I’m honoured that the investigative journalist Kevin Gosztola has promoted “Song for Shaker Aamer,” played by my band The Four Fathers, as his “Protest Song of the Week” on Shadowproof, the website he set up three months ago, after FireDogLake, where he’d been working for several years, ceased operations.
It is wonderful to have a serious political website actively promoting protest music, as the gutting of politics from music is one of the more baleful developments in the dumbing-down of culture over the last two decades. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, politics permeated music. A common reference point was the social and political upheaval of the 1960s, and my adolescence also coincided with the politics of the punk and post-punk period, with particularly significant songs being the Clash’s “London Calling” and the Specials’ “Ghost Town.”
I’m delighted that “Song for Shaker Aamer” is being celebrated by Shadowproof. Check out the other “Protest Songs of the Week” here, including, recently, “Omar” by “riot folk” singer-songwriter Ryan Harvey, about the refugee crisis, and “Innocent Criminals” by the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM. Read the rest of this entry »
Following Friday’s sudden news of the arrival back in the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, there was an intense media frenzy, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. For several hours, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was conducting interview after interview — on the phone or by Skype — with Skype calls incoming while I was being interviewed, and the phone ringing incessantly, as I found myself unable to switch it off.
Below is a brief run-through of where my media appearances can be found. Apologies for the delay, but it’s taken me many hours to track everything down, and I simply didn’t have the time – or was, frankly, too exhausted and in need of distraction — to do so until now.
After making a brief statement to the Press Association (as featured in this Independent article), I spoke briefly by phone to Sky News (their coverage is here), and then took part in the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2. The show has featured Shaker’s story twice in recent weeks. I appeared on it following the launch of Fast For Shaker, the campaign I set up with my colleague Joanne MacInnes as an off-shoot of our We Stand With Shaker campaign, and Shaker’s own words, read out by an actor, were featured in another show shortly after. 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.
Now that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in the US prison at Guantánamo, is back home in the UK, we are beginning to hear some information about his health, and his reunion with his family. Shaker arrived at Biggin Hill Airport on Friday and was then taken to a secret location — a clinic — for a medical evaluation after years of medical neglect in Guantánamo, where, on Saturday, he was reunited with his family, his wife and his four children, who are all British citizens. A Saudi by birth, Shaker was granted residency in the UK in 1996.
The Mail on Sunday had the first story of Shaker being reunited with his family, noting that, on Saturday, he “finally embraced the teenaged son he had never seen yesterday in a tearful meeting on his first full day of freedom in 14 years.” Faris, Shaker’s youngest child, was born on February 14, 2002, the day Shaker arrived at Guantánamo, and the meeting, as the MoS explained, “came at a London clinic” where Shaker, who has four children with his British wife, “is being treated for a catalogue of physical and psychological illnesses.” Faris was joined by Johina, who turned 18 last week, and Michael, 16, and Saif, 15.
The Mail on Sunday also explained that, as Shaker arrived back in the UK, “more details emerged about the arrangements being made for his new life — and his continuing fears for his safety.” The article stated that a “private London Hospital owned by an American firm — the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) — refused to treat him at the last minute,” that Shaker “was so worried about being poisoned by his American captors that he didn’t dare eat or drink anything during his private jet flight home,” and that a “£1 million compensation package has already been agreed with the UK government” after his long ordeal of nearly 14 years held without charge or trial and subjected to torture and abuse, and years of solitary confinement. Read the rest of this entry »
A friend of mine for several years now — and a great supporter of the campaign to get Shaker Aamer released from Guantánamo — the musician Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, has written an article about Shaker’s release, which he has made available exclusively to me, on behalf of all those who have campaigned for Shaker’s release. Thank you, Roger!
A relentless campaigner against injustice, unlike far too many high-profile musicians, Roger became involved in the campaign to free Shaker after he was sent a letter from Shaker about a year and a half ago, via his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, in which Shaker had been quoting from Roger’s song “Hey You” (from the album “The Wall”). The song begins:
Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light
Don’t give in without a fight Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
After all the expectation that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, would be returned to the UK on Sunday, at the end of the 30-day notification period required by Congress (following the announcement on September 25 that he would be freed), it has been a disappointing few days, with only rumours and vague reassurances to indicate that his release is imminent.
Today, for example, the Daily Mail reported that Shaker “is expected to return to the UK within days” — adding that he is “due to leave the infamous camp later this week or early next according to sources in the UK and US.”
A source in Whitehall told the Mail, “He will be out within days. We’re working on the practical details of how it will happen.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday (October 24), campaigners for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, held a vigil on Whitehall, opposite 10 Downing Street, to mark Shaker’s 5000th day in Guantánamo, and the last day before his anticipated return from Guantánamo. The vigil was organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with support from other groups including We Stand With Shaker and the London Guantánamo Campaign.
President Obama announced Shaker’s release on September 25, and Congress was then given a 30-day notification period, as required in US law in recent years. During the 30 days, Shaker told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, that he had embarked on a hunger strike because of ill-treatment, and that he feared not making it out of Guantánamo alive, and as a result, myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders and directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, set up Fast For Shaker, to encourage supporters to fast for 24 hours, on a day of their choice, in solidarity with Shaker, to encourage him to give up his hunger strike (which he did), and to keep up the pressure on the US and UK governments to make sure his release is not further delayed. We are encouraging people to sign up to fast until Shaker is released, joining the 406 people who have already done so.
After hearing that Shaker’s release has been delayed because of a visit to the prison by three Republican Senators over the weekend, we now hear that he may not be released until Friday, because of the presence of journalists for pre-hearings in the proposed trial of those accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, October 25, was supposed to be the day that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was released and flown back to the UK to be reunited with his family, who he has not seen for over 14 years.
Shaker is still held, despite being approved for release eight years ago, under George W. Bush (and again under President Obama in January 2010), although campaigners for his release, his lawyers, and, of course, his family and Shaker himself, are hoping it will take place in the next couple of days.
Sustained campaigns — and significant pressure from MPs — finally led, a month ago, to a promise by President Obama that Shaker would be freed, and today is the end of the 30-day notification period demanded by Congress before any Guantánamo prisoner can be released.
And yet, Shaker is still not home — and, as the Mail on Sunday reported today, “The release of the last Briton held at notorious US detention centre Guantánamo Bay has been delayed. Shaker … saw his hopes of finally being reunited with his family this weekend dashed thanks to a political visit to the base … [T]he visit of three Republican senators, on a ‘fact-finding’ mission to the base, once again delayed his long-awaited flight to freedom.” 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.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: