Former Guantánamo prisoners want the documentary Jihad Rehab to be taken down.
Men who were held at Guantánamo Bay detention camp talk to a film crew at a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia.
A group of people who were held at Guantánamo are asking that the movie Jihad Rehab be taken off the market. In an open letter, the men say that they are “uncomfortable with the film’s content and the way it was made.”
The letter came out after the movie, now called The UnRedacted, was shown at the Doc Edge festival in New Zealand. Moazzam Begg, a former prisoner and director of the Cage advocacy group, says that changing the name of the movie doesn’t change its bad story or lazy stereotypes. “After a lot of criticism, the people who worked on Jihad Rehab had a chance to listen and learn. Still, not much has been done to fix this or even acknowledge it.
Jihad Rehab is a movie that was shot over several years and follows four former Guantánamo prisoners who are sent to a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia. Even though none of the men were found guilty of terrorism, the movie introduces each of them along with a list of alleged crimes that were used to keep them in Guantánamo without trial for more than a decade.
itself. In her apology, Disney said she was sorry she didn’t insist on “a full fact-checking process to make sure the highest standards of accuracy were met” and that the people interviewed for the film “cannot freely consent to anything in a carceral system, especially one in a country with a reputation for being violent.”
Critics have asked if it’s right to talk to the men after they’ve spent almost half of their lives at Guantánamo, where they were tortured both physically and mentally. One of the men still talks with his hands together, as if he were in handcuffs. Jihad Rehab has also been criticized for not being able to get rid of offensive stereotypes about Muslim men and for putting its subjects’ safety and security at risk.
Mohammed Al-Hamiri, one of the men in the movie, told the Guardian that he didn’t know the movie would be shown all over the world. He found out that it was online after it was shown at Sundance. Al-Hamiri said, “My life is already hard, but this movie is a major threat to my life and the lives of my family.” Another man said that he had made it clear to the director that he did not want to be in the movie, but that his wishes were not taken into account. Meg Smaker, who directed the movie, says that all of the people who were in it signed consent forms and that the men never told her they were afraid.
After the film’s premiere, Smaker worked with the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) to say that her film is being attacked because it was made by a white woman who isn’t a Muslim. They say they are standing up for free speech and against those who are trying to shut it down.
The interviews, which are like interrogations, and the assumption of guilt remind us of what we had to go through every day.
In an interview with Variety, Smaker said that the goal of Jihad Rehab is to give the men a sense of humanity by letting them tell their side of the story. “Do you think you’re a good person or a bad person?” she asks in the movie. But there is never any doubt that the men are guilty. “Would you again do jihad?” The way the questions are asked makes it clear that the men are upset. At one point, one of them gets up and leaves, refusing to talk to the filmmaker again.
Mansoor Adayfi, who signed the open letter, says that watching Smaker’s film was hard for him and reminded him of bad times. “The interviewing is like an interrogation, and they assume you’re guilty, which reminds me of what we had to go through every day,” says Adayfi. “The movie is a stark reminder that we are never really free from the chains of Guantánamo, even though we are free men.”
Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer for human rights, told the Guardian that he spoke directly with Smaker but felt that his concerns were ignored: “She seemed very defensive, but she did say that parts of her movie could put the life of one of the men in danger.” Smaker says she didn’t say those things.
Smith also said that he was surprised that Smaker’s team hadn’t talked to any of the men’s lawyers about their roles in the movie. He said that he thought such a move would be “clearly unethical.”
Critics also say that Smaker’s questions are meant to get people to criticize the Saudi government. They say that Smaker doesn’t care about the men’s obvious discomfort or that they are being held by a harsh, authoritarian government.
In the film’s press notes, Smaker’s team talked about the safeguards and procedures they put in place. For example, a Saudi Arabian co-producer and film crew were allowed to stay anonymous, likely to keep them from being persecuted by the government, unlike the people who were interviewed for the film.
Gail Helt, a former CIA analyst who supported efforts to close Guantánamo, told the Guardian, “If the filmmakers think this film won’t get to people who could hurt these men, that’s just another sign that they don’t seem ready to deal with this subject.” This movie has a lot of problems, and it should never be shown to a wider audience or be shown again.