Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Case Study No. 1625: Staff of Guantanamo Bay Library

La biblioteca di Guantanamo
L'interno della biblioteca per i detenuti. Tra i libri piu' letti, quelli della saga di Harry Potter
Tags: Guantanamo
Added: 7 years ago
From: Spiritofamerica67
Views: 123

[scene opens with hand-held camera footage inside the Guantanamo Bay Library (as shelves marked "Arabic" and various magazines - with labels such as "Car and Driver" and "Horses" - can be seen), as a female librarian speaks with some soldiers in the background]
CAMERAMAN: [from off camera] Questa e la biblioteca ...
SOLDIER: Do they watch these?
LIBRARIAN: Um, they do oftentimes have access to watch these movies, too.
SOLDIER: And which one of those do they like? Harry Potter, as well?
LIBRARIAN: They do like the Harry Potter ... Uh, the Chronicles of Narnia.



Guantanamo Bay library's most wanted books? Anything but Barack Obama
JK Rowling, John Grisham and Agatha Christie vie with Islamic texts for favour at centre with 18,000 film and print items for loan
Alison Flood, Wednesday 25 August 2010 10.14 EDT

He has sold millions of copies of his books around the world, but it turns out that President Barack Obama's memoirs are near the bottom of prisoners' reading lists at Guantanamo Bay.

The 176 prisoners at the US facility have access to 18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers across 18 languages from their prison library, according to an investigation by Time magazine. The most popular titles among inmates are the Harry Potter books, novels by John Grisham and Agatha Christie, and Islamic texts. Prisoners are also keen to get their hands on photo-packed travel books, particularly ones featuring the ocean.

"I tell ya, Dan Brown's been beating me up lately," navy lieutenant Robert Collett told Time. "All his books are very popular, but we don't have all of them in Arabic." The International Committee of the Red Cross will sometimes help out when a particular translation can't be found, sending its staff to local stores to pick up copies because it believes that "access to books and news from the outside is very important to the prisoners' mental state".

Civil rights lawyer H Candace Gorman sent the library an Arabic edition of a Harry Potter book herself because it did not have all of the published titles and her client, the Libyan national Abdul al-Ghizzawi, was keen to keep up with the boy wizard's adventures. "The guards were telling him things that had happened in the book, but he didn't know if it was true or not," she told Time. Ghizzawi saw similarities between his own situation and that of the prisoners of Azkaban, and between George W Bush and Voldemort, she said.

The Guantanamo library contains no books by political or religious extremists and nothing with excessive violence or a military focus. It also prohibits sexual content. Other books on offer include JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and the Arabic self-help title Don't Be Sad. But Time reported that, while the library also offers Obama's books and they are read periodically, "the detainees aren't exactly fighting one another to read them".

Collett said the library had "eased the environment a bit" at Guantanamo. "It's not fancy. This is not the New York public library – there are no big lions out front," he told Time. "[But] when you live in the kind of environment they live in, change is what you look forward to every day. When the library comes on the block it's exciting, especially if you've got a book they requested – then you are the hero of the day."



Posted on Thursday, 08.09.12

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Harry Potter books are passe among the prisoners. The adventures of the boy wizard have been supplanted by early episodes of Will Smith's 1990s TV comedy, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as a popular way to pass time among the 168 captives now in their second decade of U.S. detention.

"I just ordered all six seasons," says librarian Milton, a Defense Department contractor who gives only his first name to visiting journalists.

He offered no explanation for the sudden popularity of the half-hour sit-com about an inner-city Philadelphia kid who moves in with his affluent cousins in California beyond the observation that comedy is widely popular among requested items from the detention center's 28,000 book and video library.

Overall, he said, there's been a slowdown in circulation as many of the captives passing their 11th Ramadan in detention engage in other pursuits — praying, eating and talking together between dusk and dawn in their communal areas. But even before this holy month, demand for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series had dwindled.

The stories about Harry Potter now sit unborrowed on the shelves of the library, an air-conditioned trailer where contractors examine and assemble material for distribution in the prison camps. "They're over that; it's been more than a year," the librarian said in an interview Tuesday.

A civilian, Milton maintains the multilingual collection of books that mostly circulate in Arabic, Pashto, English and French that reach the four lock-ups here — two the media are allowed to visit and the two that are strictly off-limits to visiting journalists.

But the librarian leaves it to the members of the uniformed military to distribute the books, magazines and video material on the cell blocks.

Instead he detects trends by demand and noted that before surging interest in Fresh Prince — the show that first aired Sept. 10, 1990 — a Bill Cosby series also had a period of popularity.

Cooperative captives, who make up the majority of the prisoners, can watch the show communally in their medium security lock-ups, pretty much around the clock. They're in cell blocks of up to 20 men equipped with a flat-screen television bolted to the wall inside a plexiglass box.

A maximum security captive, who represents about 15 percent of the population, can watch the show alone for perhaps an hour or two a day. He gets a special solo cell, shown to journalists on a Ramadan visit this week, that lets him watch from a recliner, with one ankle shackled to a bolt on the floor.

Commanders consider activities — like TV, books, art classes and outdoor recreation like soccer — to be key to keeping the captives distracted, and reducing friction with the guard force.

The detainees who were captured around the world in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are apparently using the material to hone their English, favoring novels that feature side-by-side translation. In addition, Milton said, he has ordered 10 copies of the Oxford English Dictionary, one each for nearly every cellblock.

Also, two hardcover sets of the popular, postapocalyptic Hunger Games trilogy are in circulation in the detention center this Ramadan, Army Cpt. Jennifer Palmeri said Thursday, in response to a Miami Herald query. All the versions are in English, she said.

In addition, one captive has been furnished with an audio version of Suzanne Collins' three books -- The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay." Palmeri, a public affairs officer, would not elaborate.

But an attorney at the New York Center for Constitutional Rights solved the puzzle on Friday. The law firm that defends Guantanamo detainees sent the audio trilogy to the library for Algerian captive Djamel Ameziane, 45, a long-held, English-speaking captive, said attorney Wells Dixon.

Ameziane lived in Canada and Austria before his capture in Pakistan in 2001, and was long ago cleared for release. Lawyers have been seeking a third country to resettle him, as a refugee. "He read 'Twilight,' too," Dixon said, "but wasn't a huge fan."

Past librarians have reported interest in Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope, and an attorney advised that one convict served out his sentence reading George W. Bush's Decision Points.

Two books that have yet to make it to the collection tell the stories of the capture and interrogations of some of Guantanamo's best known prisoners - former FBI agent Ali Soufan's Black Banners and former CIA agent Jose Rodriguez's defense of water boarding and other controversial tactics, Hard Measures.

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