With a clearly nervous David Hicks in front of a packed audience of 1000 people at the Sydney Writers' Festival on May 22, his interviewer Donna Mulhearn did a great job in breaking the ice. “Is it true that Channel 7,” she said, as we were all waiting for the hard political question, “asked you to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’?”
Apparently it is true.
Hicks, the author of Guantanamo: My Journey went on to say it took him two years to write his book. Some sections took an enormous toll of emotion and heartbreak as he recalled the torture, interrogation and isolation of his five and a half years in the US military’s Guantanamo Bay prison.
He explained in detail his journey in the late 1990s from Japan, where he went to train horses, to Kosovo, where he responded to a call by NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea on Japanese television for volunteers to help Kosovans who were being bombarded by Serbian forces.
This experience also led him later to try and travel along the silk route to China, through the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush.
It’s a long story, but clearly his humanity and his disgust at the treatment of many ethnic groups (as well as his naivety) were reasons why he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001.
In Afghanistan, a member of the army of the Northern Alliance sold him to the US military for $5000. He thought all his problems were over, but they were just beginning.
To illustrate the horror of Guantanamo, Hicks spoke about the harrowing torture of another prisoner from Saudi Arabia when the US captors told him his mother had died.
He also warned that Julian Assange could face a similar abandonment by the Australian government, if the US government get their hands on him.
Hicks warmed to a sympathetic audience, taking up all the questions and answering the lies about his case that had been told to the Australian people.
His father Terry Hicks, who was sitting in the audience, was given a standing ovation in recognition of his unflagging commitment to the release of his son.
This was followed by a long-standing ovation for David Hicks in recognition of his unjust suffering and humiliation at the hands of former prime minister John Howard.