Guantánamo Prisoner Denied Copy of “The Gulag Archipelago”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A detainee at Guantánamo Bay who wanted to read The Gulag Archipelago has been denied the book written by former Soviet political prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn.


Shaker Aamer, a British resident who has been detained in Guantánamo without charge or trial for 11½ years, was supposed to receive a copy of the book from his lawyers. But authorities at the notorious prison intercepted the delivery and have held it from Aamer.


No official explanation was provided for keeping the book.


Solzhenitsyn’s three-volume narrative about the Soviet-era forced labor camps was written between 1958 and 1968, smuggled out of the U.S.S.R., and first published in the West in 1973. The word “gulag” has been used by critics to describe Guantánamo.


Solzhenitsyn’s work isn’t the only book kept from detainees. Last month, all of John Grisham’s books were banned at the prison.


Aamer has read other books during his detainment. One of his favorites is George Orwell’s 1984. His time at Guantánamo should be over already, having been cleared for release both in 2007 and 2009. The British government does not consider him a threat, and Prime Minister David Cameron has asked the U.S. to free him.


Clive Stafford Smith, Aamer’s attorney and director of the advocacy group Reprieve, said: “This is yet another demonstration of how Guantánamo is destroying the very values the US once stood for.  When your country’s Government starts barring books once banned by the Soviets, alarm bells should ring. Obama could start restoring America’s reputation by releasing those prisoners – like Shaker – who have already been cleared – so why the delay?”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Guantanamo Authorities Block Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Gulag Archipelago’ (

The Gulag Archipelago (Wikipedia)\

Shaker Aamer (Andy Worthington)


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