Finding Humanity After Dehumanization: an Examination of the Role of Memoir in Narrating the Human Rights Violations at Guantánamo Bay

Open Access
Fung, Tak-Yin Sandra
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sophia A Mcclennen, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa Ruth Sternlieb, Honors Advisor
  • Jonathan Harold Marks, Faculty Reader
  • Guantánamo Bay
  • human rights
  • memoirs
This thesis examines the role of memoir within the larger dialogue concerning the human rights violations committed at Guantánamo Bay. Memoirs have always held an important place within human rights narratives, and the personal histories written by former Guantánamo detainees contribute an essential individual component to conversations about the injustices of the facility. Although several other detainees have come forward with memoirs, this thesis specifically evaluates Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantánamo, Bagram, and Kandahar by Moazzam Begg and Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo by Murat Kurnaz. Both men were detained without charge and released, albeit after enduring years of abuse, isolation, and poor living conditions. Despite the emphasis on the unique ability of memoir to connect the audience with the perspective of the work’s subject, this thesis does not argue for memoir as the most effective form of human rights narrative. Instead, the memoir should be viewed as one part of a larger conversation. Memoir accomplishes much that other forms of narrative cannot, but the genre also has many of its own limitations. Evaluating memoir alongside other contributions to the dialogue of human rights advocacy enables participants to gain a fuller understanding of abuses. Given the indefinite status of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility as of 2012, memoirs and other works of human rights narrative must continue to be read and understood for successful advocacy.