“There’s a Part of Our Heart That’s Missing”: Shaker Aamer’s Sons Speak to Sky News on 13th Anniversary of His Arrival at Guantánamo


A screenshot of Ian Woods of Sky News interviewing two of Shaker Aamer's sons, Mikhail and Faris, in the presence of Saeed Siddique, Shaker's father-in-law, and Shaykh Suliman Ghani, the family's former imam.Yesterday (February 13) began with Sky News broadcasting an interview with two of the three sons of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who is still held despite being approved for release from the prison by the US authorities in 2007 and 2009. The two boys who were interviewed are Mikhail (or Micheal), 15 and Faris, who is 13 on Saturday, and whose birth, extraordinarily, took place on the day that his father arrived at Guantánamo. Shaker’s other son is Saif, and he also has a daughter, Johaina.

In their first TV interview, Shaker’s sons spoke about their father, and below is a transcript I’ve put together.

Ian Woods: Boys, I’d like to begin by showing you an interview that we arranged to have done yesterday at Guantánamo with a US officer explaining why your father is still detained.

Lt. Col. Myles Caggins (on video): In 2009 Shaker Aamer’s detention status was reviewed. As a result he was placed in a category we call ‘eligible for transfer’. At some point in the future we’ll find a new home for him to be repatriated or resettled to.

Ian Woods: Can I ask you what you think of that explanation [about] why your father is still there?

Mikhail Aamer: I feel very sad because the man said they were going to try to find him a home, but I think his home is here in London with his family.

He also said, “They should consider that he has a family in London instead of trying to relocate him somewhere else, because there are people waiting for him in London.”

Ian Woods: What has it been like for you growing up without a father?

Mikhail Aamer: It’s been very upsetting and sad. We’ve seen other people with their parents, with their dads, how they enjoy themselves, how they’re so close to them. It’s like there’s a part of our heart that’s missing because we’ve been yearning for him to come home for many years and nothing’s happened yet.

Ian Woods: But things have changed in recent years because you’re able to Skype with him through the Red Cross, is that right?

Mikhail Aamer: Yes that’s right. The Skype has been very good at lifting our hopes up again because we’ve been able to speak to him, see how he’s doing there, and he’s a very funny person. He always makes jokes. He lightens the mood a lot of the time. We talk about what’s going on in our lives, how our education is.

Ian Woods: You’ve spent your entire life with your father in Guantánamo. What’s that been like for you?

Faris Aamer: It’s upsetting and quite shocking that I’ve never met him in my entire life.

Mikhail Aamer: I’m hoping that soon he’ll get released because I’ve been hearing a lot from my dad when we talk to him on Skype that he has a feeling that he’ll be released soon so I hope that will eventually happen.

Ian Woods: Do you visualise that? Can you imagine what that’s going be like?

Mikhail Aamer: No, it’s just too much for me to take in, so I’m just going to wait for it to actually happen.

Ian Woods: But to have a father back in your house again …

Mikhail Aamer: Yes it’s going to be a huge step for our family. I’m just waiting for the day to come.

At another point in the interview, Mikhail spoke about the first time Shaker spoke to them via Skype.

“We were all very excited,” he said. “We were very energetic. We couldn’t wait to see him. And then when the phone call finally happened, we couldn’t believe it was actually him. His voice. We hadn’t heard it for such a long time. It was very surprising to hear his voice again. It was a shock.”

He also spoke about having their hopes dashed regarding their father’s release.

“We felt very happy,” he said. “We thought there might be a chance for him to come home, but it just kept getting delayed.”

Please visit the Sky News page for the main feature on Shaker, also featuring Shaker’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, former Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, who worked at Guantánamo when three prisoners allegedly committed suicide in 2006 (and whose book Murder at Camp Delta was published last month), former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, a close friend of Shaker’s, and the actress Juliet Stevenson, a prominent supporter of We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I established with the activist Joanne MacInnes in November.

There was also footage from today’s protest outside the US Embassy, which was called at short notice after the Ambassador refused to accept a giant Valentine’s Day card asking him to ask President Obama to secure Shaker’s release, and an interview with Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd), who I’m proud to call a friend, and who was enthusiastic about attending the protest. I also spoke to Adam Boulton of Sky News Tonight, in the pouring rain outside the US Embassy shortly after 7pm, two hours after the protest ended, and that interview is here, via Twitter.

I believe that, even with just a few supporters present (the author Anna Perera and Shaker’s family’s former imam, Shaykh Suliman Ghani, as well as Roger) we nevertheless made a good point about the Ambassador’s refusal to accept the card, which was going to be presented by a delegation of MPs led by John McDonnell, the chair of the newly established Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, and other celebrity supporters.

Photos to follow. In the meantime, thanks as ever for your support. Today, Saturday February 14 (Valentine’s Day itself), there’s a rally in Parliament Square at 12 noon, and we (We Stand With Shaker) will then march to 10 Downing Street with the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign to deliver, at 2pm, a message of solidarity with Shaker to David Cameron, and to urge him to call for Shaker’s immediate return to the UK and his family much more vigorously than he has to date. Do come along if you’re in London or anywhere near!

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s a nice photo from the US Embassy protest, via Anna Perera: https://twitter.com/AnnaPerera1/status/566334806611755010

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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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