Begg, Moazzam 1968(?)–

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Begg, Moazzam 1968(?)–


Born c. 1968, Birmingham, England; married; children: three.


Home— Birmingham, England.


Owner of an Islamic bookstore; has also been an aid worker in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Was an "enemy combatant" prisoner of the United States, 2002-05.


(With Victoria Brittain)Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, New Press (New York, NY), 2006.


Moazzam Begg is a British Muslim who spent three years as an imprisoned "enemy combatant" as part of the United States "war on terror." Released in 2005, largely due to pressure from the British government and civil liberties activists, Begg, along with Victoria Brittain, tells his story in Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar. "I am a law-abiding citizen of the U.K. and attest vehemently to my innocence, before God and the law, of any crime—though none has even been alleged," Begg wrote in a public statement published in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere in 2004 while he was still held as a prisoner without being formally charged with a crime. "I have neither ever met Usama bin Laden, nor been a member of Al Qaidah—or any synonymous paramilitary organization, party or group. Neither have I engaged in hostile acts against the U.S.A., nor assisted such groups in the same—though the opportunity has availed itself many a time."

Begg began making notes for Enemy Combatant while still imprisoned. In the book, Begg and Brittain write of Begg's childhood in England and then begin the story of his ordeal, with Begg moving his family to Afghanistan in 2001 to become an aid worker. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist bombings in the United States, Begg moved to Pakistan, where he was seized by the CIA in Islamabad in 2002. Hooded and in shackles, Begg was flown to a U.S. detention center in Kandahar and then to Bagram airbase, where he would spent the next year as a captive. Eventually, he was relocated to Guantanamo Bay, where he would remain for the next two years in solitary confinement until his release. "They didn't want me in the general population in Guantanamo, as it would be detrimental to them as I speak several languages and would be able to disseminate information," Begg told Pete Jackson in an interview on SocialistWorkerOnline.

In Enemy Combatant, Begg writes of being tortured, including being left in a room while hogtied with a sack over his head even though he suffered from asthma. He also relates his captor's cruelty to other inmates, which, according to Begg, resulted in at least two deaths. Despite his bad treatment and his insistence on his innocence, Begg does not entirely blame his captors for his treatment. April Younglove reported in the Library Journal that Begg "conveys a sense of empathy with his guards." In his interview on SocialistWorkerOnline, Begg commented: "I wanted to look at what it is like to be a captive of the US's war on terror from the inside and still try to be fair to all the prisoners, interrogators and soldiers. It is difficult, but I wanted to try to be just and fair without detracting from the harm done."

In another interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Begg talked about his solitary confinement: "It made me very introspective. It made me think about myself and in what way could I possibly benefit from this environment. I saw that I'm not going to get out of here any time shortly. It doesn't appear that way, anyway. So I began to memorize great parts of the Koran. I began to rewrite everything that I could remember from every language that I'd ever studied, from Latin to Hebrew to French and Spanish and Arabic." Begg went on to note that he also exercised and did other things "in order for me to keep my mind sharp and my body fit, and my spiritual level as strong as possible."

As for Enemy Combatant, critics praised the book, while also observing that the Pentagon still claims that Begg is a potential threat and that there are incidents in his past that remain suspect. For example, Tim Golden related in the New York Times: "There are some notable gaps in Mr. Begg's memoir. The book does not mention that while working as an interpreter at a government welfare office in 1994, he and a friend were arrested and charged with defrauding the agency. The police found a night-vision sight, a bullet-proof vest and what news reports called ‘extremist literature’ at Mr. Begg's home." Nevertheless, despite questions about Begg's past ties with terrorists, many reviewers noted the fairness and credibility of the account of his imprisonment. In a review of the book in the Spectator, Richard Beeston commented: "His account is utterly plausible and very disturbing. The writer is a devout Muslim, openly hostile to US policies and sympathetic to the cause of militant Islam. But his story of daily life is written without rancour."

Other critics were more effusive in their praise of the story told in Enemy Combatant. For example, a Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "fast-paced, harrowing narrative" and also "a forcefully told, up-to-the-minute political story." A contributor to Tikkun referred to the book as the "most literary indictment of America's abuse of human rights."



Book World, September 10, 2006, Jane Mayer, review of Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, p. 3.

California Bookwatch, October, 2006, review of Enemy Combatant.

Colorlines Magazine, May-June, 2007, Beandrea Davis, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 5.

Library Journal, October 1, 2006, April Younglove, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 91.

London Review of Books, June 8, 2006, James Meek, "It'll All Be Over One Day," p. 10.

Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2003, Edwin Chen, "The World; U.S. Postpones Tribunals for 2 British Detainees; President Bush Bows to Concerns by the Blair Government that Terror Suspects at Guantanamo Bay Prison Won't Get Fair Hearing by the Military," p. 8; October 3, 2005, Moazzam Begg, "Demand to Be Freed from Guantanamo."

Nerve(Liverpool, England), spring, 2007, Hana Leaper, "Moazzam Begg Interview."

Newsweek, August 11, 2003, Richard Wolffe, "School Days with a Qaeda Suspect: Long Ago,Newsweek Correspondent Richard Wolffe Went to School with Moazzam Begg. Now He's Gone Back to Find Out Where Begg Went Bad," p. 34.

New York Times, October 2, 2004, Lizette Alvarez, "Briton Held at Cuba Base Cites Torture," p. 12; January 26, 2005, Lizette Alvarez, "World Briefing Europe: Britain: Last 4 Britons at Guantanamo Return," p. 6; June 15, 2006, Tim Golden, "Jihadist or Victim: Ex-Detainee Makes a Case," p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, January 30, 2006, Matthew Thornton, "A Detainee's Story," p. 8; July 10, 2006, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 64.

Race and Class, October-December, 2006, Nancy Murray, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 103.

Spectator, April 15, 2006, Richard Beeston, "Time Out in Cuba."

Tikkun, September-October, 2006, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 81.

Times Educational Supplement, May 26, 2006, Sara Wajid, "Not Such a Prime Suspect," p. 15.

Times Literary Supplement, February 23, 2007, Alex Danchev, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 33.

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December, 2006, Hanaan Sarhan, review of Enemy Combatant, p. 68.


Channel 4 Web site, (February 24, 2005), "Moazzam Begg Interview: ‘Two People Were Beaten to Death.’"

Democracy Now!, (March 14, 2006), Amy Goodman, "U.S. Exclusive: Moazzam Begg Describes Abuse at Bagram and Guantanamo and Witnessing the Killing of Two Fellow Detainees," interview with Moazzam Begg.

New Press, (October 17, 2007), brief profile of Moazzam Begg.

SocialistWorkerOnline, (June 24, 2006), Pete Jackson, "Moazzam Begg: ‘The Powerful Want to Change Our Way of Life,’" interview with Moazzam Begg.


Morning Edition(transcript for National Public Radio show), September 15, 2006, "Moazzam Begg: From Pakistan to Guantanamo," interview with Moazzam Begg.