Close Guantánamo World Exclusive Video: Shaker Aamer Urges President Obama to Shut the Prison Now

12.10.16

A screenshot of former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer urging President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo, in a video recorded by Andy Worthington, the co-founder of Close Guantanamo, on October 11, 2016.

Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2700 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo for the next three months.

 

Yesterday, I visited Shaker Aamer at his home in London, to record a short video message to President Obama, of Shaker urging the president to close the the US prison at Guantánamo Bay before he leaves office in January.

Shaker was the last British resident in Guantánamo until his release last October, and I, along with many others, worked hard to secure his release — via the We Stand With Shaker campaign, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign, and through working with supportive MPs and the media.

The video I recorded yesterday was for the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up in January 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and, specifically, for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative that I launched in January this year with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd).

For the Countdown, every 50 days those calling for the closure of Guantánamo send in photos of themselves holding posters reminding President Obama how many days he has left. The recording of the video yesterday coincided with 100 days remaining for President Obama to close the prison, and if you’d like to join us, please do. Print off a poster, take a photo with it, and send it to us. See the photos here and here, and see below for Shaker’s video, via YouTube (it’s also on Facebook here):

Nearly a year on from Shaker’s release, he still manifests the charisma, the enthusiasm for life and the thirst for justice that first emerged from descriptions of him while he was held at Guantánamo, from his own words, when they were allowed out of the prison by the authorities, and, towards the end of his long and unjust imprisonment, via his voice, calling out for justice — captured by a CBS news team as they walked the cell blocks of Guantánamo, which I later used in my “Song for Shaker Aamer”, recorded with my band The Four Fathers. The original version is here, and also listen to the post-release version with the lyrics amended to reflect Shaker’s freedom (and see me playing it live in Washington, D.C.)

Graceful as ever in his video (which was his idea, suggested to me a month ago, when we last met), Shaker urged President Obama “to carry the torch in this dark time we are living and lead and go forward with it,” and called on him to be reassured that, in closing Guantánamo, “you are doing the right thing.”

He added, “Even if they don’t approve of you today, I have no doubt in the future the whole world will remember that you did something great because closing that place [Guantánamo] is going to help the whole world — not just the people inside Guantánamo.”

Yesterday’s 100-day anniversary was a difficult milestone in President Obama’s long journey towards the closure of Guantánamo, with just three months remaining for him to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made so confidently on January 22, 2009, his second day in office.

Over 2,800 days later, 61 men are still held, even though the president is to be commended for having secured the release of 46 men this year, and for having accelerated the Periodic Review Board process that has led to 33 men being approved for release. 13 of these men are still held, however, along with seven others approved for release back in 2009, and President Obama needs to make sure these men are released as soon as possible.

Whether President Obama will succeed in closing the prison before he leaves office is, at present, unknown, although I believe it is worth maintaining the pressure on him to try and make sure it happens. He is, admittedly, stymied by cynical Congressional obstruction, with lawmakers having passed legislation to prevent him from bringing any Guantánamo prisoner to the US mainland for any reason.

He could issue an executive order to bypass Congress, but that is fraught with problems of legitimacy, as well as the problems of moving and holding the remaining prisoners on the US mainland if the local authorities resist his plans, as seems probable. In theory, he could order the military to sort out a facility, but as we have learned over the years, some in the military — in positions of power and influence — are evidently happy to keep Guantánamo open.

The most optimistic outcome might be if Democrats win the Presidential Election and a majority in Congress, allowing him to close the prison in the dying days of his presidency in the new year, but whatever the case it is important to keep the pressure on the administration, and Shaker’s message is a key part of this pressure, as are your photos, so if you haven’t sent us a photo yet, please do!

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’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), 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.

24 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting the video I made yesterday with former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer, in which Shaker eloquently urged President Obama to close Guantanamo, noting that “the whole world will remember that you did something great.” The video was a world exclusive for the Close Guantanamo campaign that I co-founded nearly five years ago, and specifically to mark the fact that there were just 100 days left – just 99 now! – in the Countdown to Close Guantanamo initiative that we launched at the start of the year.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    To coincide with the video of Shaker Aamer urging President Obama to close Guantanamo, I thought it would be a good time to remind you of ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, the song I wrote and recorded with my band The Four Fathers, and specifically the ‘Freedom Version’ with lyrics amended to reflect Shaker’s release last October: https://thefourfathers.bandcamp.com/track/song-for-shaker-aamer-freedom-version-2

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Angela Gipple wrote:

    Thanks for all you do, Andy.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Angela. Thanks for the support!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma L. Nunes wrote:

    well said , Shaker Aamer

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Zilma.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Lizzy Arizona wrote:

    Thank you Andy. I still call The White House every week.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Lizzy, for your support and your persistence!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Lizzy Arizona wrote:

    Incredible to see Shaker live on my screen I am listening.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    It was so nice to spend some time with him, Lizzy, and to record this in his back garden on a warm autumnal day.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Sara Hussain wrote:

    Thank you does not seem adequate Andy.
    As words can not describe how momentous it is to hear Shaker.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sara. Great to hear from you. I feel honoured to have been able to put a message out there from Shaker that was not via the mainstream media, but as friend to friend, in a relaxed setting – and just before Shaker gave me some delicious home-cooked food!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Joanne MacInnes wrote:

    What a guy Shaker is. Just given this exclusive interview to my campaign colleague Andy. Shaker is such a civilised man managing to be gracious and understanding even to Obama who was responsible for him spending seven torturous years in that hellhole AFTER he was cleared for release. If only we could all be so evolved as Shaker.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Very well put, Joanne!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    2700 views so far on Facebook, 200 on YouTube. Please keep watching and sharing!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Great little video Andy, relaxed and informal. His face always displaying his beautiful expression. Always a pleasure to hear him speak

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Waris. I thought you would like it. I was very pleased not to have been an objective journalist, but an activist journalist who has shared this story with Shaker for many years. As you noted, it was relaxed, but Shaker also got his message across.

  18. Tobias Spears says...

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for that, Tobias. I hope to find the time to update my PRB list soon.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Recommended: John Oliver on Last Week Tonight urging President Obama to close Guantanamo before he leaves office – 20 minutes that are accurate, funny and poignant, and, for the record, Oliver worries about Trump becoming president. “If we don’t shut it down, future President Trump will throw whoever he wants in Guantanamo,” he said, adding that he was worried that Trump might have a cell lined up for him. https://www.facebook.com/LastWeekTonight/videos/1004602789668730/

  21. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy! Can you convey our thanks to Shaker?

    I know he faced serious health challenges, both in Guantanamo, and following his release. Can you tell Shaker that people are rooting for him to recover as much of his health as possible, after his long ordeal. Of course he lost almost fifteen years of youth, he can never get back. He does look healthy, in your video.

    Andy, Shaker was held years longer than any of the other captives from the UK. Some of us wondered whether those extra years were due to fear that he could testify about the deaths of the three men, on June 10th, 2006.

    Evidence had mounted that the official account was a pack of lies. The official account had them simultaneously hang themselves, after stuffing rags down their throats, and then tying their own hands behind their backs. The official account has them coordinating simultaneous acts of suicide, while managing to hide this conspiracy from the guards who were charged with the responsibility of visually inspecting them, every two minutes.

    Scott Horton broke an alternate, and more credible account of their deaths — murdered, during an ad hoc torture session at secretive “Camp No”. The rags were part of an alternate torture method that took the subject part way down the path to death by suffocation. It was called “dryboarding” — to distinguish it from waterboarding.

    Various accounts had Shaker also dryboarded that night — but that he didn’t die. There was speculation that, once he was released, he would be able to confirm the alternate account of those men’s deaths.

    Can I ask whether you have asked him whether he knows anything that could shed more light on those deaths, recently?

    Thanks again!

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi arcticredriver,
    Thanks for your kind wishes for Shaker. He is doing remarkably well. His mental strength is astonishing, although he has physical problems related to his long imprisonment – and, in particular, the brutal treatment he received early on.
    I haven’t broached any of these topics with him, as he’s not yet wanted to talk about his experiences in any depth. We shall have to wait and see what happens in the future.

  23. Tobias Spears says...

    Mohamedou Slahi has been FREED! About damn time. I was starting to think Obama would wait until after the elections.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article108743577.html

  24. Andy Worthington says...

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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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