Guantanamo Voices


The Daily Interrogations
January 21, 2009, 10:42 am
Filed under: media | Tags: , ,

Another one of the endless interviews. I count maybe 25 in the last ten days? I lose track. This time Moazzam and Chris are in Birmingham’s Central Mosque, seated across a wide table from a German photographer and reporter. The call to prayer occassionally sounds over the loudspeaker and the photographer’s digital camera clicks, but the reporter’s words still sound loud and harsh in the silent space of the mosque. His questions are printed off on a sheet of paper and he asks, one after the other, “Mr. Begg, what torture did you experience in Guantanamo? Mr. Arendt, what was the worst experience you made in Guantanamo?” These are tough, heavy questions and they roll off like low cannon fire.

interview - chris arendt moazzam begg

I know what the reporter wants — he needs some personal facts to color these big political issues. He’s got an hour, it’s a good story he’s doing his job. This is just how media works. But for Chris and Moazzam, these are complicated, raw personal issues. “What torture did you experience?” It’s not an abstract. Moazzam has learned how to turn his experience into a digestible, powerful narrative. He can tick through a list of actions if he wants to, with numbers and dates for the reporters and lecture hall audiences. But Chris is just figuring out how to keep these daily interrogations from bringing up all the sick feelings again. He’s learning how to build the emotional mess into phrases, how to create distance, how to say no to questions that unintentionally pierce.

“How do you feel about Guantanamo?”

“Um, overwhelmed? It’s too much to answer right now, I’m going to need a couple more years to figure that out.”

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