writing, after all, the torture, humiliation and agony. This review is about how a man can write with so much love and fun about his torturers and guards. I had known some Mauritanian people and I discovered how they are generous and lov
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Stacia
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A stunning & shocking book that should be required reading for Americans. Quite a few of Slahi's accounts have since been corroborated by declassified reports & documents, as well as various legal actions to bring some of these activities to light (which lends weight to him being a fairly reliable narrator). Slahi's diary shines a bright & damning light on the fundamental shift in American thinking that took place after 9/11 when America walked away from many of its previously-held, ...more
Roberta Korus
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for every person of conscience, eloquently written in the author's fourth language, English. As I told my husband about Mohamedou Ould Slahi's continuing, more than 12 year, incarceration at Guantanamo, and particularly about the abuse and torture, both physical and psychological, he has received at the hands or behest of the U.S. government, he asked how I could stand to read about these things. The answer: To bear witness to Slahi's experience so that we can end, and in future prev ...more
Kells Next Read
Not Redacted

"The Law of war is Harsh, If there's anything good at all on a war, it's that it brings the best and the worst out of people: some people try to use the lawlessness to hurt others, and some try to reduce the suffering to the minimum."

Putting aside political, cultural and spiritual preferences I personally found this book to be thought provoking, eyeopening, candid read, filled with humor. I'm always skeptical about autobiographies as I find them firstly Boring and Unnecessary. This book broke all/>Putting/>"The
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Missy J
Update: In October 2016, Mohamedou Oul Slahi was freed from Guantanamo Bay and returned back to Mauritania.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of this book is still imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay as I type on my computer keyboard.

And after reading this book, it's still not clear why exactly the American government decided to detain him.

Slahi seemed to be set for a bright future. After finishing high school, he won a scholarship to study in Germany. For 12 years, he studied, worked and lived in Germany before tryin
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Sean Sharp
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is the responsibility of every American to read this book.

It is not the responsibility of the reader to make a conclusion on whether Salahi is necessarily innocent or guilty (though his conditions of guilt are not and have never been described), nor is it the responsibility of the reader to even qualify a judgment against Salahi’s character. Ultimately what the reader must take from this account, indeed what post-modern American society must come to grips with, is a true, first-ha
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Pam Walter
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, pow
I am awarding Guantanamo Diary 5 stars, not because of the writing style, but because I think this is an immensely important exposé. It is a deeply personal memoir. Indeed much of the diary was heavily censored ██████ ██████ prior to the book's copyright in 2015. Mohamedou Ould Slahi was arrested from his home in Mauritania in 2001 and imprisoned in Jordan at the behest of the U.S., and then at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan and finally, on August 5, 2002, he was transported to the U.S. pr ...more
Asim Qureshi
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: resistance
There are a number of accounts that have now been published regarding the experiences of those who were detained as part of the US detentions system in the War on Terror. Mohamedou Ould Slahi provides us with another important witness to the treatment of the survivors and those who continue to suffer.

A unique perspective that Slahi brings from the other Guantanamo Bay accounts, is the role that was played by the Mauritanian authorities in cooperating with the Americans as part of the detention,
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Mary Ann
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I saw an interview on one of the Sunday talk shows yesterday with Nancy Hollander, Mohamedou's lead attorney and downloaded the book. I could not put it down and just finished after reading most of the night. This is a story of courage in the face of systematic, brutal and sadistic physical and psychological torture. This man's spirit and determination to survive are awe-inspiring. The book is slow-going as this unclassified document is heavily redacted, and it is necessary to refer to the footn ...more
Usama Qadri
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most powerful books I've read in recent years. Not only a firsthand account of the moral and practical flaws of torture and "enhanced interrogation" techniques but also a gripping personal story of a man imprisoned without charge and forced to admit to crimes he did not commit. Slahi's Guantanamo Diary is perhaps most similar in voice and material to Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich but retold for our current post-Soviet, "War on Terror" context. Perhaps most surprising about th ...more
Megidy-Meg (can I decide another day?)
I've never in my entire life endure attempts at brainwashing quite like this. I finished this book on principle after being stationed at GTMO for a year.

The redactions were poorly done (many inconsistencies/redundancies were pointed out by the editor). I'm not saying that MOS wasn't tortured, but I strongly feel that this book is an attempt to play on the emotions of the reader. This book is completely subjective and anyone who reads this book as a voice of truth and doesn't take it with a grai
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Prairiesue
Thought provoking. Because the author remains in GITMO and the published version of his original text has not been seen by the author and heavily redacted by CIA, it is hard to determine if this text is truth or an argument for the author’s defense.
Emmkay
Slahi handwrote this account in 2005 of his imprisonment, torture, and interrogation, while detained in Guantanamo. His lawyers fought to have it declassified, and it was published in 2015, with heavily blacked out portions redacted by censors. At the time of publication, he remained in Guantanamo, despite a successful habeas corpus application in 2010 (which the government appealed). Slahi was finally released in October 2016, after 14 years' detention without charges.

Essential reading that sh
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Murtaza
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I avoided reading this book for many months after publication simply because I assumed it would be utterly depressing and devastating. While it did have those characteristics to some degree, it was also, somehow, beautiful and funny. It is engagingly written, Mohammedou Ould Slahi is not just a writer but a bracingly witty and talented one. His story is not just his narration but also something which is corroborated by government documents. He is honest, his claims are well-documented, and he kn ...more
Lisa
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
This is really a 4.5 for me. This book is the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for 14 years and he has "never" been charged with a crime. He has been interrogated thousands of times, beaten and tortured by the US without being guilty. Through it all he has kept his faith, which is peaceful, and doesn't hate "all" Americans which I find miraculous in his situation. He is an intelligent man who has been severely wronged by our system. His life has been destroyed by ...more
Sarah Hayes
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a hard but necessary book to read. Contains descriptions of numerous forms of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological torture. Finishing it after having been reading it for so long kind of has me at a loss for words beyond why.
Lena
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could write a novel-length response to this book, but I will just write the following: every American needs to read this.
Jill
I don't feel as though this is a book that I can star or review, but it is a book that I think every American should read. It brings up many important questions and is written eloquently.
Annie
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t tell you if Slahi is guilty of his supposed crimes for which he was incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay. I can tell you that this is a uniquely human and very credible account of a chaotic, violent prison that sounds like the Muggle version of Azkaban. The level of detail and realism makes it impossible to believe any of this is fabricated.

Sometimes Slahi comes across as a gentle, academically minded, bookish (I enjoyed seeing which books we both liked, like Fermat’s Enigma), compassionat
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Mohamedou Ould Slahi is a Mauritanian citizen who has been imprisoned at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp since August 4, 2002. In 2005, he wrote the nonfiction book Guantánamo Diary , which was published 10 years later.
“Whenever I realized that a guard was mean I pretended that I understood no English. I remember one cowboy coming to me with an ugly frown on his face: “You speak English?” he asked. “No English,” I replied. “We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said. “No English,” I kept replying. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that his message arrived. People with hatred always have something to get off their chests, but I wasn’t ready to be that drain.” 7 likes
“We human beings take everything into consideration except for death; hardly anybody has death on his calendar.” 6 likes
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