New Thank You Message from Shaker Aamer to Supporters, Exactly One Year Since His Release from Guantánamo

30.10.16

Shaker Aamer and Andy Worthington, photographed together shortly after meeting for the first time in November 2015.Exactly one year ago, on October 30, 2015, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in the US’s disgraceful “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, arrived home in the UK, a free man.

Prior to his release, Shaker had been told that the US no longer wanted to hold him in 2007, under George W. Bush, and was told again under President Obama, in 2009, that he had been approved for release. However, it took an extraordinary effort, by over 100,000 concerned British citizens, by MPs, by the mainstream British media and by campaigners, including myself, for him to finally be released — all because, it seems, an official or officials somewhere within the US administration refused to accept that he had unanimously been approved for release by a stringent US inter-agency review process, and regarded him, implausibly, as someone dangerous.

Today, he sent the following message to everyone who supported him over the long years of his imprisonment without charge or trial:

Dear good, beautiful, just people all over the world,

I just wanted to say thank you and I hope my message gets to you where you are in the best of health and happiness.

I am well by the grace of Allah (God) and I am very happy to let you know that I pray for all of you.

No words will be enough to show my gratitude to you.

Thank you for every morning I wake up out of that horrible place. Thank you for every meal I eat out of that miserable place. Thanks for every breath I take out of that dark place.

I have no doubt you can hear my thoughts, all of you good people out there.

May allah guide all of us to his paradise.

Aameen (Amen).

SHAKER AAMER (239).

While he was held by the US, Shaker came to be regarded as dangerous not because he was, but because he had stood up relentlessly to his captors’ injustice, and, as a charismatic and eloquent individual, had his actions interpreted as those of someone of significance within al-Qaeda rather than what he was — a wrongly imprisoned individual who was passionate about human rights and justice, not just for himself, but for everyone else who found themselves unjustly held as a result of America’s largely indiscriminate post-9/11 dragnet in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As a result of his charisma and his ability to mobilize his fellow prisoners, Shaker spent much of his 14-year imprisonment in isolation — he was held for nearly three years in uninterrupted isolation between 2005 and 2008 — and was frequently subjected to abuse.

See below for Shaker’s message to President Obama (via YouTube), urging him to close the prison — on October 11 this year, when the president had just 100 days left to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made on his second day in office back in January 2009. I recorded the video for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo that I initiated in January for the Close Guantánamo campaign that I launched in 2012, and tomorrow President Obama will have just 80 days left.

The path to Shaker’s release involved years of campaigning by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign, and, from November 2014, the efforts of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which I founded with the activist Joanne MacInnes, and which, over an eleven-month period, secured 100 photos of celebrities and MPs standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, which I had thought of, and Joanne had got made.

In the last year of Shaker’s imprisonment, there was also an All-Party Parliamentary Group that pushed for Shaker’s release, set up by the great campaigning MP John McDonnell (now the Shadow Chancellor), and including others who had long supported Shaker’s release, the Green MP Caroline Lucas and John’s colleague Jeremy Corbyn (now the Labour Party leader). In May, the Conservative MPs David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, plus Corbyn and his Labour colleague Andy Slaughter, visited the US to call for Shaker’s release, and this plus the support of the mainstream media (especially the Daily Mail) and other campaigning highlights — an open letter to President Obama on Independence Day, for example — eventually led to Shaker’s release.

I vividly recall October 30 last year, as I received a phone call in the morning from Joanne, letting me know that she was heading down to Biggin Hill, where Shaker was due to arrive at lunchtime. I then spent the rest of the day in a blur of activity, dealing with the media frenzy, and appearing on numerous TV and radio shows.

A few weeks after Shaker’s release, I was privileged to get to meet him finally at an event put together for him to meet his supporters, including the many MPs who had worked to get him freed, where the photo at the top of this article was taken. When I posted it on Facebook at the start of this year, I wrote, “It was amazing to finally get to meet [Shaker], and to get to appreciate his resilience, sense of fairness and justice, and great sense of humour, which were almost miraculous to behold after his long imprisonment in such abusive conditions.”

Throughout the last year, I have met Shaker on several more occasions, most recently for the video I recorded, posted above, but to mark the anniversary of his release I’d also like to refer people to a few more relevant media items: the 90-minute interview Shaker did with Victoria Derbyshire for the BBC last December, plus my “Song for Shaker Aamer (Freedom Version)” recorded with my band The Four Fathers (with the lyrics changed from the original campaign song to reflect Shaker’s release), and the video of me singing the song in Washington, D.C. in January this year.

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.

19 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Exactly one year ago, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, returned home to his family in the UK, a free man. Today he sends a new thank you message to everyone who supported him, including the following: “Dear good, beautiful, just people all over the world, I just wanted to say thank you and I hope my message gets to you where you are in the best of health and happiness … Thank you for every morning I wake up out of that horrible place. Thank you for every meal I eat out of that miserable place. Thanks for every breath I take out of that dark place.” Please visit the article to read Shaker’s full message!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Mr. Aamer. It has been a lovely year knowing you free.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Javier Rodriguez wrote:

    Thanks for the update Andy! Shaker is just such an amazing person.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma L. Nunes wrote:

    good luck

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Hanan Bagh wrote:

    Hope he has many many more happy years of freedom !

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the support, Natalia, Javier, Zilma and Hanan – and thanks to everyone liking and sharing Shaker’s words. A happy anniversary!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Pam Arnold wrote:

    fab photo, fab people, fab outcome

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Pam! Fab appreciation!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    When Sarah Kay shared this, she wrote:

    It’s been long, too long a journey for Shaker Aamer to be extracted from Guantanamo and back home to London with his family and loved ones. Often suspected to have been used for experimental methods of torture, for years I never thought he would make it out alive. A year since a release and repatriation that took years, Andy shares with us a missive from Shaker, full of kindness, like its sender, and gratitude: “Thanks for every breath I take out of that dark place”. We can never repay the damage we’ve caused.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing – and for your powerful comments, Sarah!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Marion Heads wrote:

    Humanity and Solidarity personified

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Great comment, Marion. Good to hear from you!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Please feel free to like The Four Fathers on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter:
    https://www.facebook.com/fourfatherslondon/
    https://twitter.com/fourfathers1

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Man redefines the very word, he is a man who achieved much whilst he was incarcerated in Guantanamo for the plight of other prisoners, for the rights, for their voice and plight to be heard and now, he continues on fighting for those left behind.. as a free man.

    Hope his words are read by thousands more. Have shared to Save Shaker.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Waris. It’s ironic, isn’t it? We would have campaigned for Shaker’s right not to be tortured and held indefinitely without charge or trial even if he hadn’t been so passionately concerned with justice, but along the way I’m sure all of us kept on hearing stories about his character that made our reasons for campaigning even more compelling. I remember his brother-in-law telling me how, one time, when a beggar asked him for money, he didn’t give him the money directly but took him somewhere and bought him a meal, impressing him greatly. He seems always to have been looking out for other people.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Sarah Lovett wrote:

    That is nice

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sarah. Good to hear from you.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Waris Ali wrote:

    Exactly Andy, in the days of the petition, when the going was tough especially in the freezing weather, trying to rally support, get those signatures, his words were truly a great boost and encouragement in continuing to campaign for his release, over the years. One small example amongst so many, it’s just the type of man that he is.

  19. 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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