These photos are from the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an annual event that becomes more shameful for the United States with every passing year, and which has also come to test the endurance of those opposed to the prison’s existence.
Four years after President Obama came to office promising to close Guantánamo within a year, the blunt and unforgivable truth is that the prison is still open, and that all three branches of the US government — the administration, Congress and the courts — have failed the 166 men still held, and particularly the 86 men who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama in 2009, which spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions. In addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004.
These 86 men are still held either because they are Yemenis, regarded as an unprecedented terrorist threat — despite being cleared– since the foiled underwear bomb plot on a US-bound plane three years ago, or because they are from countries where they face the risk of torture if repatriated, or simply because Congress has passed legislation designed to prevent any prisoner being released to any country that lawmakers regard as a threat — which is pretty much everywhere in the Muslim world, according to numerous Republicans, and some Democrats too. President Obama has also failed the men in a depressingly thorough manner, endorsing the ban on releasing any Yemenis, and refusing to push for innocent prisoners seized by mistake to be resettled in the US if they cannot be safely repatriated.
The courts have also intervened to try to prevent the release of prisoners, but however much the blame is spread across the various branches of government, the unforgivable truth is that the US continues to hold 86 men cleared for release indefinitely — and probably until their deaths, unless steps are taken, by the administration, to locate and implement an evidently unfashionable form of political courage in their otherwise shallow and corrupt world of spin and expediency.
At the protest, attended by hundreds of opponents of the continued existence of Guantánamo, including supporters of 26 groups, ranging from Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights to the activists Witness Against Torture and World Can’t Wait, and my own pressure group, “Close Guantánamo,” the indignation was palpable, and the call for President Obama to end his inertia and find a solution was particularly pointed, given that it is the start of his second term, and his legacy is now being written, as well as by anger that, in September, one cleared prisoner, a mentally ill Yemeni named Adnan Latif, who was cleared in 2006 and 2009, died, crushed by his long and unacceptable detention so many years after he was told he would be going home.
More photos will follow soon, of the rally and speeches outside the White House, where I also spoke, but in the meantime I hope these photos capture something of the powerful sense of indignation that dominated the day, and that will continue to dominate our actions this year, and every year until Guantánamo is 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.
Thank you, my friends, for your interest. I posted this on my website about 12 hours ago, but ran out of time before I could publicize it here and on Twitter, as I had to run to the World Can’t Wait office in Manhattan, to be interviewed by a couple of filmmakers, and then on to Revolution Books, for my panel discussion about Guantanamo with Ramzi Kassem, who represents seven Guantanamo prisoners, including Shaker Aamer. There was a great crowd for the event, which was excellent, and then I went for dinner with a group of World Can’t Wait supporters and other friends and acquaintances, followed by an atmospheric outdoor interview in a back street in Chinatown by another filmmaker, Andy Stepanian, then coffee and cake and a ride back to Brooklyn. A long day, but a satisfying one!
Palina Prasasouk wrote:
Andy, you are a beautiful person and one of my idols with all the work you do.
Thank you, Palina. I just posted your photo of me speaking outside the White House in my article containing Bill Hughes’ video of my speech. A fine photo indeed! http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/01/14/video-andy-worthington-tells-president-obama-why-his-failure-to-close-guantanamo-is-akin-to-dictatorship/
Sylvia Martin wrote:
Thank you, Andy. I couldn’t get there owing to work, but your work is so important. More of us Americans should join in.
Thanks, Sylvia, for your interest. It would have been nice to have met you, but perhaps next time … I agree that more Americans need to be involved in the campaign to close Guantanamo, but I am confident that the injustice of the prison remaining opening after 11 years, and with so many cleared prisoners, will draw more people to the cause this year.
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