Life after Guantánamo: Stories from Afghanistan

On February 24, I was delighted to be interviewed about Guantánamo by BBC World News — the BBC’s global, commercial arm — as part of their “Freedom” series. As the website states, “Whether it’s freedom from surveillance or freedom to be single, the BBC is investigating what freedom means in the modern world.”

The interview, which, unfortunately, isn’t available online, was preceded by a short clip of two former Guantánamo prisoners, from Afghanistan, talking about their experiences to the reporter Dawood Azami, who travelled to Afghanistan to meet former prisoners. The two men were Shahzada Khan (ISN 952, also known as Haji Shahzada), who was released in April 2005, and Haji Ghalib (ISN 987), who was released in February 2007.

Dawood Azami’s visit, and his meetings with former prisoners were also featured in a BBC World Service broadcast, “Guantánamo Voices,” and in an article for the BBC World Service’s online magazine, which I’m cross-posting below because it provides a powerful insight into some generally little-known stories, which demonstrate clearly the kind of chronic failures of intelligence that led to so many insignificant or completely innocent men — and, in some cases, boys — ending up at  Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: On the BBC World Service, Andy Worthington Discusses the US’s Latest Efforts to Hold Prisoners in Bagram Forever

This morning, I was interviewed on the BBC World Service’s “World Update” programme about Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and the latest news from the facility, in the long, drawn-out process of the US handing over control of the prison to the Afghan government. The show is here, it’s available for the next six days, and the section in which I’m interviewed begins at 27 minutes in, and lasts for four minutes.

The prison at Bagram airbase — America’s main prison in Afghanistan — was established in an old Soviet factory following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and was a place of great brutality, where a handful of prisoners were murdered in US custody.

Used to process prisoners for Guantánamo until the end of 2003, it then grew in size throughout the rest of Bush’s presidency, and into President Obama’s. During this time, a new prison was built, which was named the Parwan Detention facility, but those interested in the prison, its violent history in US hands and its unenviable role as the graveyard of the Geneva Conventions refused to accept the rebranding. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike on the BBC

Yesterday — April 30 — was a big day for Guantánamo coverage, as the BBC decided to provide extensive coverage of the ongoing hunger strike, now on its 84th day — and the ethical problems regarding the force-feeding of mentally competent prisoners — across a number of TV and radio shows.

I was contacted a few days ago by BBC World News, and asked to appear on the lunchtime news with George Alagiah, and on Monday evening I also received a request to appear on Newsday, on the World Service, at 7am. That show is available here (for the next six days) and my brief interview took place in a segment that began about 12 and a half minutes into the 90-minute show.

I then received another call, from World have Your Say, also on the World Service, asking me to appear on that show as well, and after I rolled up at the BBC at 11.30, I was shuttled around from the World Service to the rather roomy sound stage occupied by BBC World News, where I had a few minutes’ chat with George Alagiah. I can’t find that interview anywhere online, but the World Have Your Say interview is available here, in which Aisha Maniar of the London Guantánamo Campaign was also a guest, and our segment begins 19 minutes into the 26-minute show. Read the rest of this entry »

Shops, Flags and the BBC: Photos of Regent Street in September

BBC HQThe BBC's new facadeInside the BBC's new HQInside the BBC: the lift shaft and the atriumRegent Street and the Olympic flagsAll Souls Church, Langham Place
The University of WestminsterRegent Street building siteBoarded upOxford CircusOxford Street and Regent Street, looking south eastOxford Street and Regent Street, looking north west
Weird window displayRegent Street and Oxford Street, looking northThe temple of AppleRegent Street, looking southFlags of the worldAmerican nostalgia
Branding the environmentThe hunters and the huntedSomething for the homeQuadrant ArcadeBike

Shops, Flags and the BBC: Regent Street in September, a set on Flickr.

Back in December, I promised to publish five photo sets from the 1,700 photos from September that I hadn’t had the time to make available at that time (out of the 7,300 photos of London that I have taken since last July, which are still unpublished — compared to the 1,500 I have already made available). I published three sets, Blue Skies and Golden Light: The River Thames in September, Top of the World: Nunhead Allotments, and the View from the Hill-Top Reservoir and Memories of Summer: Photos of the Thames Festival on London’s South Bank, and then it was Christmas and New Year, and I wanted to post some seasonal photos, and then, in swift succession, I travelled to the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of its opening, and returned home to a rare snowy interlude, followed by a massive protest to save Lewisham Hospital from being butchered by the government and the management of the NHS, and a visit to Brighton for another Guantánamo event. I have also just begun to post photos from New York, taken as part of my US trip.

Consequently, the publication of the fourth of those five sets from September has been delayed — until now. Dating from September 10, this set records a journey I made down Regent Street from Broadcasting House, the BBC’s headquarters in Portland Place, after I was asked to be a guest of the BBC World Service, on the “Newshour” programme with Robin Lustig, to discuss the plans for the handover of Bagram prison in Afghanistan from US to Afghan control. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Discusses Bagram on the BBC World Service, and 9/11 and Guantánamo with Scott Horton

This week the legacy of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” is under the spotlight, as is the response to it of his successor, Barack Obama. Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that first prompted George W. Bush and his administration to discard all domestic and international laws and treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners, and to hold those seized in its “war on terror” not as prisoners of war, according to the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects, but as “enemy combatants,” who could, the administration contended, be held without them having any rights whatsoever.

Today is also significant for the fallout from the first war on which the Bush administration embarked — the invasion of Afghanistan, which began a month after the 9/11 attacks. As has been extensively reported, this morning US officials handed over formal control of the Parwan Detention Facility, the replacement for the notorious Bagram prison, where several prisoners were killed in the early days of the “war on terror,” to Afghan control.

This morning I was delighted to be asked by the BBC World Service to comment on the Bagram handover on the “Newshour” program with Robin Lustig, which was live at 1 pm, but is repeated regularly, and is available online. Although it was announced that the US had transferred 3,082 prisoners to Afghan control since reaching an agreement in March, I was particularly interested in commenting about those still held by the US, including recently captured prisoners, who will not be handed over until the US has screened them, and, more particularly, the foreign prisoners — thought to number around 50 — who will continue to be held by the US. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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