Fast For Shaker Supporters Encourage Shaker Aamer to End Hunger Strike, Maintain Pressure to Get Him Home By October 25

19.10.15

Cori Crider of Reprieve, photographed as part of the Fast For Shaker on October 15, 2015, shortly after returning from Guantanamo, where she and her legal team had spent six hours with Shaker Aamer.As people around the world continue to undertake 24-hour fasts in solidarity with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — as part of the Fast For Shaker campaign I launched last week with the activist Joanne MacInnes, with whom I set up the influential We Stand With Shaker campaign last year — there has been some very positive news from Cori Crider, one of Shaker’s lawyers at the London-based legal charity Reprieve, who told me when we met at the weekend that, on her visit to Guantánamo last week, Shaker had been persuaded to break his strike, and to drink a calorie-rich mango smoothie, because he was so moved by the pledges of campaigners to fast on his behalf, so that he can look after himself prior to his release from Guantánamo and his return to his family in London. I am not entirely sure that he has completely given up his hunger strike, but the fact that he has been so moved by campaigners that he has been taking in sustenance is great news indeed.

Shaker’s return to the UK should take place by October 25 — at the end of the 30-day notification period that the US Congress insists on, which campaigners have been marking ever since it was announced on September 25 that President Obama had told British Prime Minister David Cameron that Shaker is be freed.

The second aim of the rolling Fast For Shaker was to make sure that the administration kept to its word, and on that front it is, of course, worthwhile for people to keep fasting, and to keep pledging to fast. Shaker was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him eight years ago, and was told this again six years ago under President Obama, after a high-level, inter-agency review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, also concluded that he should no longer be held.

His family had hopes he would be freed in 2007 — at the end of March 2007, when British resident Bisher al-Rawi was freed, and on December 20, 2007, when three more British residents, including my friend Omar Deghayes, were released. Hopes were raised again in February 2009, when torture victim Binyam Mohamed was also freed, and yet Shaker continues to be held — six years and eight months after Binyam Mohamed’s release.

With this in mind, there are extremely good reasons for anyone who cares about Shaker not to give up agitating for his release until he has been freed. Please sign up here if you want to join the people who have already fasted or have pledged to  fast, check out the photos here of some of those who have fasted, and read the many moving comments here — click on each date. Today’s fasters include the actress Harriet Walter, Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington), Steven Reisner, US psychologist, and a founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, and former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg.

On Saturday, via Cori Crider, the Daily Mail also reported more of Shaker’s latest words from Guantánamo — hopefully, his last words from the notorious prison where he will have been held for 5,000 days on October 24.

As the Mail described it, Shaker “has pleaded to be allowed back to the UK four days early – so he can be with his daughter when she celebrates her 18th birthday on Tuesday.” He “last saw A-level pupil Johina when she was four,” but appealed for the rules governing the release of Guantánamo prisoners to be relaxed.

During what was described as “an emotional six-hour meeting with his lawyers,” Shaker said, “I know the 30 days will not be up until October 24, but come on. If everybody is already content to let me go, then why can’t you release me for the end of my daughter’s childhood?”

Shaker also said, according to the notes taken by his lawyers, which were given to the Mail as soon as they had been cleared by US censors, “The very first thing I want is a cup of coffee, then for a doctor to look me over. And then I want to talk to my wife. Alone. I need her to tell me what the kids are like, after so long. Only she knows this. I can’t know.”

He added, “And she is the one who has suffered the most, with me, because … she has had to carry on for so long. I need to find out from her everything that has happened in the years I have been away. Everything I’ve missed. Right after that I want to see the kids as soon as possible. I was hoping to get my daughter a present for her 18th birthday.”

Cori Crider also spoke to the Mail about Shaker, saying that he “seemed more optimistic than at any time during the eight years she has been visiting him,” and thanked everyone who has worked to secure his release. The various campaigns to free him, the Mail reported, had, he said, “moved him to tears.” Crider added that he also stated that “he was taken aback because he felt he was a ‘nobody.'”

As the Mail also put it:

Mr. Aamer knows returning to his three-bedroomed house in Battersea, South London, after so many years spent largely in solitary confinement in an 8ft by 12ft cell will not be easy. Reprieve will offer him help to readjust. However, according to his father-in-law Saeed Siddique, life has changed so much that nothing can fully prepare him. His wife Zin, 40, has bouts of depression caused by his captivity; his three oldest children, Johina, Michel, 16, and Said, 15, are now modern London teenagers, whose world will be totally alien to him; and he has never met his son Faris, 13, who was born on the day he arrived in Guantánamo: Valentine’s Day, 2002.

The Mail also noted that now, after years of being on hunger strikes, and, it should be noted, being violently assaulted by guards, Shaker “is frail and gaunt, with streaks of grey in his beard.” However, reinforcing what Cori Crider said to me, the Mail also stated that he “is determined to get as fit as possible before returning to his family,” so his lawyers “took him healthy foods, two copies of Men’s Health magazine — and a bottle of Pantene Pro V shampoo for his frizzy, shoulder-length hair.”

See below for the short but powerful video Cori Crider made during the visit, thanking all the supporters who have worked so hard to get him released:

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. Please sign up and fast for 24 hours (or more) if you haven’t done so already: http://www.fastforshaker.org.uk/about-the-pledge/
    Check out the great messages from supporters (click on each date for the comments): http://www.fastforshaker.org.uk/calendar/
    Check out the photos of those who have been fasting: http://www.fastforshaker.org.uk/supporters/
    And also see photos and comments on the We Stand With Shaker website: http://westandwithshaker.org/tagged/signs

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Brigid Mary Oates wrote:

    We are fasting tomorrow and dedicating our protest at menwith hill to shaker x

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Oh, that’s great, Brigid Mary. I see Lindis’s name is down, but I can’t see yours. Can you sign up and leave a message? And will you take photos and send them to me?

  4. Anna says...

    Hi Andy,

    Poland is catching on, with the help of a popular performer-journalist, Rafał Betlejewski. You can add him to your ‘celebrities’ list :-).
    http://mediumpubliczne.pl/2015/10/glodujemy-dla-shakera-aamera/
    (we fast for Shaker Aamer) with also an interview with Clive and a lot more that I will check tomorrow as now it’s time to sleep.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent news, Anna. Thanks for that. I was pleased to be invited to dinner by a group of torture lawyers and NGO representatives on Friday. One was from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. They had been meeting to make plans for how to move forward with the long and slippery struggle for justice and accountability. It was a good night.
    Your celebrity performer-journalist sounds interesting. Has he signed up to fast?

  6. Anna says...

    He certainly has, for tomorrow (Wednesday).

    Great news that the fasts are working in the sense that they help to convince Shaker to give up his own hunger strike at this particular moment. Over the years he has already contributed far more than his fair share in this respect and he now needs to shift his focus on getting at least marginally into shape, so he won’t be looking like a scarecrow to his kids when they finally are (re)united.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s great, Anna. 280 fasters now – and not just from the US and the UK. It’s heartening to know that Shaker has taken this support on board, although I wonder how much he can transform himself in just a few days. Physically, he seems, literally, to be half the man he was, although his spirit seems unbowed.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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