A Celebration of Guantánamo Activism Past and Present by Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon

Witness Against Torture activists occupy the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on January 11, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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The following cross-posted article, with my introduction, was originally published on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

Two weeks ago, we marked 7,000 days of Guantánamo’s existence as part of our ongoing photo campaign, with supporters sending in photos of themselves holding up posters marking how long the prison had been open, and urging President Biden to close it.

Since President Biden’s inauguration two months ago, his administration has thrown only a few crumbs of hope to campaigners for the closure of the prison, with which we have had to sustain ourselves — defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin telling the Senate that it’s “time for Guantánamo to close its doors,” and press secretary Jen Psaki announcing a “robust” review of the prison, in the 20th year of its operations, and the administration’s “intention” to close it.

As we await further news, we’re delighted that a great friend of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Jeremy Varon, has written a detailed article for Waging Nonviolence, “an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world.”

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Telling Donald Trump to Close Guantánamo: My Report on an Inspiring 24 Hours of Protest and Resistance in Washington, D.C. on the 16th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening

Some of the supporters of the new Close Guantanamo initiative, counting how many days Guantanamo has been open. Clockwise from top L: Alli McCracken of Amnesty International USA, Natalia Scott in Mexico, Susan McLucas in Massachusetts, Martin Gugino, representatives of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell and Beth Adams in Washington, D.C. Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration, including my current visit to the US.


Thursday, Jan. 11 was the 16th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and to mark the occasion, via the Close Guantánamo campaign I co-founded with the attorney Tom Wilner in 2012, we launched a new initiative: the Gitmo Clock, which counts how long Guantánamo has been open — 5,845 days on the anniversary. We’re encouraging people, throughout the year, to print the clock, take a photo with it, and send it to us, to put up on the website and to share via social media.

I arrived in New York from London on January 8, on my eighth annual visit in January to call for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening, and on Wednesday, January 10, I took the bus to Washington, D.C., to attend an event that evening, and to take part in a protest and a panel discussion the day after.

All were wonderful, inspiring occasions, providing an uplifting antidote to the anxiety and misery of life under Donald Trump as the repulsive, dysfunctional head of a disturbingly heartless Republican government. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Speak about Guantánamo at Peace Conference in Sheffield on October 5, 2012

On Friday (October 5), I’m heading to Sheffield, in the company of my friend — and former Guantánamo prisoner — Omar Deghayes, to take part in a conference at Sheffield University, entitled, “Confronting US Power after the Vietnam War: Transnational and International Perspectives on Peace Movements, Diplomacy, and the Law, 1975-2012.” The conference, which concludes on Saturday, is sponsored by the university’s Centre for Peace History, and the Peace History Society, and was organised by Michael Foley, co-director of the Centre for Peace History and an organiser for the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, who I join in Washington D.C. every January 11 to protest about the continued existence of Guantánamo on the anniversary of its opening (on January 11, 2002).

The panel Omar and I are taking part in on Friday evening — the conference’s keynote event — is entitled, “Resisting Empire: Global Resistance to Guantánamo and Torture,” and it begins at 6:30pm in the Richard Roberts Building Auditorium, in the east wing of the Dainton Building, on Brook Hill (postcode S3 7HF).

Joining us will be Jeremy Varon, Associate Professor of History at the New School for Social Research in New York, who is also a member of Witness Against Torture. Also speaking is Katie Taylor of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, for whom I used to work, whose presentation will mainly be focused on the challenges of resettlement and the work of Reprieve’s Life after Guantánamo Project. Omar will be talking about his experiences, and his work with the Guantánamo Justice Centre, and, as a representative of the campaigning group Close Guantánamo, I will be talking about the fundamental problems with the supposed evidence against the prisoners, and the injustice of the US continuing to hold 86 prisoners (out of the remaining 166) who have been cleared for release as a result of multiple review processes, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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