It’s something of a rarity these days for me to be asked to speak about Guantánamo to students in the UK, so I’m delighted to be going to Exeter University next Thursday (Feb. 25) to talk to the Amnesty International Student Society about my work on Guantánamo and the campaigns to get the prison closed — Close Guantánamo and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo (also see here) — and, in 2014-15, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, via the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which involved persuading celebrities and MPs to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer.
My talk is entitled, ‘The Struggle to Close Guantánamo and to Free Shaker Aamer,’ the Facebook page is here, and it’s a free event, open to the public, so if you’re at the university, or in the Exeter area and can come along, I’ll see you there. It’s a 6.30pm start, and the address is: the Amory Moot Room, Amory Building, Streatham Campus, home to the university’s law school. A map is here, on which the Amory Building is no. 29.
Please also note that if you’re at any other university and want me to talk about Guantánamo, I am generally available to do so — get in touch. If you’re in London or within striking distance of London, we can also combine a talk with a gig with my band The Four Fathers, playing politically-charged roots reggae and rock, with songs about Guantánamo (including ‘Song for Shaker Aamer‘, featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker), torture (‘81 Million Dollars‘, about the US torture program), and the Tories’ cynical and brutal ‘age of austerity‘ here in the UK, and the need for an economic revolution based on socialism and environmentalism (check out our album ‘Love and War’ here). The combination of a talk and live music is something we did with great success just before Christmas at Deptford Cinema — see the videos below: Read the rest of this entry »
On January 11, 2016, I was outside the White House, as I have been on January 11 every year since 2011, calling for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. I was representing Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, as part of an annual protest organized by numerous rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait.
My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, which began with a brief visit — for the first time — to Florida (see my article here, and photos here), and then an early morning flight to Washington, D.C. to meet up with old friends from Witness Against Torture, who were staying, as usual, in a church where they were fasting and protesting on a daily basis, and to take part in a number of events — one on the evening of January 10, at which I spoke about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, and sang my “Song for Shaker Aamer” (see the video here); the main protest on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison, outside the White House; and a couple of protests on January 12 that I’ll make photos available of soon. In the meantime, I hope you have time to check out my January 11 photo set, and to share the photos if you like them.
You can also check out the video of the speech I made outside the White House, and see Witness Against Torture’s collection of videos here. Read the rest of this entry »
Next Saturday, February 13, my band The Four Fathers are playing a gig at Vinyl, a wonderful record shop with an old school rock and roll basement located at the bottom of Tanners Hill in Deptford, in south east London. The full address is 4 Tanners Hill, London SE8 4PJ, phone number 07930 421113. There’ll be a bar, plus tea and coffee and some special pre-Valentine’s Day snacks, so if you’re anywhere near, come and check out our rocking, roots reggae sounds first-hand! If you’re coming, please let us know on the Facebook page (just click “Going”).
The gig is free, and we’ll be playing our first set — of topical songs about love and loss — at 8pm. At 8.30 there’ll be a beatboxing set from my son Tyler (aka the Wiz-RD), and at 9pm we’ll be playing a political set of original songs including live favourite Fighting Injustice, Tory Bullshit Blues, Song for Shaker Aamer (featured in the video for the We Stand With Shaker campaign), 81 Million Dollars (about the US torture program) and several brand-new songs, including Riot and London, which we played live for the first time at our recent gigs at Deptford Cinema and at the Bird’s Nest, also in Deptford, and guitarist Richard Clare’s song She’s Back, about Pussy Riot.
Below, I’m re-posting a video I made available yesterday of me singing “Song for Shaker Aamer” at an event in Washington, D.C., after I had also spoken about the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, during my recent US tour to call for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the 14th anniversary of its opening. The version I played has lyrics I amended to reflect Shaker’s release in October, and I hope we’ll be able to record the new version in the not too distant future. Read the rest of this entry »
On January 10, while I was in Washington, D.C. as part of a short tour to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 14th anniversary of its opening, I was delighted to be asked to speak at “Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantanamo!” an event put together by Witness Against Torture and Code Pink, and also featuring Bronx-based spoken word performers The Peace Poets.
The event — at a place called Impact Hub DC, around the corner from the church where the Witness Against Torture activists were staying — was mainly to recall the visit the groups made to Cuba, in November, to call for the closure of Guantánamo, and also to prepare us all for the protest outside the White House the day after, and I was honored that I was asked to also talk about the success of the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and in particular my work with the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which I set up in November 2014 with the activist Joanne MacInnes.
After a short discussion of the campaign, I also played an acoustic version of “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote and recorded with my band The Four Fathers, which was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker. Since Shaker’s release, I have amended the words to reflect his freedom, and this was the version I played. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Two weeks ago, as the co-founder of “Close Guantánamo,” I launched a new initiative, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, with music legend Roger Waters, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. See the video of that show here.
We encouraged people to take photos of themselves with posters counting down to the end of the Obama presidency, urging President Obama to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, as he promised on his second day in office in January 2009, and to send them to us — with personalized messages, if they wish. Supporters can also let us know where they are, to demonstrate the breadth of support across the US, and around the world.
Following the launch, we set up two dedicated pages for photos of supporters — Celebrity Photos and Public Photos — and also posted photos on social media, on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been a busy month — firstly, with my visit to the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo, focused on the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison on January 11, and then with the launch of my new campaign, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, on January 20. That campaign was officially launched on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, when I appeared with Roger Waters, a supporter of my work and of the campaign to get Guantánamo closed, who also played a major role in publicizing the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched in November 2014, with the activist Joanne MacInnes, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo.
Chris and I spoke about my tour, Roger Waters, the successful campaign to get Shaker released the Countdown to Close Guantánamo and how the prison might finally be closed, and I hope you have time to listen to the show. Read the rest of this entry »
From January 8-18, I was in the US for a brief tour to highlight the importance of closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, coinciding with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11. I visited Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York City, and videos of my various escapades can be found here, including appearing with my friend and supporter, the music legend Roger Waters, on Democracy Now!
I also took part in a number of radio shows, and am making those available below. I hope you have time to listen to them, and to share them if you find them useful. I’m keeping my description of them quite brief, as I’m snowed under with other Guantánamo-related work right now — in particular the launch of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, a new initiative, via the Close Guantánamo campaign I set up with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012, asking people to print off a poster calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo before he leaves office in a year’s time, to photograph themselves standing with the poster, and to send it to us to put up on the website and to publicize via social media. I hope you will get involved!
On the morning of January 11, just before I took part in the annual protest outside the White House, and a panel discussion at New America, I spoke to Jerome McDonnell on his show “Worldview” on WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago. The show is available on Soundcloud, and is posted below, and this is how Jerome described it: Read the rest of this entry »
Last Friday, during my brief US tour to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison (on Jan. 11), I was invited onto Democracy Now! with my friend and supporter, the music legend Roger Waters, the chief songwriter with Pink Floyd.
We were asked on the show to discuss, with Amy Goodman, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, the new campaign I’ve just launched to get Guantánamo closed for good before President Obama leaves office next January, and the successful campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo.
The video of our discussion — plus Roger playing his version of “We Shall Overcome” with 16-year old cellist Alexander Rohatyn — was the lead item on today’s show, and is now online and posted below (the song is here). Please share it widely! It’s also on YouTube here.
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. In the photo here, former Guantánamo prisoner Shaker Aamer supports the new “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” initiative. See more on the Celebrity Photos page and also the Public Photos page, and please send in your own photos — see below for details!
January 20, 2016 marked the beginning of the last year of the Obama presidency, and tomorrow (January 22) marks the seventh anniversary of President Obama’s promise to close the lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, which he made on his second day in office in January 2009. To highlight the president’s last chance to fulfill his promise to close the prison, the “Close Guantánamo” campaign has launched a new initiative, the “Countdown to Close Guantánamo.”
The “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” encourages celebrities, lawmakers and concerned members of the public, from the US and around the world, to take photos of themselves holding signs counting down to the end of the Obama presidency, urging President Obama to close the prison before the inauguration of the next president on January 20, 2017.
Our first poster, reading, “President Obama, you have one year left to close Guantánamo,” was made available when the campaign launched, on Jan, 20. It is being followed, throughout the year, by posters counting down every 50 days — so “350 days” is on February 4, “300 days” will be on March 25, and so on.
As the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba begins its 15th year of operations, there has been a flurry of mainstream media interest, in part because 2016 is President Obama’s last year in office, and yet, when he was first inaugurated in January 2009, he promised to close Guantánamo within a year, an unfulfilled promise that is bound to tarnish his legacy unless he can make good on that promise in his last twelve months in office.
A major report was recently published by Reuters, which focused in particular on the ways in which the Pentagon has been obstructing the release of prisoners, as was clear from the title of the article by Charles Levinson and David Rohde: “Pentagon thwarts Obama’s effort to close Guantánamo.”
Blocking the release of 74-pound hunger striker Tariq Ba Odah
The article began with a damning revelation about Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for seven years, and whose weight has dropped, alarmingly, to just 74 pounds (from 148 pounds on his arrival at the prison in 2002), and who is at risk of death. Ba Odah has been unsuccessful in his recent efforts to persuade a judge to order his release, but he is eligible for release anyway. Back in 2009, when President Obama established the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force to assess all the prisoners’ cases, he was one of 30 Yemenis approved for release but placed in “conditional detention,” a category invented by the task force, which recommended that those placed in this category should only be freed when it was assessed — by whom, it was not explained — that the security situation in Yemen had improved. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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