The Freedom lecture: A friendship in Guantánamo Bay

Programme editor
Programme editor
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When George W. Bush announced the war on terror, it did not take long for Mohamedou Ould Slahi to be arrested. His alleged ties to a terrorist organization were enough reason to arrest and torture him without conviction. After this, Mohamedou was detained in Guantánamo Bay for 14 years, where he became friends with his personal guard: Steve Wood. Even though Mohamedou had reason enough to never trust an American again, and Steve was first convinced that Mohamedou was a terrorist, they started to like each other. What does it mean to be friends when the power imbalance is so absolute? When did Steve begin to believe in Mohamedou’s innocence and trust him?

For the Bush administration, the September 11 attacks launched the war on terrorism. The Guantánamo Bay penal camp was established to hold ‘extraordinarily dangerous prisoners’. Located in Cuba – legal no man’s land. The Red Cross inspected the prison in 2004 and found out that the U.S. military was torturing its prisoners. To this day, individuals are held there without conviction.

This evening, Steve and Mohamedou will talk about how world events can turn people into enemies, and how people can refuse to be defined by them.

The Freedom Lecture
Freedom is something that we in the Netherlands often take for granted. Four times a year, De Balie invites someone who knows from personal experience what it means not to be free. We want to share their stories, spread their message, and learn from their struggle. In the series, De Balie has welcomed freedom fighters like Egyptian writer and activist Nawal el Saadawi, Ugandan LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, and Hungarian journalist Veronika Munk.

The Freedom Lecture is made possible by Stichting Democratie en Media en vfonds.


Mohamedou Ould SlahiWriter, artist in residence De Balie
Steve WoodFormer guard in Guantánamo Bay Prison