Today (November 24) is the 1st anniversary of the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, created by myself and the activist Joanne MacInnes to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed — after unprecedented pressure on the US government by MPs, the media and campaigners — on October 30.
The inflatable figure proved to be one of those campaigning tools that captured people’s imagination, and our launch a year ago — attended by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, comedian Jeremy Hardy, activist Peter Tatchell and the MPs John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington, and now the Shadow Chancellor) and Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion) — was swiftly followed by high-level support from the Daily Mail, which ran a front-page story condemning Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment, seven years after he was first approved for release by the US authorities, and then followed up with support for the campaign, publishing our open letter to David Cameron, which MPs and our celebrity supporters signed in significant numbers.
The campaign — and the ongoing campaigning of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, as well as the political pressure that began to be exerted when, at the same time that We Stand With Shaker was launched, John McDonnell set up the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group — led to David Cameron raising the issue of Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment with Barack Obama at a meeting in January (when the president promised to “prioritise” his case), and, in March, led to a Parliamentary debate at which the British government supported the motion, “That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.” Read the transcript here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
This article is the 17th in an ongoing series of articles listing all my work in chronological order. It’s a project I began in January 2010, when I put together the first chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that doing so would make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to navigate my work — the 2,525 articles I have published since I began publishing articles here in May 2007, which, otherwise, are not available in chronological order in any readily accessible form.
I first began researching the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there over ten years ago, in September 2005, and I began researching and writing about it on a full-time basis in March 2006. Initially, I spent 14 months researching and writing my book The Guantánamo Files, based, largely, on 8,000 pages of documents publicly released by the Pentagon in the spring of 2006, and, since May 2007, I have continued to write about the men held there, on an almost daily basis, as an independent investigative journalist — for two and a half years under President Bush, and, shockingly, for what is now nearly seven years under President Obama.
My mission, as it has been since my research first revealed the scale of the injustice at Guantánamo, continues to revolve around four main aims — to humanize the prisoners by telling their stories; to expose the many lies told about them to supposedly justify their detention; to push for the prison’s closure and the absolute repudiation of indefinite detention without charge or trial as US policy; and to call for those who initiated, implemented and supported indefinite detention and torture to be held accountable for their actions. Read the rest of this entry »
In the wake of the wonderful news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, has finally been released from the prison, and returned, a free man, to his family in the UK, a couple of old friends from the US — Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins — interviewed me for their radio shows.
Scott and I have been talking — generally several times a year — since 2007, primarily about Guantánamo, but also about torture, Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and other aspects of the “war on terror” that George W. Bush launched after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that President Obama has failed to fully repudiate.
Our 20-minute interview is here, as an MP3. Scott’s own website has been having problems for the last week — it was down for many days, and now it’s back up, but the last few years’ interviews are still missing. Read the rest of this entry »
So the following message and the accompanying photo here — made available by Shaker Aamer, who, until October 30, was the last British resident in Guantánamo — really need no additional explanation, except to say that Shaker made them available to Joanne MacInnes and I, as the co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, specifically so that he could thank everyone who worked so hard for his release. Thanking everyone is something that has been weighing on his mind as he recovers from his long ordeal, and begins to get used to his freedom. We wish him all the best, and are glad to see him looking so well, and so evidently full of spirit and kindness.
Hi Joanne and Andy,
Please send this message below to all of those who campaigned with We Stand With Shaker, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, those who fasted for me, MPs, and everyone else you know who has fought for my release.
I can’t tell you how much I want to speak to all of you and stand with all of you, carrying on the struggle for justice for everybody who has been oppressed and needs our help. If there is one thing we can do to save the whole world it is to fight for justice. We will work hard together to close Guantánamo and every unlawful facility run by any government worldwide. Justice has no colour or religion or race. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s ten days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was released and brought back to the UK to be reunited with his family, and after an immediate media whirlwind everything went very quiet, with a few noble exceptions — Richie Allen, the Manchester-based Irish broadcaster, Scott Horton, the US libertarian, and Peter B. Collins, the West Coast progressive radio host, who all got in touch and asked for interviews.
I’ve known all three for some time, and tonight I’m promoting my interview with Richie — it’s on YouTube via David Icke’s website, and you can also find it here on Podomatic. The other two shows aren’t available right now — Scott’s website has been down for a few days, and my interview with Peter, for Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs website, hasn’t been uploaded yet.
In a 30-minute interview, I spoke to Richie about Shaker’s release, and attempted to answer questions about how his health might be — a question that I couldn’t really answer, as those close to him are keeping very quiet right now, and allowing him to recover in peace. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m honoured that the investigative journalist Kevin Gosztola has promoted “Song for Shaker Aamer,” played by my band The Four Fathers, as his “Protest Song of the Week” on Shadowproof, the website he set up three months ago, after FireDogLake, where he’d been working for several years, ceased operations.
It is wonderful to have a serious political website actively promoting protest music, as the gutting of politics from music is one of the more baleful developments in the dumbing-down of culture over the last two decades. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, politics permeated music. A common reference point was the social and political upheaval of the 1960s, and my adolescence also coincided with the politics of the punk and post-punk period, with particularly significant songs being the Clash’s “London Calling” and the Specials’ “Ghost Town.”
I’m delighted that “Song for Shaker Aamer” is being celebrated by Shadowproof. Check out the other “Protest Songs of the Week” here, including, recently, “Omar” by “riot folk” singer-songwriter Ryan Harvey, about the refugee crisis, and “Innocent Criminals” by the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM. Read the rest of this entry »
Following Friday’s sudden news of the arrival back in the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, there was an intense media frenzy, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. For several hours, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was conducting interview after interview — on the phone or by Skype — with Skype calls incoming while I was being interviewed, and the phone ringing incessantly, as I found myself unable to switch it off.
Below is a brief run-through of where my media appearances can be found. Apologies for the delay, but it’s taken me many hours to track everything down, and I simply didn’t have the time – or was, frankly, too exhausted and in need of distraction — to do so until now.
After making a brief statement to the Press Association (as featured in this Independent article), I spoke briefly by phone to Sky News (their coverage is here), and then took part in the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2. The show has featured Shaker’s story twice in recent weeks. I appeared on it following the launch of Fast For Shaker, the campaign I set up with my colleague Joanne MacInnes as an off-shoot of our We Stand With Shaker campaign, and Shaker’s own words, read out by an actor, were featured in another show shortly after. Read the rest of this entry »
Just a quick note to let you all know that, on Saturday, my band The Four Fathers were filmed playing a revised version of my “Song for Shaker Aamer,” to reflect Shaker’s release from Guantánamo on Friday.
Primarily, it was heartening for me to change the words of the chorus from the present to the past tense, but also not to have to sing, any more, that he was “stuck in a cell alone, although the US says it wants to let him go.”
Here’s the revised chorus:
They chained your body but they could not chain your mind
You told truth to power
Even though you were behind the wire
The recorded version of the song (featuring Shaker’s voice, recorded in Guantánamo) is featured on our debut album, “Love and War,” and is available as a download — for 80p ($1.23), although you can pay more if you like. 25% of the takings will be donated to Shaker’s family.
Great news finally, as Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, has just arrived back in the UK, at Biggin Hill airport. Below is a version of a press release I wrote and sent out this morning on behalf of the We Stand With Shaker campaign.
Responding to the news of Shaker Aamer’s arrival back in the UK from Guantánamo, Andy Worthington, the co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, said, “We are delighted to hear about Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK, bringing to an end his long and unacceptable ordeal in US custody for nearly 14 years. Eight years ago, under George W. Bush, Shaker was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and in 2009 the Obama administration also approved him for release. To be held for so long, after being approved for release, is unforgivable.”
Andy added, “We hope that on his return he is not detained by the UK authorities, and will immediately be allowed to be reunited with his family, and to begin to receive the medical and psychological care that he urgently needs to begin to put his life back together again. We thank all the campaigners who have worked tirelessly for Shaker’s release, the MPs from across the political spectrum who have devoted their energies to addressing this terrible injustice, his lawyers, the media who have understood the importance of his case and the principles at stake, and, of course, the concerned citizens around the world who have recognised his plight and acted on it.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday (October 24), campaigners for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, held a vigil on Whitehall, opposite 10 Downing Street, to mark Shaker’s 5000th day in Guantánamo, and the last day before his anticipated return from Guantánamo. The vigil was organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with support from other groups including We Stand With Shaker and the London Guantánamo Campaign.
President Obama announced Shaker’s release on September 25, and Congress was then given a 30-day notification period, as required in US law in recent years. During the 30 days, Shaker told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, that he had embarked on a hunger strike because of ill-treatment, and that he feared not making it out of Guantánamo alive, and as a result, myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders and directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, set up Fast For Shaker, to encourage supporters to fast for 24 hours, on a day of their choice, in solidarity with Shaker, to encourage him to give up his hunger strike (which he did), and to keep up the pressure on the US and UK governments to make sure his release is not further delayed. We are encouraging people to sign up to fast until Shaker is released, joining the 406 people who have already done so.
After hearing that Shaker’s release has been delayed because of a visit to the prison by three Republican Senators over the weekend, we now hear that he may not be released until Friday, because of the presence of journalists for pre-hearings in the proposed trial of those accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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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