You are on page 1of 4

EDITED BY SaRAH MIRK

BOOK INTRODUCTION

OVERVIEW
Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous
Prison provides first person accounts of those involved in the “island
outside of the law,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The
prison housed more than 700 prisoners, majority of whom are Muslim men
from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The graphic novel
explores the inequities of the legal system that were used to wrongfully
capture, torture, and imprison men without due process. Sandra Day
O’Connor said that “a state of war is not a blank check for the president,”
which explains exactly how the Guantánamo Bay prison was run by the
Bush administration. This illustrated anthology provides an oral history
of the personal accounts of prisoners, humanizing their narrative, which
had been silenced and vilified for many years, as well as the accounts of
lawyers, service members, and human rights activists who tried to speak out against the injustices of Guantánamo. This book paints a
picture of the constant struggle between speaking up for what is right and the risk of losing everything. Guantánamo Voices is a graphic
novel that questions the strategies of the American government, with a focus on the real ideals of the American democratic system. After
reading this book, one is left to question the value of habeus corpus and the lack of adhering to the rule of law if those who are on trial
are from a different culture or ethnic/racial background.

Supporting the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in reading informational text for high school curriculums, Guantánamo Voices
is an appropriate selection for grades 11–12 and early college level in language arts, social studies, or humanities classes. The following
prompts provide for a critical analysis of Guantánamo Voices using the CCSS for Informational Text.

STANDARDS AND SKILLS

KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.3
Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas,
or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

CRAFT AND STRUCTURE


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.5
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences,paragraphs,
and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND IDEA
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical
event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning,
and evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in
diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in
words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

“One person can make a difference,


even if it takes 40 years.”
—Fred Korematsu

PRE-READING ACTIVITIE S
Guantánamo Bay prison has been a highly debated human rights
issue for more than 18 years. The graphic novel opens with the
Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Geneva
Conventions, Article 103 that exemplifies the skewed legal system
used to interrogate and detain the prisoners on the island. The
majority of the prisoners were Muslims from countries such as
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq that have been at war with the United
xiv
States for many years. Ask students to analyze the amendment and
the article to discuss if the two can be modified or ignored during
times of war. Create a poll that can be used as the starting point for their discussion.

Sara Mirk explains: “What had I imagined Camp X-Ray would become? A memorial? We Americans never want to face our dark parts,
much less enshrine them in our history.” Students can use this quote to center their ideas as they read the graphic novel so they can
determine if Guantánamo Bay can be considered “dark parts” of American history. What other events can be classified as “dark parts”
that have mired the history of this country, and has the government taken an effort to rectify the past? Create a place for students to
compare their research.

The introduction written by Omar El Akkad describes the connection between Guantánamo Bay and other political actions implemented
by the United States government. Have students debate if Guantánamo created a blueprint to implement the various government policies
discussed, such as detention of youth at the southern border and the use of drones to kill suspected terror operatives.

Omar El Akkad describes the various forms of violence war brings, but he emphasizes the violence of “forgetting.” Ask students why
that would be more dangerous than other forms of violence. Have students investigate the “violence of forgetting” the past atrocities
committed at Native Americans, Blacks, and Japanese Americans and how that influenced the teaching of American history.

A timeline and statistics are provided to demonstrate the magnitude of the prison. Use these elements to have students write an e-mail or
a tweet to their local representative to discuss why the funds being used can be diverted for other necessary projects.

Guantánamo Voices explicitly points out the racism practiced against the prisoners due to them being from Muslim majority countries.
The policies passed after the 9/11 attacks had a large impact on Muslim communities worldwide. Have students try to conduct an oral
history with someone from their local Muslim community on how 9/11 changed their ability to practice religion without fear.
Please see the supplemental reading section for additional resources to support these discussions.

• 2 •
DI SCUS SION QUE STIONS  

CHAPTER 1: Welcome to Guantánamo


As you read this chapter, list and analyze the contradictions and CHAPTER 5: Thomas Wilner:
how those are examples of the island’s disassociation from reality. Attorney Representing Guantánamo Prisoners
Analyze the images on page 7. What can you infer about the type Did bounties racially profile Arab men with no impunity?
of environment the government was trying to create on the island?
Kuwait is a strong American ally: How can America justify
Is the reporter correct in comparing the prison to the Japanese detaining Kuwaiti citizens without due process?
internment and the detention of migrant children?
What is an amicus curiae brief and how did it help prisoners at
Guantánamo prison?
CHAPTER 2: Mark Fallon: Former Chief of Middle East
“The saying . . . was to do the hard right against the easy wrong.
Counterintelligence Operations for Naval Criminal
You figure out what’s right and you stand for it.” Does this always
Investigative Service (NCIS)
end in success? What are the risks one takes when taking such a
Mark Fallon explains his personal view that torture is “immoral, stance?
torture is not just ineffective, it’s counterproductive. It provides
bad information” and that his methods are honey not vinegar.
Examine his tactic: Do you think they work with all terror groups? CHAPTER 6: Colonel Morris Davis: Twenty-Five-Year Air
Force
Should there be different methods of trying suspects based on Veteran and Chief Prosecutor for the Guantánamo Bay
their citizenship? Military Commissions, September 2005 to October 2007
How did the Nuremberg trials differ from the trials of 9/11 suspects? What was Colonel Davis’s goal for becoming lead prosecutor for
Do you believe Fallon was successful in challenging Guantánamo prisoners?
unlawful orders? Why did Colonel Davis resign?
Language played a role in the ongoing secret orders. Examine the Australian David Hicks was charged with war crimes then later
language used to justify the actions of the Bush administration released. Did the race of the prisoner play a factor? Explain.
and discuss if you believe those actions were justifiable.

CHAPTER 7: Mansoor Adayfi, Guantánamo Prisoner 441,


CHAPTER 3: Matthew Diaz: Former Navy Judge Advocate February 2002 to July 2016
General Corps Officer (Lawyer) and 20-Year Veteran:
8.5 Years Army, 12 Years Navy. What did the animals symbolize to prisoner Adayfi?

How did Matthew Diaz’s early life determine his career choices? How did the animals help the prisoners during their time on the
island?
Describe the court case Rasul v. Bush. How did the Bush
administration work around Rasul v. Bush? How did the
administration’s work around make work more difficult for lawyers CHAPTER 8: Alka Pradhan: Human Rights Lawyer
and activists at the prison? and Attorney for Guantánamo Prisoners
Diaz says, “People that did make waves or did push back, they Examine what Pradhan’s father-in-law is saying on page 140. From
didn’t stay there [Guantánamo] long. They’d be sent back to the what you have read thus far, do you agree with his statements?
States, they wouldn’t rise in the ranks.” Is speaking up or pushing What are the dangers of being labeled an “enemy combatant”?
back worth risking your job or livelihood?
How does that give the American government power over
Did Matthew Diaz do the right thing for his country? What risks prisoners even if they are not convicted?
did he take? Were his losses worth it in the end?.
How was Emad’s story one of misidentity? What did Emad do to
try to take control of his “fate”?
CHAPTER 4: Moazzam Begg: Educator and
Guantánamo Prisoner 558, February 2003 to
CHAPTER 9: Shelby Sullivan-Bennis: Attorney for
January 2005
Guantánamo Prisoners
What “suspicious” activity was used against Begg that led to
What are Periodic Review Board hearings?
his detainment?
How did habeus corpus help Begg’s case? How was he able to Why did a prisoner refer to Sullivan-Bennis
assist other prisoners? as a “black box”?

How did the following people influence


the debate of the closure of Guantánamo prison: Congress Describe the psychological effects being a prisoner at
(mainly conservative Republicans); former president Obama; and Guantánamo had on the prisoners.
presiding president Trump.
CHAPTER 11: Return to Guantánamo
CHAPTER 10: Katie Taylor: Deputy Director at Reprieve and Sarah Mirk states, “Often, facts matter less than the stories we
Coordinator of the Life After Guantánamo Project tell ourselves.” How does this reflect the lack of information and
truth journalists received when touring the prison? Does the
Katie Taylor worked with assisting former Guantánamo prisoners
comment contradict “democratic American values”?
on re-establishing their lives after prison. What was required to
re-establish their lives?

EXTENSION ACTIVITIE S

INDEPENDENT RESEARCH
Guantánamo Voices is a powerful launch for students’ further inquiries
about history. The topics listed below are ones that students could use
for their own research topics on past policies implemented by the United
States government against their own citizens. Educators could work with
students to determine the best way to share their knowledge.

• Indian Removal Act

• Japanese Internment

• Detention of Migrant Children

WAR ON TERROR
After 9/11, the Bush administration created propaganda revolving around
fighting the War on Terror to justify its actions. Students should reference
the use of language in the graphic novel to guide their research on
how the Bush administration tried to justify their policies and defied
international law. Have students read Guantanamo: An enduring symbol
of US Islamophobia to examine how the campaign affected American
Muslims. As students conduct their research, have students use their
information to answer the essential question: How did the rule of law
change during the War on Terror campaign?

SUPPLEMENTAL READING

ONLINE SOURCES xiv

• ACLU: Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

• Amnesty International: Guantánamo Bay Human Rights

• Time magazine: How we got there: Guantánamo Bay History

• Nasty, Brutish and Long: America’s War on Terrorism

• Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror

ABOUT THIS GUIDE’S WRITER


Abeer Shinnawi is a middle school social studies resources teacher with more than 18 years of teaching experience.
Shinnawi has developed curriculum and professional development for museums such as the Reginald F. Lewis
Museum in Baltimore, and she is also a member of the teacher advisory group for the National Museum of the
American Indian in Washington, DC. A mother of three daughters, Shinnawi resides in the Baltimore area.