Mohamedou Ould Slahi Houbeini (Arabic: محمدو ولد الصلاحي) was born in 1970 in Rosso, Mauritania, as the son of a camel herder. At the age of 18, he moved to Germany on a scholarship to study Electrical Engineering. He travelled to Afghanistan for training in an Al-Qaida camp, but disavowed the organisation two months later and states not to have any ties ever since. In the wake of 11 September, he has been interrogated and accused time and again. In 2001 he was kidnapped by the US secret service. During his 15 years of incarceration in Guantánamo Bay detention center, without ever being charged, he was tortured and mistreated. Nowadays, US authorities have ruled out his involvement in any terrorist attacks. Proof to the contrary has never been found. While imprisoned, Slahi Houbeini wrote a total of four books, which have in part been confiscated. His memoir, originally published as Guantánamo Diary (Canongate, 2015) became an international bestseller and has been adapted for the screen as The Mauritanian (2021) with Tahar Rahim and Jodie Foster in leading roles. The movie is bewildering, but simultaneously a testament to the resilience of a man confined under the most atrocious conditions, who has nonetheless remained in high spirits. Slahi Houbeini’s debut novel The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga (Ohio University Press, 2021) will be translated into German and published by InterKontinental Verlag this August. This timeless novel is a poetic and subtle account of a Bedouin family’s fight for survival in the face of a changing world, and addresses questions of global responsibility.
The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga (2021) | Die wahre Geschichte von Ahmed und Zarga (Aug. 2023)
“Slahi und seine Folterer”, ARD Panorama, 2021
“The Mauritanian”, Director: Kevin Macdonald, 2021
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