It’s been a busy week, with the prison-wide hunger strike still raging at Guantánamo, and the government’s denials about it taking place crumbling under sustained media interest.
I’m delighted that the major US newspapers have picked up on the story, and also that CBS News and CNN have finally deigned to cover it, although in general, as was noted at the start of the week by RT — which is engaged in the kind of sustained coverage of the story that ought to be undertaken by the US networks — US TV remains a Guantánamo-free zone.
I appeared briefly on RT’s show on Monday about the hunger strike — part of a short interview that replaced a larger segment planned for last Friday that was scuppered by technical problems — but what I particularly liked about the show was how RT succinctly exposed the shallowness of most US broadcast news, and the ignorance of the American public when it comes to Guantánamo.
In the streets of New York, a reporter for RT asked residents if they knew that over half of the 166 men still in Guantánamo — 86 in total — had been cleared for release but are still held — only to be met with surprise and, in some cases, evident shock and indignation.
RT’s show is available below, via YouTube:
Following up, Alexandre Antonov, an editor at RT, contacted me to ask me about the hunger strike being undertaken, in solidarity with the prisoners, by activists with Witness Against Torture, many of whom I am proud to count as my friends. That report is here, and below are the key sections:
Activists join Guantánamo hunger strike in week of fast
RT, March 25, 2013
In a gesture of solidarity with Guantánamo Bay prisoners, who are continuing their month-long hunger strike, activists across the world have launched a week-long fast. The campaign will also include protest rallies and vigils.
The action, organized by the Guantánamo prisoners support group Witness Against Torture (WAT), began on Sunday and is to last through March 30. Some activists plan to continue fasting every Friday until the prison is closed, the group says.
The fast will be accompanied by public gatherings to protest against the existence of Guantánamo prison and the condition of people held there.
“We will gather for action in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities domestically and internationally next week to denounce the barbaric practice of torture and indefinite detention and to demand justice for the men at Guantánamo,” WAT says.
The activists also released a list of 166 names of Gitmo detainees, calling on supporters to flood the prison with letters of solidarity and remind the management “that the world has not forgotten the hunger strikers.” [see a template for a letter here].
Human rights advocate Andy Worthington believes demonstrations like the recent one are crucial for changing the situation in Guantánamo, stating inactivity “would be a victory” for those whose aim is to keep the prison open.
“Those of us working to close Guantánamo are up against powerful forces of indifference or hostility to our cause, despite the obvious justice of our position. People should not — must not — be put off by this indifference or hostility,” Andy Worthington told RT.
WAT organized similar fasts of solidarity annually since 2010. The group itself was formed back in 2005 and has since been trying to make the US government close the notorious prison through vigils, marches, nonviolent direct action and other measures.
In another Guantánamo-related activity, I was interviewed for Friday Nights Fusion, a regular weekly show on Birmingham’s Unity FM, which was broadcast a week ago. The Muslim broadcaster put together a 1 hour and 45 minute “Shaker Aamer Special,” available here, for which I was interviewed along with Sheikh Suliman Gani, the Imam of Tooting Islamic Centre, the mosque that Shaker attended prior to his capture and rendition to Guantánamo 11 years ago, plus Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, and Jane Ellison, the MP for Battersea, where Shaker lived, and where his wife and children still live. Also taking part were the Green MP Caroline Lucas, a tireless campaigner for justice, and the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
Joy, Jane and I also appeared together at a day of action for Shaker in Tooting the day after the Unity FM show was first broadcast, which I wrote about here, and which was primarily designed to secure more signatures on an e-petition to the British government calling for renewed action to bring Shaker home from Guantánamo. 100,000 signatures are needed on the e-petition by April 20 for it to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate. The-petition is for UK citizens and residents only, but there is no lower age limit, so children can sign as well as adults, and for those who are not British, a global petition, which can be signed by anyone anywhere in the world, is available here.
During the week, I also spoke about the hunger strike, and the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, to my old friend and colleague Peter B. Collins, for his San Francisco-based show. Peter and I spoke for about 50 minutes, an in-depth analysis that I recommend to anyone wanting detailed information about what is happening, and about Guantánamo in general. Information about the show is here, which you can listen to by paying just $1 for 24-hour access — although Peter also has other, longer subscription offers which I recommend. Note: The show is available here, and my interview takes up about the first 50 minutes of the 75-minute show.
This is how Peter described the show:
Journalist Andy Worthington on the widespread hunger strike by prisoners at Guantánamo … Worthington is a journalist and photographer, and author of The Guantánamo Files. His website provides the most comprehensive coverage of America’s offshore prison colony. Over a month ago, lawyers for prisoners reported a hunger strike spreading, and now more than 100 of the 166 inmates is reported to be refusing food. The Pentagon admits that at least 28 are on a hunger strike, and that at least 10 are being force fed. Mainstream media like the New York Times suggest that the Obama administration is under-reporting the situation.
We also talk about the proposal to spend almost $200 million on facilities at Gitmo, and the recent decision by the administration to hold Abu Ghaith, bin Laden’s son-in-law, at a lockup in Manhattan (not at Gitmo) and to arraign him in federal court (not a military commission). And Worthington comments on Jeh Johnson, Harold Koh and Neal Katyal, who have all worked in the administration and have histories of advocating for human rights and detainee rights.
And finally, if there are any Slovenian readers out there, you may want to check out an interview I undertook with Marko Kraševec for Radio Student in Ljubljana, Slovenia in which I spoke about the hunger strike.
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, 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.
God willing you & urs are well over there, keeping cosy in the cold conditions in the UK…
Just read the comments on a link you sentin this article regarding writing to the remaining prisoners from:
the last comment states that there are US detainees at gitmo held in a seperate area??? WOW! this is a shocker. I value and trust your words – is this true?
I can’t get your link to work, sorry. Can you send it again?
I imagine that it’s referring to Camp 7, where the “high-value detainees” are held.
The tide’s slowly turning in our favor. Can’t back off now. I’m posting key links and other stuff where I can to help out.
Excellent, Tom. Very glad to hear it!
[…] I have also spoken about the hunger strike on RT and Press TV, on the radio with Dennis Bernstein, Peter B. Collins and Michael Slate, and in print in an interview for Revolution […]
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