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 »
Below is an interview I undertook with the New York-based activist Cat Watters, on her show Organic News, on Awake Radio, which took place just after the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was released and returned to the UK on October 30. Also on the show was my friend Debra Sweet, of the World Can’t Wait, who, every January, gets me over to the US for tours calling for the closure of Guantánamo, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the prison’s opening (see my last three visits here, here and here).
The main topic of discussion of course, was Shaker’s release after a long, long campaign to secure his freedom, in which I played a part through the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched a year ago with the activist Joanne MacInnes.
Debra also spoke — about the prison-wide hunger strike in 2013 that did so much to remind the world of the prisoners’ plight, in which, of course, Shaker played a part, as I explained at the time — see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
The show is below, via YouTube (audio only):
We also spoke about the hypocrisy and stupidity of the “war on terror” — and of Western foreign policy in general — and then moved on to Shaker’s health, which, in turn, led to a discussion of how Guantánamo has been used by the authorities as a place of human experimentation, via extensive and well-chronicled medical and psychological abuse.
Cat also mentioned Shaker’s connection to Roger Waters, who became involved in Shaker’s case after his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, sent him a letter from Guantánamo stating how much he liked the Pink Floyd song, “Hey You,” which Roger wrote, and I explained how supportive Roger has been of my work and of We Stand With Shaker.
We also spoke about Roger’s commendable involvement with the BDS movement (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), described by Roger as “a non violent movement to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and violations of international law and Palestinian human rights,” and has repeatedly tried to get significant figures in the music industry not to play in Israel, and Debra then made a point of mentioning how Quentin Tarantino has received significant and unacceptable criticism and threats — from the police — after showing his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
There was much more in the show, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful.
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.
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 »
The Guardian, yesterday, featured former Guantánamo prisoner Ahmed Errachidi speaking of his admiration for Shaker Aamer, the British resident released from the prison on October 30, but warning that it will be difficult for him to adapt to his freedom after nearly 14 years in US custody.
A Moroccan national and a chef, Errachidi, 49, had lived and worked in London for 18 years before he travelled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan in late 2001 in what appears to have been an ill-conceived combination of a business trip and a desire to aid the Afghan people. Seized and taken to Guantánamo, he was initially regarded as a significant prisoner. As Ben Quinn explained in an article for the Guardian, “he earned the nickname ‘The General’ by guards, after he was cast as the unofficial leader of more than 700 detainees — organising protests that included hunger strikes, a role he says occurred largely because he was one of the few English speakers.”
Oddly, Quinn failed to mention that Errachidi was bipolar, and suffered psychotic episodes at Guantánamo, sometimes during interrogations, and that it wasn’t until he was assigned Clive Stafford Smith as a lawyer that a claim that he was in a training camp was debunked, when Stafford Smith was able to secure the wage slips from a restaurant in Bond Street where Errachidi was actually working at the time. That was the key evidence that paved the way for his release in April 2007. Quinn also neglected to mention that, in 2013, his memoir, The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantánamo, was published by Random House. Read the rest of this entry »
Since Shaker Aamer returned to the UK from Guantánamo last Friday, much has been written — most of it, I’m glad to say, positive about a man so evidently wronged; held for nearly 14 years without charge or trial, and approved for release twice, under George W. Bush in 2007, and Barack Obama in 2009.
When Shaker returned — in part, I’m prepared to accept, because of the We Stand With Shaker campaign I conceived and ran with Joanne MacInnes — I wrote an article that was widely liked and shared and commented on, publicized the gracious comment Shaker made on his return, posted a photo of myself holding a “Welcome Home Shaker” card that reached over 20,000 people, and made a number of TV and radio appearances during a brief media frenzy that coincided with the long-overdue news of Shaker’s release.
It was so busy that I haven’t had time to thank the supporters who made such a big difference — John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor, who set up the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group and was its co-chair, the Conservative MP David Davis, the other co-chair, and his colleague Andrew Mitchell, Jeremy Corbyn (now the Leader of the Labour Party), and Andy Slaughter (the Labour MP for Hammersmith), who, with David Davis, visited Washington D.C. in May to call for Shaker’s release. Also noteworthy for her contribution over many years is Caroline Lucas, our sole Green MP. 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.
At lunchtime on October 30, 2015, a plane carrying Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, back to the UK as a free man, to be reunited with his family after nearly 14 years without charge or trial in US custody, landed at Biggin Hill airfield. Soon after, Shaker was whisked away by his UK lawyers to receive medical care and to be reunited with his family, and, I am led to believe, he is doing remarking well considering his long ordeal.
The following statement was issued by his UK lawyers and I’m delighted to post it below. It reveals the eloquence, generosity and concern for others that has been a hallmark of Shaker’s words from Guantánamo over the years. All his many supporters should take heart from the fact that he says, “I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantánamo,” adding, “Without knowing of their fight I might have given up more than once; I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.”
Shaker Aamer’s statement, October 30, 2015
“The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth. If I was the fire to be lit to tell the truth, it was the people who protected the fire from the wind. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a big day today — 5000 days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, arrived at the prison from Afghanistan, where he had already been held for two or three months in appalling conditions. If all is well, Shaker will not stay much beyond his 5000th day, as today is also the day that the statutory notification period required by Congress before they will allow President Obama to release anyone from Guantánamo expires — and a month ago the president told David Cameron that Shaker would be freed.
5000 days would be a long sentence if Shaker had committed any kind of crime, but in fact he has never been charged or tried by the US, and he was first told eight years ago, under President Bush, that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and was told the same thing almost six years ago, under President Obama, as a result of the recommendations of the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after taking office in January 2009.
His imprisonment for all these years is an indictment of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantánamo. Because Shaker is an eloquent, charismatic and irrepressibly outspoken critic of the US’s post-9/11 lawlessness and cruelty, he was, first of all, subjected to discussions about whether he could be sent back to the country of his birth, Saudi Arabia, where he would have been silenced, rather than to the UK, where he was granted indefinite leave to remain, and where he has a British wife and four British children. 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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