Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Mauritania

Warscapes Corona Notebooks

Before the pandemic of Coronavirus, I was consumed with my own daily struggle. I wanted so badly to resume my life after twenty years of being deprived of my freedom, nearly 15 as a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. I wanted to go everywhere, visit countries, promote my books and my movies. For so many years, I wanted so much to be just a normal, invisible person, like the billions of people who live on this planet. And boom, everything’s on hold. Some of my closest friends were hit by the covid 19 virus, and my family was in the heart of it. Now, my only concern is to see my friends cured and my family free of infection. I am not interested anymore in “resuming” my life, or being given visas to travel outside my home in Mauritania. I was reminded that the world is much bigger than my own problems. I have become forced to become one with my fellow humans, and to feel their daily suffering. I was reminded that there are people in my country who sell mints, one small bushel at a time. A bushel costs (10 Ouguiya, less than 30 cents). These mostly very poor women are under threat now because of this virus - to lose either their livelihoods, their source of income, or even their lives. Mohameden, Brahim, Moustapha and Houssein are doctors in my extended family, and we can only talk to them by WhatsApp. Doctors everywhere to me have only one singular identity now: They are just doctors, our healers, and we love them. Coronavirus has united the world like nothing I’ve known before. We have one army, that is of doctors and nurses, who we admire and we totally stand behind and back. The army represents us all, regardless of our ethnicities, where we are from, or our creed. We can turn this pandemic to something much more positive and inclusive. We can build a new world order based on brotherhood and cooperation, rather than the ideology of intimidation and MAD deterrence doctrine. Coronavirus has shown us that we are much more vulnerable than we want to believe. We need one another. I hope that in these trying times, we reflect.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi is a Mauritanian writer. He was detained at Guantánamo Bay detention camp without charge from 2002 until his release in 2016, almost fifteen years later. His memoir, Guantánamo Diary, was written while in detention and has been translated into 27 languages. His novella Ahmed and Zarga is forthcoming with Ohio University Press.