Mahvish Khan biography

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Mahvish Khan

Mahvish Khan

Mahvish Khan Biography

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is an American lawyer, born to immigrant Pashtun parents in Michigan. While pursuing a law degree at the University of Miami, she became enraged by the illegal detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Having grown up listening to her mother tell her "Now is not the time to be complacent," Khan felt compelled to help any way she could. With her fluency in Pashto and a familiarity with Afghan cultures and customs that no other "habeas" lawyer with security clearance had, she was quickly taken on as an interpreter for Afghan detainees. Six months later, in January 2006, Khan was on her way to Guantanamo Bay. Her role with the detainees quickly developed. She began providing supervised legal counsel and traveled to Afghanistan to find exonerating evidence for prisoners.

During more than thirty trips to Guantanamo, Khan unexpectedly connected with the very men that Donald Rumsfeld called "the worst of the worst." She brought them Starbucks chai, the closest available drink to the kind of tea they would drink at home. And they quickly befriended her, offering fatherly advice as well as a uniquely personal insight into their plight, and that of their families thousands of miles away. As time went by Khan began to question whether Guantanamo truly held America's most dangerous enemies. But regardless of each prisoner's innocence or guilt, she was determined to preserve their most fundamental right, the right to a fair trial.

For Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, the experience was a validation of her Afghan heritage—as well as her American freedoms, which allowed her to intervene at Guantanamo purely out of her sense that it was the right thing to do. Her story is challenging, brave, and essential test of who she is—and who we are.

Mahvish Rukhsana Khan is a recent law school graduate and journalist. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media. She lives in San Diego.



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Interview

Mahvish Khan, author of My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me, talks extensively about her experiences translating for the Afghan prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay (men that Donald Rumsfeld famously called "the worst of the worst") concluding that "If I had kids, I would allow many of those men at Gitmo to watch them. I think some of the men I've met there are in fact, the best of the best."

You were in law school in 2006 when you decided that you wanted to do something about the illegal detainment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. When most people decide to volunteer, they usually serve at soup kitchens or walk dogs at animal shelters. However did you end up at Guantánamo translating for detainees?

I was studying Gitmo at the time and found myself constantly ranting about how criminal the situation was. Eventually I googled the cases I had read so much about. My internet search revealed who the attorneys on those cases were and I quickly got in touch with them. I wanted to be involved as a journalist and a lawyer. When I learned that there was no one with security clearance who spoke Pashto (a predominant Afghan language) I applied for security clearance and got my foot in the door as an interpreter for habeas lawyers representing detainees. My role eventually grew, but that's how it all started.

Specifically, my desire to bring awareness and get involved was triggered by how appalled I was while studying Gitmo and the Federal torture statutes in my international law class. I realized the detention center was created just to weasel around cornerstone constitutional ...

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Books by Mahvish Khan at BookBrowse
My Guantanamo Diary jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Mahvish Khan but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Curtis Dawkins

    Curtis Dawkins

    Curtis Dawkins grew up in rural Illinois and earned an MFA in fiction writing at Western Michigan University. He has struggled with alcohol and substance abuse through most of his life and, during a botched home robbery, ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    My Guantanamo Diary

    Try:
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins

  • Dan Fesperman

    Dan Fesperman

    Dan Fesperman grew up in North Carolina and has reported for the Fayetteville, Durham Morning Herald, Charlotte News, Miami Herald and The Baltimore Sun, and worked in its Berlin bureau during the years of civil war in the ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    My Guantanamo Diary

    Try:
    The Prisoner of Guantanamo
    by Dan Fesperman

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