We Stand With Shaker’s 1st Anniversary, 100 Celebrity Photos and a Vigil on Thursday

The launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014, featuring, from L to R: Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith, Andy Worthington, Joanne MacInnes and Caroline Lucas.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 »

Andy Worthington: An Archive of Guantánamo Articles and Other Writing – Part 17, July to December 2014

A birthday card is delivered to 10 Downing Street for Shaker Aamer's birthday on December 21, 2014, by MPs and other supporters. From L to R: Andy Worthington, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Peter Tatchell, Caroline Lucas MP, John McDonnell MP and John Leech MP (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Please support my work!


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 »

Radio: Andy Worthington and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait Discuss Shaker Aamer and Closing Guantánamo with Cat Watters

Cat Watters, activist and broadcaster, and Debra Sweet of the World Can't Wait with blogger the Talking Dog and Todd Pierce, former military defense attorney in the military commissions at Guantanamo, outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Playing Politics with the Closure of Guantánamo

A campaigner reminds President Obama of his promise to close Guantanamo on January 11, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Supporters of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign have long been aware that the very existence of the “war on terror” prison at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is an affront to all notions that the United States respects justice and the rule of law, and we remember that as the closure of the prison becomes, yet again, an undignified game of political football, with Congress continuing to erect obstacles to the release of prisoners and the transfer of anyone to the US mainland for any reason, and the Obama administration trying to come up with a workable plan for the prison’s closure.

Although Congress, the week after the 9/11 attacks, passed a law — the Authorization for Use of Military Force — that purports to justify the detention of prisoners without charge or trial at Guantánamo, and the Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that the government can hold them until the end of hostilities, this thin legal veneer has persistently failed to disguise the fact that everything about Guantánamo is wrong.

The Bush administration established the prison to be beyond the reach of the US courts, and for nearly two and a half years the men — and boys — held there had no rights whatsoever. In a second decision delivered in June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that they had habeas corpus rights, a decision that allowed lawyers into the prison, breaking the veil of secrecy that had shrouded the prison for all that time, enabling torture and other forms of abuse to take place. Even so, it was not until June 2006 that the Supreme Court, in another ruling, reminded the administration that no one can be held without rights, and that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits torture and “humiliating and degrading treatment,” applied to everyone in US custody. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Yemenis Freed from Guantánamo, Given New Homes in the United Arab Emirates

Three of the five prisoners released from Guantanamo and given new homes in the United Arab Emirates on November 13, 2015. From L to R: Ali al-Razihi, Khalid al-Qadasi and Sulaiman al-Nahdi.There’s good news from Guantánamo, as five Yemenis, approved for release from the prison in 2005, 2007 and 2014, have finally been freed, and given new homes in the United Arab Emirates.

As the New York Times reported, the resettlement “was the first of its kind to the United Arab Emirates, which had previously taken in just one former Guantánamo detainee, in 2008 — its own citizen,” Abdullah al-Hamiri, whose story I discussed here.

The Times also explained that, “In May, President Obama met at Camp David with leaders or representatives of the six Middle Eastern countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, including a representative from the United Arab Emirates. The main topic of discussion was the nuclear agreement with Iran, but officials familiar with the deliberations said Mr. Obama had also pressed them to consider resettling groups of detainees. The deal announced on Sunday appears to be the first fruits of those talks.” Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: Andy Worthington of The Four Fathers Interviewed About Protest Music By Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof

Andy Worthington's band The Four Fathers playing at a party in London in July 2015.Two weeks ago, the journalist Kevin Gosztola made my “Song for Shaker Aamer,” by my band The Four Fathers, his “Protest Song of the Week” on his website Shadowproof, which he established in August when FireDogLake, for which he had been writing for several years, came to an end.

It was wonderful to be featured on Shadowproof, as part of a “Protest Music Project” that Kevin set up when the website launched, which to date, has featured a dozen songs from around the world, and the “Top 25 Protest Albums of the 2010s (So Far),” and just as wonderful when Kevin asked if I’d be prepared to be interviewed about “what influenced [me] to become a writer and performer of protest music,” and to discuss the protest songs on The Four Fathers’ self-released debut album, “Love and War,” available to listen to, to download or to buy as a CD on Bandcamp.

Our 45-minute interview, with Kevin playing excerpts from “Song for Shaker Aamer,” “Fighting Injustice,” “81 Million Dollars” (about the US torture program) and “Tory Bullshit Blues,” is on the Shadowproof website, and is also available here as an MP3. Also included is an excerpt from one of my favourite protest songs, Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” (as performed on the 1975 Rolling Thunder tour). Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Shaker Aamer’s Release and the Future of Guantánamo with Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins

Andy Worthington on the radio: in this instance, speaking to Bill Newman, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney and the director of the Western Massachusetts office of the ACLU, who hosts a weekday radio talk show on WHMP in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photo taken on January 14, 2015, during Andy's US tour.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 »

A Photo and a Message from Shaker Aamer to His Supporters

A photo that Shaker Aamer made available to the We Stand With Shaker campaign to thanks all his supporters who worked so hard to secure his release from Guantanamo.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.

Shaker Aamer’s message to all his supporters

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 »

First Photos Published of Shaker Aamer Since His Release from Guantánamo

Shaker Aamer photographed in London on November 10, 2015 (Photo credit: Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph).This afternoon, the first photos appeared in the British media of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantánamo, following his release from the prison on October 30. The photos appear to have been taken by paparazzi near his family home in London — and while I think it’s a pity that those close to Shaker didn’t issue a photo themselves, I’m delighted to see Shaker looking so well, just eleven days after his release.

The photo I’ve posted here was published on the website of the Daily Telegraph, and other photos were on the website of the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.

Unfortunately, although the photos show an evidently likeable person, and hint at the indomitable spirit that kept him going throughout his long ordeal in US custody, the text accompanying the photos was not always supportive — and the online comments, of course, are best avoided completely. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with Richie Allen

A screenshot of Richie Allen's video for his interview with Andy Worthington on November 5, 2015.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 »

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Andy Worthington

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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