On Sunday, in torrential rain, I cut short a dry afternoon in the Catford Bridge Tavern — a formerly notoriously rough pub reborn after its recent takeover by the Antic group, which is spacious, friendly, well-decorated, and which also does excellent food, including Sunday roasts — to take my bike on the train to Charing Cross, and, from there, to cycle up to Piccadilly and through Mayfair to Grosvenor Square, to speak at a protest outside the US Embassy to mark the second anniversary of the sentencing, in a court in New York, of Aafia Siddiqui.
The story of Aafia Siddiqui, which I have been covering for many years, remains one of the most disturbing in the whole of the Bush administration’s brutal “war on terror.” A Pakistani neuroscientist, she is currently two years into a horrendously unjust 86 year sentence in a prison hospital in Texas for allegedly having tried and failed, in August 2008, to shoot a number of US soldiers who were holding her in Ghazni, Afghanistan. This followed her resurfacing after a mysterious five and a half year absence, in which many people believe she was held in one or more secret CIA “black sites,” where she was severely abused and lost her mind.
Although the turnout for the protest, organised by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, was only moderate, numbers were swelled by the many thousands of people who had turned up for a protest about the terrible racist and Islamophobic video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which, to my mind, like all examples of bigotry, is best ignored, to avoid providing the oxygen of publicity to those peddling such filth. However, the organisers of the Aafia Siddiqui protest were presented with an excellent opportunity to inform numerous people about the plight of Dr. Siddiqui, which was obviously useful.
Although the presence of two protests was confusing, and the weather saw off the PA system for the Aafia Siddiqui event, obliging those of us who were speaking to have to shout our message at the crowd that clustered around us, I was delighted to have the opportunity to highlight Dr. Siddiqui’s ongoing plight, and also to discuss the wider issue of the scapegoats of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” who continue to be punished disproportionately, whether they were guilty of anything, or, as is often the case, innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A video of my talk is posted below:
These unjustly deprived of their liberty in the “war on terror” include those held beyond the law at Bagram prison (renamed the Parwan Detention Facility) in Afghanistan, where the Geneva Conventions were torn up by the Bush administration, and have not been reinstated by Barack Obama, and, of course, Guantánamo, where 167 men continue to languish neither as prisoners of war nor as criminal suspects, but as human beings essentially with no rights, as the Bush administration first intended.
Although they ostensibly have the right to challenge their detention in the US courts, through habeas corpus, those rights have been struck down by right-wing judges in the appeals court in Washington D.C., and with Congress having imposed onerous restrictions on releasing anyone from Guantánamo, and the Obama administration having taken a position of extreme cowardice and indifference when it comes to releasing any of the men, they find that the only way out of Guantánamo is in a coffin.
The disgraceful death, three weeks ago, of Adnan Latif, a mentally troubled Yemeni, demonstrates everything that is wrong with the position that Barack Obama has taken regarding the men still held in Guantánamo. Although Latif was repeatedly cleared for release, by a mIlitary review board under George W. Bush in 2006, and by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2009, and although he also won his habeas corpus petition, he was not released. Obama and Congress have refused to release any Yemenis after a failed terror plot in 2009 was revealed to have originated in Yemen, thereby implying that all Yemenis are terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, and the D.C. appeals court struck down Latif’s successful habeas petition.
For the scapegoats of the “war on terror,” as I mentioned on Sunday, enough is enough. It is clear that no one in a position of power or authority cares, and that the mainstream media has largely given up on doing its job, but those of us who do care must not let ourselves be silenced. Aafia Siddiqui should be repatriated to Pakistan, the Geneva Conventions should be fully reinstated in all war zones, and Guantánamo must be closed.
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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Colin Maclean wrote:
Glad to see you made it Andy
Colin Maclean wrote:
Andy, always sticking up for truth and justice, keep on fighting the good fight !
Allison Lee-Clay wrote:
you’re a brave man, Andy.
David V Barrett wrote:
Stick with it, Andy.
Ozkan Hasan wrote:
The world needs more people like Andy.
Thanks, Colin, Allison, David and Ozkan. I decided I had to make it after we saw each other on Sunday, Colin – for lunch at the excellent Catford Bridge Tavern! – even though it involved getting very wet and cold, as I presumed it would. I have a lot of respect for the organizers!
Noor Ul Amin wrote:
thx a lot for such a nice talking Andy
Thanks, Noor, for the kind and supportive words.
You are a great man Andy. World need people like you to be a better place.
Thanks, Riaz. That’s very kind.
painfull…the anti muslim video didn’t hurt me so much bcoz it is nothing new..it is dated back to times of prophet blessings of allah be upon him ..time to time these ill people keep abusing our books our scholars and our prophets ..understood they are playing with our sentiments and provoking us..actually these attempts will never never will degrade our prophet or our books….to me it is abuse on them who produce such activities…but my brothers and sisters unjustified suffering cause serious dist urbance severe paiin my heart…i donot understand hw such harrasment help western interests..even if a person is proven to be crimnal…harrasment is never justified..punishment is ok, even death sentence is betteer then life long harrasment that a person looses his mental health…
Anyway at least ur efforts bring some relief to my eyes that somebody is standing firm to fight for these helpless people…at moment least wht i can do is pray for u …may Allah keep ur children happy healthy always..wud like to c u someday
Thank you, Idrees, for the heartfelt comments about the injustices of the “war on terror.”
Idrees Amin Shah wrote:
I Donot understand y are these ppl suffering
hw does this help west…
When i read ur reports i feel very depressed and sad…
I pray for their release…
Thanks, Idrees. I completely understand your sadness. This is all cruelty without any rational purpose.
Tim Chadwick wrote:
thanks for continuing to share such great stuff. I continue to make enemies of Democrats, have been defriended on fb for speaking about Guantanamo, Drones killing children, and the crimes of Obama. thanks for giving me some of the tools to back up my lonely stance.
Zilma Nunes wrote:
reality is worse than fantasy , in this moment i’d prefer read poe..
Thanks, Tim and Zilma. I know what you mean, Zilma, but there’s no escape from the realities. I hope that, amongst ourselves, we create a better world, but we must continue to push to effect changes to the horrors of the bigger world, in which the psychopaths are still in charge.
I am so glad to be able to provide you with information that is useful to you in your struggle to educate your fellow citizens, Tim. I hope you don’t feel too alone. I believe there are more of us than most of us think.
I was just reading the sayings of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) (hadith), and I came across this hadith;
Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “Every nation has an amin (i.e. the most honest man), and the amin of this nation is Abu ‘Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah.” (Book #59, Hadith #665)
In our times….in this nation…you are the my amin.
That is very kind of you, Omar. Thank you.
In a sense, it’s strange. But if I publically say that Obama’s making terrorism worse with his policies and wars, am I “terrorist”?
No, Tom, not as such, but there are certainly troubling possibilities contained in the sections of last year’s NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which dealt with the mandatory military custody of suspected terrorists. I wrote about it – and about the concerns of some American friends and colleagues – here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/09/22/why-does-the-government-so-desperately-want-indefinite-detention-for-terror-suspects/
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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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