Guantanamo's Shocking Conditions
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Pashtun parents in Michigan. While persuing a law degree at the University of Miami, she became enraged by the illegal detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Having grown up listening to her mother tell her “Now is not the time to be complacent,” Khan felt compelled to help any way she could. With her fluency in Pashto and a familiarity with Afghan cultures and customs that no other “habeas” lawyer with security clearance had, she was quickly taken on as an interpreter for Afghan detainees. Six months later, in January 2006, Khan was on her way to Guantanamo Bay. Her role with the detainees quickly developed. She began providing supervised legal counsel and traveled to Afghanistan to find exonerating evidence for prisoners.
During more than thirty trips to Guantanamo, Khan unexpectedly connected with the very men that Donald Rumsfeld called “the worst of the worst.” She brought them starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home. And they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away. As time went by Khan began to question whether Guantanamo truly held America’s most dangerous enemies. But regardless of each prisoner’s innocence or guilt, she was determined to preserve their most fundamental right, the right to a fair trial.
For Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, the experience was a validation of her Afghan heritage—as well as her American Freedoms, which allowed her to intervene at Guantanamo purely out of her sense that it was the right thing to do. Her story is challenging, brave, and essential test of who she is—and who we are.
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is a recent law school graduate and journalist. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media. She lives in San Diego.
Question: Were you prepared for what you saw in Guantanamo?
Mahvish Khan: No, I wasn’t. the first time I went to Guantanamo I was nervous and I was scared of meeting somebody who was Taliban or al-Qaeda because that’s all I had heard in the media, and I assumed that they must have had done something to be there. And I remember walking in to that meeting room and thinking he’s not going to want to talk to me because I’m a woman and I’d covered myself because I didn’t know how conservative the guy would be. And I walked in and there was this man standing in the corner of the room and he looked just as scared as I did, perhaps in anticipation of an interrogation, and he smiled when he saw me in my embroidered shawl and I smiled back and gave him the universal Islamic greeting, which is...translates to “May peace be upon you” and went and shook hands with my first terrorist. And his... He was known as 1154 and that’s what the guards knew him as ‘cause the guards at Guantanamo don’t know the detainees’ names, but his real name was Dr. Ali Shah Mousovi and he was a pediatrician. He worked for the United Nations. He was a Shiite Muslim who are a persecuted minority under the Taliban and so all these different factors and his-- He didn’t want his children to be raised under the Taliban regime so fled to neighboring Iran and yet there he was in Guantanamo being accused of being Taliban, and so none of it made any sense.
Recorded on: 7/17/08
Mahvish Khan recounts the first detainee she saw, a pediatrician accused of being Taliban.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.
- Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
- Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
- Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.