A Photo of Shaker Aamer After Eleven Years in Guantánamo

29.11.12

Please sign the e-petition to the British government, calling for Shaker Aamer’s release, and the international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, addressed to both the British and the American governments.

The family of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, have just released this photo of him, smiling and waving, and looking, for all the world, like a free man, even though he has just started his twelfth year in US custody. My headline is slightly misleading, as February 14, 2013 will mark the 11th anniversary of Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo, if he is not released beforehand, but he was first sold into US custody on November 23, 2001, so it was a convenient shorthand for his eleven years in US custody. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

This photo is the first to be made available since April 2011, when a photo of him was included in his classified military file, which was released by WikiLeaks. Hundreds of photos of the Guantánamo prisoners were included in the WikiLeaks files, and many of them featured prisoners who had never been seen before, or had only been seen in photos taken before their capture, which were often taken many years before their capture.

Dehumanising prisoners was part of the Bush administration’s program for those seized in the “war on terror,” an essential part of a regime in which those held were supposed to have no rights whatsoever, and could be subjected to abuse — and even torture — with impunity. This is something that Shaker Aamer knows all about, not just because he was privy to numerous stories from his fellow prisoners, as the most articulate and passionate defender of their rights in Guantánamo, and also as a fluent English speaker who could liaise with the authorities on their behalf, but also because of the abuse he received in US custody in Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo, and the abuse he subsequently endured in Guantánamo. This was most recently reported by Shaker himself, in the notes from a meeting with one of his lawyers that he specifically asked to be made available to me.

It took until 2009 for the first photos of any of the prisoners to emerge from Guantánamo, as part of a policy that involved representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross taking photos that were then sent to family members. One of these photos, for example, was of Fayiz al-Kandari, one of the two Kuwaitis who are still held, although very few of the photos were made public.

I am delighted to see this photo, as I believe that Shaker’s evident humanity and kindness is something that those of us campaigning for his release will be able to use, as we push both the British and the American governments to secure his freedom, at least five years since he was first told that the US authorities no longer wanted to hold him, and that the Britsh government was actively seeking his return, and two months since, for the first time, his name was included in a list of 55 prisoners cleared for release but still held, that was made publicly available by the US Justice Department.

Bring Shaker Aamer home now! His wife and his four children, here in London, have the right to be reunited with him, and have the right not to have their husband and their father detained indefinitely as a scapegoat — a victim of Obama’s paralysis and indifference when confronted by the bigots, cynics and fearmongers who populate Congress and America’s right-wing media.

On Facebook, publicising this photo of Shaker, Mahfuja Bint Ammu, one of the tireless campaigners for Shaker’s release, and for the closure of Guantánamo, wrote, “Shaker Aamer’s wife said, ‘Shaker sends his Salam to everyone, and may Allah reward you all, Aameen.’ She has given permission to share and circulate, so please do so.”

Mahfuja also included the following dedication by Shaker to his family, which is very moving:

To my wife and kids:

You are the breath of my lungs
You are the beat of my heart
You are the light of my eyes
You are the reason I am alive
God witness, no lies.

So please, share this photo, share this story, and sign the petition and get others to sign it. Securing Shaker’s release is hugely important in and of itself, but it will also pave the way for the release of other prisoners, from other countries, who have also been cleared for many long years, but are still held because of President Obama’s failure to close Guantánamo, and the black propaganda of those who want to keep it open.

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.

23 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Agastyan Daram wrote:

    Imagine one’s self being in the wrong place at the wrong time when a horible event in history took place, and then being blamed for its cause. I would incourage people to look up his story online and read it from all sides.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    And this profile on the 10th anniversary of his arrival at Guantanamo is quite useful too: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/02/16/10-years-in-guantanamo-british-resident-shaker-aamer-cleared-for-release-but-still-held/

  4. Tom says...

    Good job on this post. Also, with so much material, how do you deal with the bandwith bill? Must cost a fortune?

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Getting Shaker out of Guantanamo really needs to be a priority.
    As for bandwidth, I think the bills are manageable. I hope so!

  6. Tom says...

    This just in. The Senate approved an amendment to the 2012 defense spending bill that PROHIBITS any money being used to move any/all Guantanamo detainees to the mainland.

  7. Tom says...

    More latenight Senate amendment news:
    One that prohibits indefinate detention of Stateside citizens without trial passed. However, it says nothing about detention for specified lengths of time.
    Another will ban any vet who’s been diagnosed with a mental illness from having a gun. There’s actual objections to this. Surreal…..

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the updates, Tom. That’s depressing. Congress has long opposed allowing the President to move prisoners to the mainland, and if the NDAA military custody provisions are revoked for Americans, that’s fine for Americans, but what about foreigners? Why should they be held indefinitely without charge or trial, in contravention of all domestic and international laws and treaties prior to this “war on terror”? It’s truly disgraceful.

  9. Tom says...

    Because it’s a double standard. Obama will keep you safe from “terrorists”. Yet, we can do whatever we like and manipulate intl. law to fit our “national security needs”. Obama says we don’t torture. What he doesn’t tell you is that we outsource it to others (like the UK and various other Western countries). This is called plausible deniability. In the UK, as long as the Home Secretary authorizes it, any MI6 operatives can get away with literally anything, and won’t be prosecuted back home for it. That is, if the “official investigation” ever gets that far.It’s similiar to an Executive Order Obama could issue. I forgot the name of it.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Worth noting, I think, that torture is largely off the US menu these days, but only because President Obama kills alleged terrorists outright in drone strikes – the new alternative to torture.

  11. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks for the update Andy. I guess, sadly, the orange uniform, for non-compliant captives, is to be expected. But where was the photo taken? Cells in camps 1, 2 and 3 had mesh walls like the wall in the background here. But we were told that camps 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been closed, years ago. Camps 5 and 6 are built to designs from the bureau of prisons, and have solid walls. Carol Rosenberg wrote that “Camp 5 echo” — the punishment cells — were built from recycled shipping containers, to floor plans used in camps 1-3, but with solid metal walls.

    Maybe it was taken in Camp Echo? https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camp_echo_interview_room.jpg

    Shaker seems much thinner than in earlier photos.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I was imagining that Shaker was wearing an orange top to prove a point, but it may be that he and other non-compliant prisoners are still made to wear orange. How depressing would that be?
    As for his location, I think you might be right about Echo. I was presuming that the photo was taken recently – within the last year or so – and that would fit, wouldn’t it? And as for his weight, I knew he had lost weight, but that wasn’t apparent in the photo released in the WikiLeaks file, which supposedly dated from 2007.
    Mainly, though, I’m glad that he looks so well …

  13. Tom says...

    Have you consulted any experts re: long terms effects of PTSD? If so, who?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    No, I haven’t, although I have psychologist friends who are well briefed on it – and have to respond to clients suffering from it. From my limited experiences with people who have been through experiences that create PTSD – former soldiers, for example, or those held in Guantanamo – I think it must be very difficult to overcome.

  15. Tom says...

    I’ve got some information that might be helpful. If you’re interested, please contact me via my required email.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Will do.

  17. TheAZCowBoy says...

    Imagine finding yourself in the hands of democracies that are indeed genocial thugs and thinking that you aRE IN ‘GOOD HANDS’ BECUASE THEY RESPECT THE LAW AND HAVE hABEOUS cORPUS IN THEIR JUSTICE REIPTOIRE. THEN, TOO LATE’ YOU DICOVER THESE BASS-TERDS ARE NOT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN THE pOL pLOTS OF THE WORLD, MAYBE MUCH COLDER, LIKE SAY aTTILA-THE-hUN. tHEN IMAGINE THAT ONE DAY ‘ONE OF THEIR TYPES’ ON THE STREET WHERE YOU FIND YOURSELF AND YOU RIP HIS BEATING HEART RIGHT OUT FROM HIS CHEST WITH YOUR BARE TEETH AND FEED IT TO THE STRAY DOGS ON THE STREET AND LATER, AFTER YOU’RE ARRESTED, THE POLICE WANT TO KNOW ‘WHY SO MUCH HATRED’ FOR THE DEAD DOG. WHAT DO YOU SAY? “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT?111

  18. LiberalNancy says...

    We need a US petition to sign or some international petition to sign for his release. Everyone deserves a fair trial AND HUMANE treatment, & he deserves to go back to the UK. CLOSE GUANTANAMO NOW!!!

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your sentiments.
    There is a petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, which people can sign anywhere in the world: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/shaker-aamerguantanamo-bay/
    There is also a petition to the British government, although that’s only for UK citizens and residents: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33133

  20. The road to Guantánamo and back / Waging Nonviolence - People-Powered News and Analysis says...

    [...] Latif wrote poetry in Guantánamo to try and stay sane. His work, and that of 16 others is featured in “Poems from Guantánamo,” a collection published by the University of Iowa Press. He wrote: They are artists of torture, They are artists of pain and fatigue, They are artists of insults and humiliation. Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers? [...]

  21. The road to Guantánamo and back - Ikkevold | Ikkevold says...

    [...] a natural byproduct of the torment and uncertainty indefinite detention inflicts on human beings.”Latif wrote poetry in Guantánamo to try and stay sane. His work, and that of 16 others is featured in “Poems from [...]

  22. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, I noticed something surprising in the following article.
    http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/02/13/intelligence-agents-could-monitor-gitmo-detainee-lawyer-meeting-rooms-official-says

    Here is the passage:

    Speaking during pre-trial hearings for five men accused of planning the 2001 attack, Navy Capt. Thomas J. Welsh, the staff judge advocate for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, said he had witnessed a meeting in January 2012 held in the complex known as Echo II that was clandestinely monitored by a law enforcement agent. Echo II is a multi-use facility where attorneys can meet with their clients who are incarcerated at nearby Camp 7.

    After witnessing the agent monitoring a meeting—unrelated to this week’s hearings—in a control room, Welsh confronted the Joint Detention Group commander, Army Col. Donnie Thomas, who said “Don’t worry, we do not monitor any attorney-client meetings,” Welsh recounted.

    It sounds to me as if Camp Echo, Camp Five Echo, and Camp Echo II, are three separate facilities, with Camp Echo II being a previously unacknowledged facility.

    The disingeneous thing is that Camp Seven/Camp Platinum, was not managed by JTF-GTMO and its Joint Detention Group. If that was still true in 2012, then Thomas could have truthfully asserted “Don’t worry, we do not monitor any attorney-client meetings,” without lying, because the facility is managed by some other agency — probably the CIA.

    On the other hand, I have wondered whether the CIA’s Camp Strawberry Fields, Camp No, where Scott Horton has written the three captives were murdered on 2006-06-10, and Camp Platinum were all the same camp.

    Abdurahman Khadr, Omar’s brother, the CIA mole, was taken out of the general prison population, and kept in a separate camp, by himself. I have wondered whether that separate camp might have been the re-purposed Camp Strawberry Fields.

    I wonder if he could be persuaded to go on record with a description of the secret separate camp where he was held, while preparing for his Bosnian mission.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Interesting observations, arcticredriver. Congratulations for noticing the reference to Echo II. It would be very interesting indeed to find out more about the various facilities that are shrouded in secrecy – whether Camp 7 could be Camp No, and whether that is Strawberry Fields, where some “high-value detainees” were held in 2003-04.

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