Videos: On 14th Anniversary of Opening of Guantánamo, Andy Worthington Speaks Outside the White House, Shaker Aamer Speaks in London

12.1.16

Andy Worthington (center) and Aliya Hussain of the Center for Constitutional Rights outside the White House on January 11, 2016, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Behind Andy is the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (Photo: Justin Norman for Witness Against Torture).Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and I was honored to attend a powerful protest outside the White House, featuring representatives of over a dozen rights groups, and with prominent roles played by the activists of Witness Against Torture. I had spent much of the previous day at the church where many dozens of them are staying, engaged in a 10-day fast and daily actions across the capital aimed at raising awareness of the injustice of Guantánamo and the plight of the men held there, and, in the evening, had joined them and representatives of Code Pink, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other organizations at “Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantánamo!

This was an event celebrating the groups’ visit to Cuba in November, where I also spoke about We Stand With Shaker (the campaign I co-founded in November 2014, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison) and played “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote that, with my band The Four Fathers, featured in the We Stand With Shaker campaign video (and on our album “Love and War“). Other performances on the night came from The Peace Poets, spoken word artists from the Bronx who I always find wonderfully uplifting, combining sharp rhymes and tough themes with an extraordinary humanity. I hope to post videos of performances from the evening in the near future — including my own!

At yesterday’s rally, I spoke about the success of the campaign to release Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, from the prison, but stressed how hard it had been to get just one man freed to America’s closest ally, involving the concerted efforts of many dozens of MPs and a range newspapers from across the political spectrum, campaigners and members of the general public, and even a request for action from David Cameron to Barack Obama.

The video of  me talking outside the White House, filmed by Justin Norman of Witness Against Torture, is below, via YouTube. It is also on Facebook.

I also brought with me the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, and that helped to raise awareness of Shaker’s plight. Held for nearly 14 years until his release in October, he was told in 2007 and in 2009 that the US no longer wanted to hold him, but he continued to be held because of his eloquence, outspokenness and charm.

I also spoke about how disgraceful it is to approve men for release but then not free them — as it was for Shaker, as it is for 44 of the 103 men still held, and as it was for the two Yemeni men just released in Ghana, who were told in 2005 and 2006 that the US no longer wanted to hold them, and I stressed how important it is not only for these men to be freed, but also for the review process for the other men (apart for the ten men facing trials) to be speeded up. 15 out of 18 men whose cases have been reviewed — by the Periodic Review Boards — have been recommended for release, but 43 men are still awaiting reviews, five years after they were first told they would have their cases reviewed within a year.

I hope you like the video and will share it if you do.

While myself and others were talking outside the White House, the real Shaker Aamer and six other former prisoners were in London, outside the US Embassy, also calling for the closure of the prison, and below is a powerful video, produced for Al-Jazeera, of Shaker meeting someone he had not seen for 14 years, and former prisoner Ruhal Ahmed speaking about how Guantánamo still haunts him, and how depressing it is that President Obama had failed to close the prison as he promised.

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, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), 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.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

12 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article – about yesterday’s protest outside the White House calling for the closure of ‪Guantanamo‬, including the video of my speech, in which I spoke about We Stand With Shaker, pointed out the horrors of approving prisoners for release but then not releasing them, and urged President Obama to speed up the reviews for the men not already approved for release. Also included: a moving Al-Jazeera video from the protest in London, featuring Shaker Aamer and Ruhal Ahmed.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s a slightly longer version of the video of me talking, via Amy Phillips on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/28826/videos/10102591773422081/

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. Today I was at a great protest outside the Justice Department for Tamir Rice, then at another protest prior to President Obama’s State of the Union address, where I spoke about Guantanamo, then I met up with my Close Guantanamo​ colleague Tom Wilner, then I went back to the church where the Witness Against Torture​ activists are staying, and then on to a pizza place with them to watch the State of the Union address. Traveling to New York City tomorrow, and speaking on Thursday evening in Harlem. Come and see me! https://www.facebook.com/events/1670330183234339/

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Angie Graham wrote:

    Wow. What a great and passionate speech Andy. It made me fill up. Such a HUGE injustice!!!!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Angie!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Sara Rathore wrote:

    Well done Andy

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sara. Much appreciated.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    When Witness Against Torture shared this on Facebook, they wrote:

    Our dear friend Andy Worthington spoke today at the White House about the mounting absurdity of keeping so many innocent men indefinitely detained.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my Witness Against Torture friends, for posting this! It has been so wonderful spending time with you these last few days! I hope some of you can come and see me speak about We Stand With Shaker and Guantanamo in Harlem on Thursday evening: https://www.facebook.com/events/1670330183234339/

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote:

    Andy Worthington outside the White House, speaking with the utmost passion and articulateness about America’s betrayal of its values and international law in allowing the outrage of Guantanamo to continue. Anyone who still believes that the remaining detainees are too dangerous to release should watch and listen to this.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing this, Michael, and for your kind and supportive words.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote:

    You’re welcome Andy; they’re from the heart. I don’t do nearly enough, so I’m always happy to share.

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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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