As Racism Spreads and Economic Woes Increase, Is the Tide Starting to Turn Against Brexit?

A selection of racist headlines from the UK's tabloid newspapers, as highlighted in a Hope Not Hate feature in January 2014.

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On the face of it, only a little, but beneath the surface all is not right with the Brexit camp, as Britain — or perhaps, particularly, England — has settled into some horrible racist reality that ought to alarm all decent human beings. This week, as child refugees with relatives in the UK were finally allowed into the country after months languishing in the refugee camp in Calais (the so-called “Jungle”) because the government, up to that point, had done nothing, the response of our disgusting right-wing tabloid newspapers — the Mail, the Sun, the Express, the Star — was to claim that they were not children (I was reminded of Donald Rumsfeld and Chief of Staff Richard Myers claiming that the children held at Guantánamo were not children).

Then the disgusting ordinary racists of Britain got involved — the seemingly countless numbers of people empowered since the referendum result to be even more openly racist than previously, and, of course, those who, for many years now, have been exulting in their power to write whatever filth they want on social media, up to and including death threats, and mostly to get away with it.

Two particular targets of the online trolls were the singer Lily Allen, who had been reduced to tears after visiting the Calais refugee camp, and had apologised “on behalf of England”, and footballing hero and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who so appalled by the media witch hunt and support for it that he tweeted, “The treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What’s happening to our country?” and then faced calls for him be sacked, which he fought back against admirably, His best response, I thought, was, “Getting a bit of a spanking today, but things could be worse: Imagine, just for a second, being a refugee having to flee from your home.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes Discuss the Success of We Stand With Shaker on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT

Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of the We Stand With Shaker campaign on George Galloway's Sputnik show on RT on December 19, 2015. On Saturday, Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-founders and co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which successfully campaigned — with other campaigners, with MPs and with the support of media including the Daily Mail — to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, appeared on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT (filmed on Thursday) to discuss the success of the campaign, how Shaker is doing since his release, what the future holds, and the unreliable nature of the so-called evidence against him (something I had particularly wanted to emphasize).

George — and Gayatri, his wife, who co-hosts the show with him — spoke to Jo and I last November, just after we launched the campaign, and it was great to be invited back to celebrate, as, of course, struggles against colossal injustices undertaken by major world powers do not always end so well — and for the 107 men still held at Guantánamo, of course, the injustice is far from over.

This was how George introduced the show: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: After Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer’s 90-Minute BBC Interview with Victoria Derbyshire

Shaker Aamer, in a screenshot from his interview with the BBC, broadcast on December 14, 2015.On Monday, after an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday, published the day before (which I wrote about here and here), both the BBC and ITV News ran interviews with Shaker Aamer, who, until October 30, when he was freed, was the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

I am delighted to have played a part in securing Shaker’s release through ten years of writing about Guantánamo, and campaigning to get the prison closed, and, for the last eleven months of Shaker’s imprisonment, through the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting Shaker since his release, and was delighted to find that everything I had worked out about him from the reports that have emerged from Guantánamo and from those who know him — his eloquence, his intelligence and his implacable devotion to tackling injustice — was accurate, and this was also evident in his interview with Victoria Derbyshire for her morning show on BBC2, which I’m posting below via YouTube where it has already received over 55,000 views.

Note: Please be aware there are a few glitches in the video, where the sound and images are lost for a few seconds and there is only disturbing white noise. 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 »

Shaker Aamer’s Statement on His Release from Guantánamo

Joanne MacInnes, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker and campaigner Andrew Jackson at Biggin Hill airfield for Shaker Aamer's return home from Guantanamo.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 »

Shaker Aamer Finally Freed from Guantánamo: We Stand With Shaker Responds to the News

Andy Worthington, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (the founder and co-chair of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group) and Joanne MacInnes at the launch of Fast For Shaker outside Parliament on October 15, 2015 (Photo: Seb Corbyn for Andy Worthington).

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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 »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks to RT at the Launch of Fast For Shaker in London on October 15

Andy Worthington, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Joanne MacInnes at the launch of Fast For Shaker outside Parliament on October 15, 2015 (Photo: Seb Corbyn for Andy Worthington).Many thanks to RT for their excellent coverage of Thursday’s press launch, opposite Parliament, of the Fast For Shaker campaign set up by myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders of the We Stand With Shaker Campaign that we launched 11 months ago, with a giant inflatable figure of the last British resident in Guantánamo that grabbed people’s attention, with celebrities and MPs happy to Stand With Shaker and to call for his release, as the years roll on since he was first approved for release — in 2007 under George W. Bush, and in 2009 under Barack Obama.

I was fasting on Thursday, with 75 other people around the world — a few of whom were also in London for the launch, including Jo — and it was quite demanding, as a result, running around trying to make sure it all ran smoothly, although I’m glad to say it did. See my photos here, and my report here.

RT interviewed me, John McDonnell, the comedian Sara Pascoe, and Shaker’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique, and I recommend all those interviews as well as the interview with the actor and director Mark Rylance, who took place a few days before. Read the rest of this entry »

Over 90 Celebrities and MPs Sign Open Letter to President Obama Calling for Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo on US Independence Day

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.I’m delighted to report that, today, US Independence Day (July 4), the following open letter to President Obama, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, was published by the Guardian, on its website, which has seven million readers worldwide, and picked up on by the Daily Mail, Sky News and ITV News. Also see this Guardian article (a version of which was published in the newspaper), accompanying the publication of the letter.

I wrote the letter for the We Stand With Shaker campaign , which I founded, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, in November, and Jo has spent the last few weeks assiduously securing signatures. Celebrity supporters include Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Ralph Fiennes, Russell Brand, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Richard E. Grant, Mark Rylance, Juliet Stevenson, David Morrissey, Frankie Boyle, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Michael Brearley.

Late yesterday afternoon, we secured the support of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who joined dozens of other MPs, including former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, and the six MPs who lead the cross-party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group: the co-chairs, John McDonnell (Lab.) and David Davis (Con.), and the four officers of the group: Andrew Mitchell (Con.), Jeremy Corbyn (Lab.), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Andy Slaughter (Lab.). 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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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