Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I was so intrigued by Five Years of My Life!

By Alan Eggleston, Writer, Editor, Bookseller

I was so intrigued by Five Years of My Life by Murat Kurnaz, I read it in a day. It's the story of a young German of Turkish descent who was charged with terrorism by the Bush Administration and was forced to live five years of hell in torture, even though he was actually innocent.

The book covers 255 pages, including epilogue. It tells of this teen of hard-working Turkish immigrants in Germany who decided to give up the wild life of a bouncer for a straighlaced Muslim wife from Turkey, a woman who knew much more about his faith than he did. After marrying her, he decided to study his faith before bringing her back to Germany to live, and he made secret arrangements to travel to Pakistan where he could attend a quick-study school on Islam. He didn't tell his family because he was afraid they would stop him from going. That was the biggest mistake of his life.

Kurnaz planned to accompany friends on the trip, but ended up going alone. He traveled from mosque to mosque with friends he made along the way. At the end of his trip, just as he was heading home, he was arrested. Although official papers said he had been arrested in Afghanistan, he was in fact sold out in Pakistan to American interests for $3,000 and shipped to Afghanistan. There he was interrogated, beaten, tortured, barely fed, and eventually shipped to Guantanamo, Cuba, where he spent the rest of his imprisonment.

This book is not well crafted English. It is a well written narrative. You will experience his uncertainty, his confusion, his pain, his human degredation, and the depravity of a government so focused on capturing terrorists that it refuses to see what it actually has, which is an innocent man. In fact, the government learned early on that Kurnaz was innocent, but Germany didn't want him back -- for silly reasons, it turns out -- so they kept torturing him anyway.

Thank goodness Kurnaz's family learned of his whereabouts, people of goodwill fought for his release, and he didn't give up hope. At the very end, even though the government knew Kurnaz was innocent, as he prepared to board a plane to freedom, they insisted he sign a declaration of guilt or he wouldn't be given his freedom. When he refused, they let him go.

See if you're hooked by the details, the memories, the fear, the insanity of it all like I was. I read this in a day, and I never read a book in a day.
Five Years of My Life, An Innocent Man in Guantanamo
By Murat Kurnaz
ISBN-10: 0230603742
ISBN-13: 978-0230603745

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