Voices of Victims

From The New York Times:

Book In 2005, while a law student at the University of Miami, Mahvish Rukhsana Khan decided to volunteer as an interpreter for Afghan detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The American daughter of Afghan immigrants (her parents are Johns Hopkins-educated physicians), Khan thought it unfair that the detainees could not understand their lawyers, who did not speak Pashto, and although she didn’t know whether they were guilty, she believed they were entitled to prove their innocence. But after more than three dozen visits to the Guantánamo prison camp, Khan writes, “I came to believe that many, perhaps even most” of the detainees were “innocent men who’d been swept up by mistake.” A number of the men she met insisted they had been sold to the United States by bounty hunters, after the American military dropped leaflets across Afghanistan promising up to $25,000, or nearly 100 times the annual per capita income, to anyone who would turn in members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

I began “My Guantánamo Diary” wondering whether Khan was too credulous, especially after she conceded that “it may appear to some readers that I gave ample, and perhaps naïve, credence to the prisoners’ points of view.” But by the end, I was more or less persuaded by her conclusion that most of the Afghans she met were not guilty of crimes against the United States, and for a simple reason: the military ultimately released most of them. Once you know the endings to Khan’s stories, they read like the gripping narratives of the wrongly accused. There is Ali Shah Mousovi, a pediatrician who says he returned to Afghanistan in 2003, following years of exile in Iran, to open a medical clinic and rebuild his country. Soon after his return, American soldiers broke down his door, accused him of associating with the Taliban and took him to the Bagram Air Base. There, he says, he was blindfolded, hooded, gagged and repeatedly kicked in the head by American soldiers, who spat on him, cursed him and paraded him naked.

More here.