A Message from Omar Deghayes on the 11th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo


I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email. 

On the 11th anniversary of the opening of the lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where 166 prisoners seized in the “war on terror” remain imprisoned, I am in Washington D.C., having traveled from my home in London to take part in events designed to raise awareness of the burning need for the injustices of Guantánamo to be brought to an end, for the 86 cleared prisoners still held to be released, and for the others to be tried or released — or, if the political courage exists, to be redefined as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, so that we can finally begin to ask how long this ill-defined and open-ended “global war” can actually last.

Only those paying close attention seem to know that, of the 86 cleared men still held, all were cleared for release under President Obama in 2009, through the sober and careful deliberations of an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and around half were also cleared for release by President Bush between 2004 and 2007, and yet they remain held because of political inertia, or cynical fearmongering, in all three branches of the US government — the administration, Congress and the courts.

As those of us who care, and who can find the time to travel, protest outside the Supreme Court, the Capitol and the White House in Washington D.C. — or take part in other events in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and London — I wanted to make available to you a message from my friend Omar Deghayes, who was held in US custody, mostly at Guantánamo. from May 2002 until December 2007, when he was released, to be reunited with his family in the UK. Omar has marked the end of his fifth year of freedom by writing an appeal for justice to President Obama. He sent it to me accompanied by a note in which he said, “Hope you have a good, safe and successful journey to the States. Wanted to be with you in spirit there with all those who care. Please thank them on my behalf and wanted to share these thoughts with them.”

Omar’s message is below:

A message from former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes on the 11th anniversary of the prison’s opening

On 11th January 2013, we relive and remember the pain and suffering still being endured by many detainees kept far, behind bars and walls, alone, voiceless and stripped of every right, and so are their loved ones, a never extinguished flame in the heart.

Three years after he repeatedly promised to bring this shame to an end, President Obama failed to fulfil his promise, and there it remains a black blemish on the American morality.

I was lucky and grateful to be reunited with my family and back to the warmth of my home, to be touched, at last, by the soft cool wind of freedom, but my joy is incomplete and will remain so, until the rest of the unlawfully held detainees share my experience of freedom at last.

Before another one dies, and loses his rights even after his death, before another one loses his eye sight forever as myself, please bring this grave violation of the most basic human rights to an end, please free these detainees and unite them, intact, with their families, before the rest of their youth perishes behind concrete walls.

Most of these remaining detainees have been cleared for release years ago, never been condemned of committing any crime, yet no laws on earth seem to have the power to save them out of this evil and immoral place.

I strongly urge President Obama to take the right step, and leave behind a legacy that lives up to the terms of his Nobel peace prize.

Omar Deghayes

Former Prisoner at Guantánamo Bay
Legal Director GJC (Guantánamo Justice Centre)
Board member of Cageprisoners

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.

17 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Sylvia P. Coley wrote:

    Hello Andy. Good to hear from you. Thank you.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Sylvia. Good to hear from you too.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m in Washington D.C., my friends, and I need to get some sleep before the 10am panel at the New America Foundation and the rally and march at the Supreme Court at noon, but I needed to post this first after a long but inspiring evening, talking to the activists of Witness Against Torture in the church that is their base during their week of fasting and protests, along with Maj. Todd Pierce, who represented three Guantanamo prisoners charged in the military commissions, and then talking to supporters of World Can’t Wait on a conference call. I was in the company of great people all evening!

  4. anne marie cherigny aboutayab says...

    What about Human rights

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    If you mean where are human rights, Anne Marie, it’s a question that everyone protesting today was also asking!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Dwight W. Hayes wrote:

    Close it down!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Reena Carnation wrote:

    Thank you for your work to keep this issue alive.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Dwight and Reena, and everyone who has liked and shared this. It was a wonderfully inspiring day today, at the New America Foundation in the morning, and then outside the Supreme Court and outside the White House, in the company of the finest and most compassionate Americans it has been my pleasure to meet!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleyha Ahsan wrote:

    86 prisoners! That is unbelievable.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s disgusting, isn’t it, Saleyha, and that’s the point I’ve been making most forcefully in my visit, and especially in today’s wonderful and powerful events. It is unacceptable for the US government, the media and the American people not to care that 86 men were cleared for release, between three and eight years ago, and yet they remain held because it is politically inconvenient for them to be freed. This will be Obama’s political epitaph unless we put relentless pressure on him, and on his administration, to work out how to release them. We’re not in the blame game. We want to talk to the administration, we want someone appointed to deal with the closure of the prison, and we want to help them find ways to release these 86 men, and to close the prison entirely, as promised four years ago. It can be done!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Barbara Carroll wrote:

    The panel you were on today, saw it via C-Span, showing the New America program was really informative. Thank you Andy for using your talent and education for the better good.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you very much, Barbara. It’s very good to hear from you, and thank you for the supportive words.

  13. The House of Vile-Guantanamo Bay – For Humanity - My Telegraph says...

    […] be either tried or released, and retrieved from the limbo they have have been pushed into. In his message, handed to Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee says, “I was lucky […]

  14. The House of Vile – Guantanamo Bay | "Kashmir Speaks" says...

    […] be either tried or released, and retrieved from the limbo they have have been pushed into. In his message, handed to Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee says, “I was lucky […]

  15. The House of Vile – Guantanamo Bay – AlHittin.com says...

    […] be either tried or released, and retrieved from the limbo they have have been pushed into. In his message, handed to Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee says, “I was lucky and […]

  16. Guantanamo Bay: The house of vile | Kashmir Walla says...

    […] be either tried or released, and retrieved from the limbo they have been pushed into. In his message, handed to Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee says, “I was lucky […]

  17. Guantanamo Bay: The house of vile | The Kashmir Walla says...

    […] be either tried or released, and retrieved from the limbo they have been pushed into. In his message, handed to Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee says, “I was lucky […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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