MINNEAPOLIS — A new documentary allows Moazzam Begg, a former prisoner at the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility, to share his experiences with captivity and the ongoing mark it left on his mental health.
“It was midnight. There was a knock on the door. They put a gun to my head. They hooded me. They shackled my hands behind my back. That was it. I woke up in Guantanamo.”
Begg, a British citizen, was captured by Pakistani forces in 2002. He was held in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, an infamous prison and torture site in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in February 2003. Accused by the U.S. government of al-Qaida membership and support for terrorist activities, he was held in solitary confinement for almost two years without charge. British government intervention secured his release in January 2005.
In the documentary, Begg says he supports the right of Middle Eastern people to act in self-defense, and in the past he’s admitted to spending time in training camps and offering financial support to groups like the Taliban, who he argues are acting in defense of their countries or culture. But no evidence has ever linked him to acts of terrorism, and he’s strongly condemned attacks on civilians by any group. In 2005, he told U.K.’s Channel 4 News:
“I don’t believe in any attacks against any civilians around the world, wherever they are, it’s nothing I’ve been brought up to believe, nothing that I believe now, whether it’s aeroplanes flying into buildings or whether it’s bombs being dropped from 30,000 feet, indiscriminately bombing women and children or others that are not involved.”
Begg, now the director of CAGE, an NGO working to empower communities and people impacted by the “war on terror,” has become a frequent lecturer, author, and media pundit since his release, commenting on issues affecting Muslims and the errors of government efforts to fight terrorism. In 2014, he was arrested for traveling to Syria, but was released when he proved that the British government was aware of his visits.
In 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, he told CNN that he still suffers from frequent nightmares of his time there. CNN’s Ashley Fantz described these recurring dreams of imprisonment:
“In this nightmare, the one he endures repeatedly, he sings to himself, repeats lines from the Quran, rocks and murmurs. He sees his wife and small children like apparitions. They stand before him, but he cannot touch them. In his sleep, he is losing his mind again, kicking and punching furiously just as he did when he rammed his body, over and over, into the concrete until he bled and the guard came to see if he was still alive.”
“I still struggle personally, very much,” Begg told Fantz. “It’s not resolved in any way, how this has affected me and [my family].”
Watch Moazzam Begg recount the torture he endured while in US detention:
While already a public figure, the new documentary has led Begg to reconnect with a former captor in a new setting. On Aug. 14, he tweeted about meeting with a former guard at Guantanamo, adding: “This time I held the keys.”
— Moazzam Begg (@Moazzam_Begg) August 14, 2016
So far, reviews of “The Confession” are mostly positive, praising Begg’s eloquence in the interviews, though some critics have suggested that Ghadiali, the director, could have asked tougher questions. In an Aug. 8 review of the documentary for Empire, David Parkinson praised the film’s nuanced portrayal of Begg’s viewpoints:
“Moazzam Begg seeks to use this showcase to provide a lucid defence of his faith and his motives for visiting Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The son of a Birmingham banker who migrated from Pakistan, Begg is proud of his education at a Jewish school and applauds Britain’s efforts at multiculturalism. But he decries the demonisation of Islam in the media and strives to show how his determination to make up his own mind about some of the world’s most troubled places brought him to the attention of MI5 and the CIA.”
And on Aug. 11, The Guardian’s Mike McCahill concluded that “The Confession” is especially important in light of recently emerged evidence that the U.K. and U.S. lied about the war on terror, and increasing tensions between the Middle East and Western nations.
“In this post-Chilcot moment, this principled, consistent testimony – coming as it does from deep within Islam – assumes a rare gravity and profound moral force.”
Watch “The Confession – Official trailer” from Dogwoof:
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