Moazzam Begg at Royal Holloway

Mr.Begg described the situation of his capture, how he had traveled to Kabul in 2001, pre-9/11 to continue work on building a school, a project he and his wife had been working on from the U.K. Then after the U.S. Invasion was forced to flee to Pakistan where Mr.Begg had family. Here he was apprehended, a group of men knocking on his door and taking him by gunpoint in front of his wife and children.

Mr.BeggÂ’s book on his experiences is called Enemy Combatant, and he talked at length about how terms like these, and enemy alien, dehumanize the men in Guantanamo Bay. That in the year of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights America has decided that these captives have no human rights. He mentioned one officer who had commented that the captives were so determined that they would gnaw through a aircraft cable to achieve there goals, using imagery of dogs to describe the men.

The various forms of torture used in Guantanamo were described, and there links back to the Spanish Inquisition mentioned, including water boarding, which is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing a person on his or her back, with the head inclined downward, and pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages which creates the feeling of drowning and imminent death. Though the moment which resulted in utter rage for him was when they played tapes of a woman screaming in the adjacent room and told him that it was his wife. Despite all this at no point in his speech did Mr.Begg seem angry or bitter, he mentioned jovial conversation about US telly with his guards and talked about them in a warm manner. He talked about the trickle down effect of statements like ‘These men are the worst of the worst, though I don’t know what they’ve done’ by George Bush, how these attitudes and orders are passed down through the system, leaving the ordinary private in a difficult situation trying the interpret it all.

Answering a question from Matt Taylor on what people should be doing to prevent places like Guantanamo, Mr.Begg emphasized the importance of protest and lobbing government, he mentioned his amazement when he had first heard of the London march against the Iraq war from a guard. Politics Phd student Hassan Turunc, added to what Mr.Begg had said focusing on how important civil society is to political change, and how without it governments would rarely act on such issues. He was also questioned on his view that the War on Terror was a War on Islam, a view Mr.Begg has become notorious for. He defended his view by pointing out that every captive in Guantanamo was a Muslim, that they were no members of the Real I.R.A., Tamil Tigers or Farc Rebels there. Mr.Begg received a standing ovation, and the evening was rounded off by free drinks courtesy of the P.I.R. Society.

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