Guantanamo Reading List: Harry Potter, Don Quixote, and Obama’s Dreams from my Father

Journalist Besan Sheikh recently visited the Guantanamo Bay prison facility run by the US, where al-Qaeda and other prisoners from Bush’s ‘war on terror’ are held. (Many of the prisoners appear to have been sold by the Taliban or swept up indiscriminately in the vicinity of a battlefield). Sheikh told the pan-Arab London daily, al-Hayat [Life], that the facility’s library now has 13,500 books.

What are the three most requested titles by the remaining 229 prisoners?

1. The Harry Potter novels

2. Cervantes’ Don Quixote

3. Barack obama’s Dreams from my Father.

No reason was given for these choices, which are followed in popularity by Muslim religious volumes. (Though see this In these Times 2007 article about reading Harry Potter at Guantanamo.)

Do they think Guantanamo is a little like Hogwarts Academy and that their torturers were Lord Voldemort?

Do they know that Miguel Cervantes fought at the second Battle of Lepanto in 1571 in which the Holy League defeated the Ottoman empire at sea, and that later on his ship was captured by the Algerians and he spent 5 years imprisoned and enslaved in Algiers before being ransomed– thus reversing an element in their own biographies?

They are said to be fascinated that the new president of the United States has African and Muslim roots.

Although the prisoners receive newspapers, all violent incidents are torn out of them, so they know nothing of the Huthi revolt in Yemen, e.g.

I’m still thinking about the idea of John Yoo as Voldemort.

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