The film portrays the accounts of Ruhal Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul (the 'Tipton Three'); three young British men fromTipton in the West Midlands, who are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ancestry. It features both actors and portrayals of actions, historical footage, and interviews with the three men.
They travelled to Pakistan in September 2001, just days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA, to attend a wedding of a friend of theirs. While staying at a mosque in Karachi, the three decided to take a trip to Afghanistan to see first-hand what was happening in the region.
Mixed with interviews with the three men, and archive news footage from the period, the film portrays a dramatic account with actors of the three men's experiences: from their travels into Afghanistan to their capture and imprisonment.
Travelling by van, Ruhal, Asif, and Shafiq, with two other friends, crossed the border in October 2001 just as US warplanes began attacking Taliban positions all over the country. They made it to Kandahar without incident, and later to the capital city of Kabul a few days later. After nearly a month of "lingering" aimlessly around Kabul, the Tipton Three decided to return to Pakistan. But through a combination of bad luck and the increasing chaos, the friends took the wrong bus, which travelled further into Afghanistan towards the north and the front-line fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance rebels. The convoy of vehicles they were riding in was hit by an airstrike, and they were left wandering around the unfamiliar country. In mid-November, near the town of Baghlan, the three came across a group of Taliban fighters and asked to be taken to Pakistan. Shortly afterward, all of the men were captured by Northern Alliance soldiers.
Imprisoned at a base at Mazar-e Sharif, the three were interrogated and discovered to be British citizens. As they had no luggage, money, passports or any kind of identification to support their stories, Ruhal, Asif, and Shafiq were transferred to the United States military. They were imprisoned in a US army stockade for a month with other prisoners, being regularly interrogated and occasionally beaten by US soldiers.
In January 2002, the 'Tipton Three' were declared "enemy combatants" by the US military, and flown with dozens of other alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they were held for the next two years. They were held in mostly solitary confinement without charge or legal representation.
The film portrays several scenes depicting beatings during interrogation, the use of torture techniques such as stress positions, and attempts by the US Army to extract forced confessions of involvement with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The isolation continued in Camp X-Ray and another camp. During two years they were subjected to more questioning by US Army and Central Intelligence Agency interrogators.
In one incident, one US army guard at Camp X-Ray desecrated one prisoner's Qur'an by throwing it to the ground to incite a reaction from the rest of the prisoners. Ruhal witnessed a group of US soldiers severely beat up an unruly and mentally ill Arab prisoner for not obeying their orders. When Ruhal shouts out that the beatings violate theGeneva Conventions, the guards laugh and say those laws do not apply to enemy combatants.
In 2004, the Tipton Three were released without charge. They were flown back to England where, one year later, they returned to Pakistan for the wedding they had planned to attend in the first place. (It had been postponed.)