Saturday, September 10, 2005


Tonight I went to see Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo's play Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom. While advertised as a play, it's really a documentary, with actors presenting political debate, legal opinion, and actual testimony from British Guantanamo detainees. It focuses on the stories of four detainees: Jamal Al-Harith, a British backpacker who was detained by the Americans in Khandahar, where he had been held by the Taliban as a spy; Bisher Al-Rawi, a British resident who had travelled to Gambia with his brother to establish a mobile peanut-oil processing business; Ruhel Ahmed, a teenager from Tipton who had gone to Pakistan for a wedding; and Moazzam Begg, a British charity worker who was kidnapped by American forces in Islamabad after fleeing Afghanistan. Interspersed with these stories is commentary from detainees' relatives, lawyers, and mock news footage of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (real footage could not be used for copyright reasons).

If you've been following the slow-motion atrocity which is Guantanamo, the play won't tell you anything you don't already know. But it does put it all together in one place. The biggest drawback, though, is that it glosses over the worst details of what goes on there. This may have been because the focus was very much on the injustice of indefinite detention without trial, or it may be because it was written in 2004, before many of the worst details - the beatings, the use of techniques "tantamount to torture", and the use of strapado (no "tantamount" about that) - came out. That said, what it presents is more than bad enough, and ought to leave people feeling ill that a supposedly civilised nation (one that has stood as a beacon of freedom, even) has resorted to such tactics.

I'd reccommend seeing Guantanamo if you have the chance, and if you're in Palmerston, you can book here.