‘Guantanamo Boy’ is a novel written by Anna Perera, although it is a work of fiction it resembles the events which take place at Guantanamo bay. The novel starts by introducing to us the reader, Khalid and his normal life. Khalid is a fifteen year old teenager who lives in Rochdale, England. Khalid is like any other teenage; he loves football and computer games. However in the background of the novel is the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and as the novel progresses the theme of questioning ones identity arises. Khalid soon learns that most people think that Muslims are terrorists but at this time this notion doesn’t really influence his life. It is when things turn for the worst that he begins to question his identity. Khalid’s parents decide to take a trip to Pakistan and encourage Khalid to accompany them, although he doesn’t want to go he agrees to his parent’s request. It is in Pakistan that Khalid is kidnapped and handed over to the CIA and from them he goes from prison to prison, he is accused of being involved in terrorist crimes. His final destination is Guantanamo Bay, a prison in Cuba run by the US government. It is a prison which holds people suspected of terrorist crimes. Khalid becomes a victim of the war on terror.
In Guantanamo Bay, Khalid is constantly harassed, tortured and forced to admit to false claims. He is belittled in every way by prison officials and guards. His condition becomes quite frail and it is depression that seizes him and he beings to go crazy. But one of the most beautiful things is that even though he is in such horrendous circumstances, it is memories and subtle beautiful moments which keep him alive and hopeful such as this “It seems to Khalid that only he can see the streak of cloud with a petal shape at one end. Only he can hear the distant bird flapping its wings and singing to itself” (Perera 130). Khalid has been locked away in Guantanamo Bay for 2 years without any charges.
Anna Perera shows Khalid to be a generic boy and she uses this to prove that the type of brutality which Khalid faces can ultimately happen to anyone. Through her text she drills in the message that this type of injustice should be eliminated. Though this is a work of fiction it mirrors the stories of many children who were brought to Guantanamo Bay, those children whose voices are rarely remembered. Thus, through her text Anna Perera gives a voice to the plight the innocent children have suffered. She uses a present tense style of writing which is filled with intensity which is vital to convey the importance of the situation.
One thing I really liked about her text was that it was inspired by real life experiences and for me her story resembled that of Omar Khadr’s. I felt that Khalid was an embodiment of Omar Khadr in many ways- his age and the torture he has faced and is facing. I felt that through her writing she gave a voice to Omar Khadr who is always seen as a dangerous and angry boy. Anna Perera’s story is an insight to the injustice taking place in our world and so awareness comes with responsibility, once you have read her text it is vital for you to tell other people about the injustice happening in the world so that together we can fix the world for the better.
Though the ending of novel is a bit too simplistic since Khalid is cleared of all of his charges and sent home, I feel that Anna Perera gives the hope that one day Guantanamo Bay will close down for good and the people who are caged there will be given a voice. Her story talks about the many injustices that innocent people are facing but moreover her story is one of optimism, hope, defending the truth, finding ones identity, treating people with respect, forgiveness and moving on with your life and accepting everything that has happened by learning from it. One of the most brilliant passages in the text is when Khalid is coming to terms with what has happened to him and these are his first steps on the road of recovery. Khalid says, “Suddenly, he sees it’s not enough to forget. It will only be enough if he can recognize the steps he’s taken to get to this point and decide not to allow this experience to poison his life”( Perera 261).
I leave you with Khalid’s words, if you get the chance please read this book to learn about the horrendous crimes that are happening in the world. Learn so that you can speak out and defend justice. I leave you with optimism, hope and forgiveness because after reading this book that’s what Khalid has taught me. So I leave you with the truth.
“It remains a fact that children have been abducted and abused and held without change in the name of justice in Guantanamo Bay and many more secret prisons around the world.” –Anna Perera