In the Wandsworth Guardian, Paul Cahalan has regularly covered the story of local resident Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo. In December, he wrote a detailed article about Shaker’s court case, in which his lawyers were seeking access to evidence in the possession of the British government, regarding his torture in US custody in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantánamo, and today he has undertaken an exclusive interview with Shaker’s wife Zin, who has rarely spoken to the press.
The interview is available here, and I reproduce it below, because it provides a powerful insight into the suffering of the wives and children who have no idea when — if ever — their husbands and fathers will be released from the peculiarly aberrant regime of indefinite detention without charge or trial established by the Bush administration, and maintained, in all its key aspects, by President Obama.
Shaker’s story is featured in the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself), and both Polly and I, and released prisoners Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg, will be raising awareness of Shaker’s plight during a UK tour of the film, which begins at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre next Tuesday (February 16). Further details of the tour can be found here.
Wife of Battersea Guantánamo detainee speaks of her family’s torment
By Paul Cahalan
The wife of Shaker Aamer has spoken for the first time about the “psychotic episodes” she developed after her husband’s capture, and explained how his imprisonment has robbed her of a marriage and denied her kids a normal childhood. Mrs. Aamer said “there was no colour in her life” since Shaker left, but said she believes she will see her husband again. The pair met through a family friend and were married in 1997, she said, and had a happy four years together before Shaker [and the family] went to Afghanistan, [and he was then seized and sold to US forces, after making sure that his family escaped safely].
“We liked each other and then we got married and my favourite memories are him playing with our children,” she said, adding the couple’s children Johina, 12, Michael 10, Faris, 9, and Saif, 8, had lost out on happiness. “The thing I miss most about him is his laughing and funny character which entertained us all the time. Since he has been away there is no colour in life. My children’s eight-year chance of being with their father has passed.”
Mrs. Aamer’s dad, Saaed Ahmed, said his daughter developed her illness after Shaker — known by his family and friends as Sawad — was jailed. He said: “She is psychotic. In the beginning she was under the care of doctors at Springfield Hospital [which treats mental illness]. A nurse visited her every month, every day when she was bad. It started two years after his arrest and comes every three or four months. She hears voices in the night calling her. She hears her husband and sometimes religious figures.”
Mrs. Aamer said: “I feel very upset and sad in this illness. I cry a lot and the children tell me to be patient and to believe that he is coming back very soon. I think of my children and if Shaker was home life would have been a lot better. My children do not believe the news stories but we believe we will see him at home, because he was cleared for release two years ago and we don’t understand why he is still there.”
Mr. Ahmed added his daughter and the children write to Shaker, but said they were not sure he received the letters, as communication from him was sporadic. He said: “In one of the letters he wrote to me he said, ‘they are playing with my mind. I cannot trust anyone, not even my lawyer’. Another time we heard that a Saudi national had died, we thought it was Shaker, but we were relieved when we found it wasn’t. He has been in Guantánamo for years and we are being punished. We are suffering too much. The one thing I want to see is his smiling face.”
Mrs. Aamer said her husband had no links to terrorists. She said: “I know my husband, he is a dynamic person of a really good heart. He never believed in harming anyone though he did feel very sorry for the oppressed. He loved America and look what they are doing to him, breaking his love and trust in them. He is suffering from so many illnesses there without medical help and on top of that being tortured.”
What keeps her and the family strong is “faith and trust in God” and the hope one day they will be reunited with their father, husband and son-in-law. Mrs. Aamer added: “We talk about how much we remember about him. I try to be strong for them because their father is in prison. Staying strong and keeping our hopes up for eight years has definitely been extremely hard. I am in contact with the British Government but they are not doing much for his release. It is very difficult for my children to have a life of continued absence of their father.”
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
it makes me feel very sad to read about what shaker’s family going through,i knew shaker from guantanamo he is always thinking of other prisoners.one day i was with him in the punishment block”isolation” they have punished me by taking away my matress blanket, and all i was left with was an iron bad in a cold cell they punish me for a month.at that moment shaker wanted to help me get my things back so he decided along with other prisoners to start a hanger strike as a protest to help me get my things back.and after 4 or 5 days the hanger strike started to spread through other camps which forced the guards to change their mind and give me my staff back.it makes fell so sad to see shaker and other prisoners remind behind the wires of the outside law,and i think those people are still suffering in guantanamo because we allowed it to continue when we allowed obama after bush to carry on with the indefinite detention without charge or trial policy and that is the biggest challenge facing every citizen of the world who believes in human rights,that make it their duty to bring the husband to his wife and the father to this kids ….and to hold those top people who sign executive orders responsible for hijaking democracy and human rights…shaker and others will one day come home, but the question is.. will it be because we have pulled hard ?…
On Facebook, Huda Gharir wrote:
That article brought me to tears, she is in so much pain. Families are torn apart. Even if he returns home, too much will be different. The whole family dynamic is over. You become strangers to one another. Not only do the detainees suffer but their whole families and friends and anybody who cares.
Thanks, Ahmed and Huda.
And Ahmed, I’d also like to thank you for sharing with me and the readers here some insights into life in Guantanamo. They are always much appreciated.
[…] information about Shaker can be found here, here, here and here, and you can also email David Miliband and write to Prime Minister Gordon Brown via an […]
This is all bogus! There is plenty of testimony to prove that Shaker is a known Jihadist and supporter of terrorism. Unfortunately battlefields are not CSI crime-zones, so the level of evidence required in Western Courts to convict many of the enemy combatants picked up in Afghanistan is simply impossible to attain. Al Qaeda training manuals all say that once in custody, you moan like a bitch that you are being mistreated and tortured, that you were working for charities when pick-up and then tie up the Western legal system as much as humanly possible both to expend the time, money, and resources of the enemy and squeeze whatever level of compensation you can from them! Shaker has stuck to his terrorist training to the letter. No doubt- he will be counting his millions in compensation very soon – all garnered via Legal Aid and the compensation all from out taxes! These people just laugh in our faces! All logic should tell us that this person should not be allowed to return to the UK at all and his family can go join him in whichever Islamic hell-hole he chooses to go to. But no – he and his family will be set up for life financially at the tax payers expense and all we do is shrug our shoulders at the impotence of our own creation. It is stories like Shaker’s that reward people like him for his hatred of the West that makes my stomach churn! The West has to change the Human Rights Laws so that people like him can be deported – these laws were never created with the general well-being and protection of terrorists bent on our destruction in mind!
I’m sorry, but that’s such rubbish. I truly wonder why you and other apologists for the abomination that is indefinite detention without charge or trial are so opposed to actually paying any attention to what Shaker himself has said over the years.
And why would I believe what a known terrorist says? He is simply practicing Taqiyya (telling untruths to the enemy and Unbelievers which is permissible in Islam) Your naivety and that of your fellow Muslim Terrorist “apologists” borders on the unbelievable. Do the research, what was he actually doing in Afghanistan in the first place? Look into his history and background prior to being picked up. We live in extraordinary times and this requires new ways of dealing with these monsters. Laws need to be changed so that they help rather than hinder us. Yes his detention was unfortunate but there is no smoke without fire. He was picked up as an enemy combatant and afforded all rights under the Geneva Convention and more. It was all legal. These are all dangerous men who cannot be prosecuted in our Western Courts as the level of proof & evidence required are set for civil environments and climates (not battlefields and terrorist theatres of operation!) People like you and your ilk fail to understand these facts and instead of looking for truth, fight for their “Rights” – what about the Rights of their victims? Let’s see if he uses his compensation millions in the same way as Jamal al-Harith!
There is little point in you wasting any more time, “Ahmed,” delivering your selective version of the truth. You claim, risibly, that Shaker was “afforded all rights under the Geneva Convention and more. It was all legal.” George W. Bush specifically excluded all the Guantanamo prisoners from the protections of the Geneva Conventions in February 2002, and it took until June 2006 for the Supreme Court to remind him that all prisoners must receive the protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. See my article here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/02/14/george-w-bushs-torture-program-began-ten-years-ago/
If you have proof of Shaker Aamer’s wrongdoing, why not forward it? I have seen nothing to persuade me that he is a threat to anyone.
My apologies “Andy” – they all should have been kept in 5 star luxury and fed Michelin star meals 3 x day. Perhaps Shaker has mellowed after years being incarcerated (that is one of the objectives of locking up criminals to help show them the error of their ways) but he knows where his bread is buttered! And so do you! I wonder how much in “donations” you have received from the compensation paid to these Terrorists?! Perhaps Shaker is not a threat but his ideology and the “Rock Star” status you and others have now empowered him with will no doubt give him the forum where he can influence others to follow an anti-western Jihadist path. He could have been repatriated to Saudi Arabia, but knew he and his family would be set up for life by returning to the UK and this delayed his departure from Guantanamo. If you are the “independent” journalist you claim, where is your analysis piece on Jamal ai-Harith’s departure from the UK for ISIS (after receiving his £1 Million in compensation)? I have simply posted here to show you and the other “Terrorist Apologists” that the vast silent majority do not agree with your agenda and that laws need to be changed so that these ungrateful parasites do not endanger us. If they had their way – your ability to have this type of website, express the views you do and have the types of freedoms you enjoy would be eroded beyond your wildest dreams! Who knows, you’d probably be beheaded! Allahu Akber! Below is one of many pieces on the net exposing who Shaker really is:
Such nonsense, “Ahmed.” I am not lavishly funded at all, I have received no money at all from any former prisoner, and the Henry Jackson Society is full of racists and Islamophobes who unquestioningly parrot profoundly unreliable information in the US military files, produced through the torture, abuse and bribery of prisoners.
You really should read my analysis here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2015/10/02/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-truth-lies-and-distortions-in-the-coverage-of-shaker-aamer-soon-to-be-freed-from-guantanamo/
Yes of course it’s all nonsense because it does not conform to your own narrative! I love how you simply quote your own work as reference! I love it that any criticism is met by the old standard Left wing, appeasement and apologist cliche rebuff of playing the racist and Islamophobia cards! I love it that you simply put your head in the sand and are just hoping for the best when it comes to the threats that radical Islam poses to the West. Where is your piece on the former Guantanamo prisoner and now freed and fully compensated UK national – Jamal al-Harith or the other former prisoners who have simply melted away into their previous Jihadhi lifestyles to rejoin the ongoing fight against the West? Where is your analysis of those facts “Andy”? Oh yeah – it does not suit your narrative, so no need to do any work on that “independent” journalistic front. The only kudos I will offer you is that you have allowed these posts.
You don’t hear yourself, do you, “Ahmed”? Everything you say about me is actually true about yourself. I didn’t quote my own article self-referentially; I pointed you at it so you could read my actual analysis of why the supposed witnesses to Shaker’s al-Qaeda/bin Laden associations are profoundly unreliable. Do you not understand that US judges highlighted these men’s unreliability, and a high-level US government review process, the Guantanamo Review Task Force – involving the DoJ, DoD, Homeland Security and the DNI, with input from the intelligence services – essentially agreed? Why do you think Shaker was approved for transfer out of Guantanamo? So the Saudis could shut him up? If he was a threat, the easiest thing to have done would have been to approve him for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, like 48 others, or to recommend him for trial, like 36 others? But no, he was approved for transfer.
I think our discussions are now at an end, “Ahmed.” I can’t keep going round and round attempting to have a discussion with someone who won’t listen to reason, and who, though superficially polite, is actually quite insulting and menacing. I don’t know who you are, you haven’t offered your real name, and yet you accuse me of taking payment from people when I haven’t, and insult my journalistic integrity, all the while, like a true bully and coward, without me having any way of knowing what your job is, and who’s paying you.
This will be my last post as I do not want to inflict anymore “mental” torture on you and feed your obvious paranoia. Who knows, you might indict me for war crimes at the Hague?! Your business model is obviously wrong if you are not generating the funds that your efforts in promoting your Islamist Terror Appeasement and Apologist agenda warrant. I suggest you publicly convert to Islam (generating lots of self-publicity) and then set up a Muslim Charity to simply carry on the work that you do for them now anyway. The funds will come flooding in! What you fail to realize is that these people laugh behind your back at every turn, having almost total disbelief to the extent that you as a Western Infidel and Unbeliever go to to help them escape captivity. They simply laugh at all of us at our own self-inflicted impotence to legally do anything against them as well as rewarding them handsomely upon their return to our nations. I can equally assure you, that the vast majority of them would gladly kill you in an instant and sleep like babies that same night believing that killing any of us is doing God’s work or fulfilling God’s plan. If you want to truly espouse the journalistic integrity you believe you do have – then I suggest you write a piece on the former inmates who have reverted back to life as Jihadists upon their release and not just the ones finding it hard to live in peace in Uruguay (and trying to squeeze even more money from the US authorities!). I would be particularly interested to read your take on a certain Mr Jamal ai-Harith a former recent resident of South London (now of unknown abode, thought to be residing somewhere in Syria/Iraq under the employ of a certain organization called ISIS (among other pseudonyms )? Perhaps you’ve heard of them?! As-Salaam Alaikum (Ahmed Mohammed)
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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