Shaker Aamer Discusses His 13 Years in Guantánamo, Built to “Destroy Human Beings,” and Adjusting to Freedom Since His Release


Shaker Aamer photographed by Craig Hibbert for the Mail on Sunday, December 8, 2015.The Mail on Sunday yesterday featured the first interview conducted by Shaker Aamer since his release from Guantánamo six weeks ago, and below, following my first article yesterday, are excerpts dealing with his 13 years and eight months in Guantánamo — over 5,000 days — and his adjustment to life since his release: the changes in the world, and, in particular, getting to know his family again after so long separated from them. Also included are great anecdotes about Shaker helping someone in a wheelchair — a rather typical act, I believe, for someone renowned for wanting to help others — and what happened when he tried to open a bank account. As the co-founder of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, established just over a year ago to call for his release, it is reassuring to me that he has now undertaken major media interviews — including with ITV News and with The Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2, broadcast today — and that he will, hopefully, soon be free to devote more of his time to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo. If viewers outside the UK have difficulty accessing the broadcasts, there are clips from the BBC interview on Twitter here, here and here.

Please also feel free to listen to me on BBC Radio London this morning. The section on Shaker began at At 01:06:27, and my interview started at 01:08:26 and finished at 01:15:10. A good interview, I thought. Please have a listen, and share it if you agree. And please also free to check out my interview with Wandsworth Radio, recorded in the evening.

Shaker Aamer speaks about Guantánamo

Remembering brutality in Guantánamo, and recalling, in particular, the approach of the Forcible Cell Extraction team, six armored soldiers, empowered to suppress, with violence, any perceived infringement of the rules, Shaker told David Rose, “You feel scared.” In Shaker’s case, FCE visits to his cell were shockingly regular, and as he said, “You know you can get hurt, because there are some huge guys there, 18, 20 stone guys, muscular. You could be paralyzed. Anything can happen. Anything.”

As the FCE team arrived, Shaker was sitting on his bed. He recalled, “The watch commander screamed: ‘239, get down on your face, do not resist!’ But, as usual, I was not going to lie down, because the cell is so small that if you lay face down, you stick your face in the hole which is the toilet.”

Nevertheless, the FCE team, using their riot shields, forced him to the ground. “It’s like a train hitting you,” Shaker said, adding, “You are already breathing hard and they are on top of you. They lift you up and press their shields against you so your body is like the meat in a sandwich.”

And all the while, the FCE team members scream. Shaker said, “They only shout one thing, ‘Stop resisting’. I was not resisting at all — how could I?”

“Bizarrely,” as Rose noted, “the whole incident was being filmed, because the camp has to provide a ‘combat cameraman’ for all FCE actions,” making videotapes that, in one prisoner’s case, a judge has ordered to be released to a number of media organizations, to the consternation of the authorities. As Shaker explained, “It’s ‘combat’, because to them, this is a war — the cameraman is going to war. All the time they are shouting for the camera’s benefit, ‘Stop resisting, 239, stop resisting.'”

As Rose noted, after they had “dragged him out of the cell, and flipped him backwards and forwards on the dirty corridor floor, searching him under his clothing,” they “released him, and, bruised and battered, he was locked again in his cell.”

And the trigger for this incident? An apple stem. “Before I was in Guantánamo,” Shaker said, “I always carried a toothpick. They wouldn’t let me have one, so I thought, I’ll keep the stem of an apple, and use that.” An apple had been included with the prisoners’ dinner that night, but after a guard asked Shaker to give his stem back, he explained, “It was in my mouth. I refused. I said I need it to pick my teeth. But apparently, this apple stem was going to affect the system. It cannot be allowed.”

However, despite the violence, Shaker noted that the FCE team failed. As they were walking away, he said, “I called to them through the hatch: ‘Come on, why didn’t you take it?'” — and he then stuck out his tongue to show that the stem was still in his mouth.

In his 13 years and eight months in Guantánamo, Shaker estimates that he was the victim of the FCE team on many hundreds of occasions. In 2012 alone, he said, he was FCE’d 370 times.

The last occasion came just two months before his release, because, as David Rose put it, “he refused to give four vials of blood, demanded on the spurious grounds that the authorities were checking inmates for tuberculosis.” My coverage of that, which partly led to the launch of the Fast For Shaker campaign, just before Shaker’s release, is here.

As Shaker told David Rose, Guantánamo “has been built for one purpose — to destroy human beings. There actually used to be a sign on a wall that said ‘Rodeo Range’. A rodeo is where you break horses. There you are trying to break human beings, you are trying to make them like horses.”

As Rose also explained, “What makes Aamer remarkable is his consistent refusal, year after year, to give in to this pressure — to try to maintain some semblance of control over his life, even if this amounted to nothing more than keeping an apple stem to pick his teeth. His defiance, he admits, probably delayed his release. It was also how he survived, and clung to his sanity.”

As he also noted, “Aamer was in Guantánamo for so long that it is impossible to provide a complete narrative.” Then again, as Shaker told him, “There is no such thing as Guantánamo in the past or Guantánamo in the future. There is no time, because there is still no limit to what they can do. What they did ten, twelve years ago, they can do it today. Who is going to stop them?”

After arriving during the days of Camp X-Ray — the outdoor cages, like animal pens, which are now closed and overgrown — Shaker spent only a few days, in his entire 13 years and eight months at Guantánamo, in Camp 6, built in 2006, which is for prisoners viewed as compliant, who “are allowed out of their cells for ten hours a day, to eat together and play sports.”

He spent much more time in Camp 5, described by Rose as “much more Spartan: there, inmates spend 23 hours a day locked up, taking bland, tasteless meals in Styrofoam ‘clam shells’, with just an hour for a shower and outdoor recreation.” Shaker told him that “one of the most unbearable aspects of Guantánamo” for him was that “Camp 5 was close to the soldiers’ kitchen, from which he inhaled the delicious smell of barbecued meat three times a week, yet was never given it.”

Shaker also “spent many months in solitary confinement” in Camp Five Echo, the prison’s isolation wing. Sometimes, he explained, he “had access to books,” and one of his  favorite books was George Orwell’s 1984, which, as Rose described it accurately, is a novel “about torture and dictatorship,” and unusual for being a book of relevance to Guantánamo that made it past the censors. At other times, he explained, “he was deprived even of this: weeks and months when the days became a sterile, meaningless blur.”

He also explained that “[t]here were also interrogations — ‘appointments’ as they were called.” Over the years, Shaker said, “he had about 200 interrogators, all repeating the same questions he’d already been asked in Afghanistan, along with allegations about his supposed — and hotly denied — recruitment for jihadi groups in London.”

He added, as Rose described it, that “appointments” were often “accompanied by torture: sleep deprivation; being left shackled to the floor in a room colder than freezing point, for up to 36 hours at a time; being bombarded with continuous, deafening rock music.”

“The cold temperatures: my God, that was terrible,” he said, adding, “They just leave you, tied to a ring in the floor: sometimes the interrogator doesn’t even come. You shout, you bang, you scream. They don’t let you go to the toilet: if you need it, you go on yourself. And nobody bothers about you, that’s it.”

According to US personnel who have spoken about Guantánamo before, these techniques, disturbingly, were applied between 2002 and 2004 to around a sixth of the men held; in other words, at least 100 prisoners. And for some, the worst aspect of the torture program was what was euphemistically named the “frequent flier program,” when prisoners were moved every few hours from cell to cell, for days, weeks or even months, as a technique for sleep deprivation.

In the spring of 2005, as Shaker put it, “he decided he’d had enough.” As he said, “I just stopped talking to the interrogators. I refused to answer any more questions.”

Soon after came the biggest mass hunger strike in the prison’s history, which, Rose noted, was “led by Aamer, though he had been in solitary for months. Using a fork to scratch away the glue around his cell window, he broke the soundproof seal, allowing him to shout to prisoners in the recreation area outside. Shaker said, “I called out, ‘Who is outside? and then we transfer[ed] information.”

The news, as Rose put it, “spread from corridor to corridor, and then, inadvertently, the authorities gave Aamer a chance to disseminate it further,” when he was subjected to the “frequent flier program,” which had evidently not stopped in 2004, but which “allowed him to contact more inmates.”

Shaker said, “I remember the day my weight dropped below nine stone, when I’d been on hunger strike for almost two months. For days, I’d also refused water. I was less than half the size I had been when I was taken prisoner. I saw myself in the mirror. I started laughing, because I was so skinny. Then I remembered my wife, Zin, and I was crying at the same time. I saw her in front me, falling down and dying because of the way I looked: nothing but bones.”

He added, “They took me to the hospital and put me in a wheelchair, because I couldn’t walk. They wanted to give me a ‘banana bag’: intravenous fluid with potassium and glucose. Seven times the nurse tried to give me an I/V, but he couldn’t find a vein. He said, ‘this guy has to drink water, he is so dehydrated we cannot stick a needle in him.’ The colonel, Mike Bumgarner, came. He goes, ‘come on, Shaker, please don’t do this to me. Take a bottle of water.’ I said OK, and I drank.”

The date, David Rose noted, “is engraved in Aamer’s memory: July 27, 2005.” He added. “It was the closest he had come to death. But it was also a turning point. Fearful the strike would become unmanageable, Bumgarner negotiated with Aamer, who then took charge of what became known as ‘the Shaker government’ — a committee of six prisoners who were allowed to move, handcuffed and under escort, throughout the camps. The idea was to sound out opinion, to look for ways to ease the tension in ways acceptable to both the authorities and inmates.”

As Shaker said, “I was trying to get them to agree to fulfil the Geneva Convention.” However, as Rose noted, “That proved impossible, and on August 8, the experiment ended — with Aamer back in solitary.” For more information on the strike, see Tim Golden’s 2006 article for the New York Times, “The Battle for Guantánamo.”

Meanwhile, as Rose put it, Shaker “had made a surprising discovery. It was already known that some prisoners were being given exceptional privileges for ‘snitching’ on other inmates, such as trips to the ‘Love Shack’, where they would be given hamburgers and shown pornographic videos. Indeed, Aamer says that his interrogators made three futile attempts to recruit him.”

He explained, “We had heard rumors that there were detainees who were paid to infiltrate Guantánamo. These guys were doing a job. One is to infiltrate. Two is to spy, to hear. Three is to cause issues between the brothers. Four, to report of any kind of grouping.”

After the hunger strike, Shaker came to believe that the rumors had to be true. He said, “I had cruised around the camps and I had counted everybody. I went into every camp, and I knew how many cells there were in each one.” However, although, at this time, Guantánamo’s official prisoner total was 530, Shaker is convinced that “there were dozens more — all of them, he presumes, what he calls ‘hired prisoners.'”

When ‘the Shaker government’ collapsed, Shaker spent his longest period in solitary confinement — almost two years, way beyond the acceptable amount of time that anyone should held in solitary confinement.

During this period, Shaker was approved for release from Guantánamo, as he was again in 2009, by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that the new president, Barack Obama, established shortly after taking office in January 2009.

Even before that decision was reached, however, Shaker was supposed to have been released. Speaking of the release, in February 2009, of the British resident Binyam Mohamed, Shaker said, “I was supposed to be on that aeroplane”

Instead, as David Rose described it, “an officer said he might be sent to Saudi Arabia. He says he was ready to agree, provided his wife and children could join him, but as soon as he raised this issue, the offer was withdrawn.”

In Britain, however, “demands to free him were gathering strength.” In their regular visits to him Shaker’s lawyers, led by Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, told him about the support he had from MPs, newspapers and campaigns — both the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and We Stand With Shaker.

At this point, he told David Rose, his morale “was ‘like a candle’ that could have blown out.” As he said, “You guys protected it. All those who fought for justice for me, who joined in those protests — I can never thank you enough.”

And yet, even at the end, Guantánamo “stuck to its protocols.” Shaker’s “last argument with a guard came just an hour before he left the camp, when he was told he could not shout goodbyes to other inmates. When he got on the bus that was to take him to the ferry across Guantánamo Bay, the way to the airport, it had blacked-out windows. Going straight to the jetty would have taken five minutes, but he was driven around in circles for two hours, apparently so he would not get an impression of the camp’s layout — even though this has been visible on Google Earth for years.”

“But at last, Rose added, “his ordeal was ending. In the middle of the hot, Cuban night, he stood on the airstrip tarmac, his hands bound with plastic cuffs. Shaker said, “I think I am the only detainee for whom the colonel himself, David Heath, came and cut the cuffs off my hands. He looked at me and said, ‘You are a free man’. That was a beautiful moment.”

Recalling a low point in his 13-year ordeal in Guantánamo, Shaker also spoke about how his interrogators had tried to bribe him to make a false confession with photos of his children, which is cross-posted below:

Any long-term prisoner with a wife and family will find separation painful. But for Shaker Aamer, the deep isolation of fortress Guantánamo made this agony far worse. All forms of intimate communication were impossible in the jail. The rare letters the authorities allowed were censored and strictly monitored.

Aamer’s wife Zinneera sent him family photos, only for his interrogators to use them as a weapon: ‘They refused to give me my kids’ pictures for years, but they put them on the walls in the interrogation room. Imagine if you did not see your kids for four or five years, and then one day they take you in for interrogation.

“I go inside and I see pictures all over the wall, big pictures, small pictures, everywhere. I will not forget that day, because I left them when they were little kids, and I could see they had grown up. They wanted to break me down, and they told me, if you want your kids’ pictures, you have to talk to us.” But this meant one thing — to confess to terrorist crimes he had not committed.

Aamer refused, insisting as ever he had done nothing wrong, and that he had no information that could help the fight against terrorism. Eventually, “guards came to pick me up. I went and kissed the pictures by the door. The guard asked me why I was doing that, and I told him: ‘these are my kids, and they refused to give me their pictures.'”

One day in 2009, after more than seven years in Guantánamo, Aamer was told without warning he had a phone call: “They wouldn’t tell me who, but they said it’s really something important. I thought my mother had died. I sat down in a room and they gave me the phone and then I found it was my wife. I thought she would be crying, but actually I was the one who was crying. I was crying like a baby on the phone, truly. I also spoke to my daughter Johaina and I was crying with her, too. A lot of men are too scared to cry because they think crying is weakness. I don’t believe that. When these tears come out, I think it’s your heart, it’s what makes your heart alive.”

In 2012, the family was allowed the first of several video calls, using Skype. Aamer cried then too: “I can barely describe what I was feeling. It’s happiness mixed with fear, mixed with anger, mixed with everything. Love and hate together.”

Life after Guantánamo

Below is an edited version of Shaker’s thoughts about his freedom and being reunited with his family, published under the heading, “Joy I dreamed of for 14 years: From hell to ecstatic reunion.”

David Rose began by writing about his return to the UK, when he arrived at Biggin Hill Airport at lunchtime on October 30. “I was in the aeroplane, talking to a policeman and someone from the Home Office,” Shaker said, adding, “But still there, in the back of my mind, I was wondering: is it really true, is it really going to be England, am I really going to be meeting my family?”

He told David Rose that he still feared “that small percentage of possibility that it could have been a trick — it could be Saudi Arabia, it could be anywhere.” Rose noted how he was “used to disappointment,” and “was still reflexively trying to protect himself.” In Shaker’s words, “Just in case. I didn’t want to be shocked, I didn’t want to be surprised.”

However, as the plane descended, Shaker “gazed through the window at an unmistakeably English landscape of green chalk downs and autumnal woods,” and “felt confident.” He said, “We landed and at last I was sure: I saw England. And I thought, my God. I really am back.”

As the plane door opened, “he was struck by the deliciously cool and damp English air: weather very different to the tropical heat of Guantánamo,” as David Rose described it. Shaker said, “As soon as they opened it [the door], I said to the Met officer next to me: ‘That is my first breath of freedom.’ Everything looked British. I was overwhelmed.”

As Rose described it, “His emotions were in turmoil. Although he had known for several weeks he was finally set for release, he hadn’t been told when he would leave Guantánamo. When the day finally came, he was given just an hour to take a shower, gather his meagre possessions and prepare for the journey ahead.”

“I walked down the steps, and I was just so happy, because I knew I really was free,” Shaker said, adding, “Yet I also felt apprehensive. I was worried that they might take me somewhere to ask me questions. But the Home Office guy who had come to meet me had this huge smile on his face. Everybody was telling me, ‘welcome back’, the officials, the one who came with the fingerprint stuff, they were actually happy to see me … they had tears in their eyes.”

Next came “an exhaustive medical check-up” and then the reunion with his family. On that first evening, as David Rose described it, “he was finally re-united with his wife, Zinneera — though not yet his children — in the privacy of a friend’s London apartment, so no one would know where they were.”

Shaker said, “At last that moment I’d dreamt of came and she came through the door. That instant washed away the pain of 14 years. It washed away the tiredness, the agony, the stress. It was like it no longer existed. I hugged her, she hugged me, and we just wept. I stayed with her that night and we couldn’t sleep actually, we were just talking and talking. I was scared to meet the kids at first: I told her, I just wanted to be with her because I needed to know who these kids are — I can’t just see them, I don’t want to do something that will make them fear me. So I saw Zin only. She reassured me. She said, ‘Don’t worry, they are very strong kids, they are very beautiful kids.’ I asked her about who they are, how they feel, how they do things, and we kept talking about them all the next day, morning till night. And then, in the evening, they came.”

David Rose wrote that his first meeting — with his daughter Johaina, who had just turned 18, and his sons Michael, 16, Saif 15, and Faris, 13, who was born on February 14, 2002, the day his father arrived at Guantánamo — was “awkward.”

“I just wanted to hug them and kiss them,” Shaker said. “But they were standing stiff. It tore my heart. They are shy kids to begin with. But they were looking at me and looking away. It was hard.”

However, after he returned to the family home in Battersea, “the distance between them melted away,” as David Rose put it. Shaker said, “The week after I got home, I made a barbecue in the garden, even though the weather was a little bit cold. They loved it: they could see I hadn’t lost my touch as a chef. Now I’m a hard-working man at home, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, and I love cooking for the kids. We’re getting used to each other. I take them to the mosque. When the weather gets better, we’re going to get bikes, go on weekend rides.”

A few weeks later, David Rose met Shaker and his family at Bicester Village, a shopping mall near Oxford, which, as he put it, was Shaker’s “first family outing for 14 years.” He said, “I’m finally living. I’m here with my kids, trying to learn to be a father.”

His sons, Rose noted, “were staring at their smartphones — new models brought as gifts by Shaker’s nephew, who was visiting from Saudi Arabia.”

Shaker also had a smartphone, but admitted, “I haven’t mastered it yet. Not even one per cent of what it can do. This is one of the biggest changes since I went away. People spend so much time looking at them!”

He also mentioned other changes he had noticed. “London seems richer: when you see all the new buildings, the cars,” he said. “And the people are different, too. Before, when you walked in the street, you heard only English being spoken. Now if you go out, you will hear ten or 15 languages, from Eastern Europe, China, everywhere. London is truly becoming a cosmopolitan city.”

Faris, who “loves to sketch buildings and would like to be an architect,” told David Rose about the moment he saw his father for the first time. “It was so amazing,” he said. “Even now, my senses are telling me that he’s back, but in my brain, I still can’t believe it. When I was younger, I used to think he might possibly never come back. Yet now he’s here.”

Shaker, speaking of that first meeting, said that when he first met Faris, “I told him, I don’t expect you to love me straight away. I just want you to trust me, because it’s hard to love someone when you don’t know them.”

Michael, who was just two when his father was first detained, said, “I have no memory of him then. Mum used to tell us that our dad was in school, but his teacher wouldn’t let him come home. Then one day a letter came from Guantánamo. My sister read it and we started researching what was happening on the internet. That’s when it hit us that he was a prisoner, that he was gone, and that he might never be coming back. There were a few times when we thought he might be coming, but he didn’t. But when other detainees were released, I was happy, because I felt he might be next.”

Rose also noted that Shaker said that freedom “has brought other, simple joys: above all, something almost everyone takes for granted” – that of “being treated like a normal human being.”

Shaker said, “A few days ago, I was with my daughter, using our Oyster cards to go through the gates on the Tube, and there was this guy in a wheelchair. He asked me for help, to push him to the bus station. He was a clean-shaven white guy and I’m an Arab with a beard. I said, ‘Of course I will help you, and I’m so happy you asked me.’ It was a little bit uphill and I pushed him all the way and I was talking to him. Fourteen years I’ve been controlled, 14 years I haven’t talked to a normal human being, and here is somebody who will talk to me, who isn’t scared. I was so happy because I felt like, yes, this is it, I’m back.”

Shaker recalled another occasion, when he went to open a bank account. As he sat with a member of staff, filling in the form, he said, “And then we came to, ‘OK, Mr Aamer, where did you live three years ago?’ I said I was living in America. He said, ‘Beautiful, for how long?’ I said for the past 14 years. He goes, ‘OK, could you please give me the address?’ I’m not going to lie to my bank, so I looked at him and I said, ‘I was in Guantánamo for 14 years.’ His response was shocking. I thought he was going to say, ‘Can you wait a minute I need to speak to my manager.’ Actually he just took my hand and said, ‘I am honoured to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Listen, just come here anytime if you need any help.’ That’s what makes you happy: an average, normal person in the street who knows you have really had a great injustice, but now they are going to try to help you.”

Shaker also spoke about his difficulties knowing how to act as a father, mentioning one night when he found his sons still on their phones after being told that it was time to sleep. “I said, ‘Guys, please, don’t make me take all these phones away.’ My fear was they would think, ‘He’s a stranger, why should he do anything to us, why should he take our things?’ I don’t want to do something that makes them hard for them to accept me. I feel I am walking on eggshells here. I don’t want them to think, ‘This guy came only yesterday and now he is controlling everything.'”

He decided, however, that the best response “was to talk to the children, to explain his difficulty.” He told David Rose, “I said, ‘Listen guys, I need you just as much as you need me, I’ve been 14 years away and I did not practise my fatherhood, so please let me.’ I told them, ‘Talk to me, or send me a letter if you cannot talk about something.’ I gave them an example: if you see a girl and you think you like her, tell me, don’t be shy, because that’s normal, that’s your age, and I will explain to you what’s the difference between love and just when you’re a teenager.”

He also said that “he feels they are all making progress,” as Rose put it, and he spoke about Michael, saying, “yesterday I’d been out and when I came back home, he opened the door and he hugged me. I said, ‘Your mother told you to do that,’ and he said, ‘No, no, I want to do it.’ I was so happy because he really hugged me himself, he wants to do it.”

Shaker also said, as David Rose described it, that “he recognises he will never get over Guantánamo entirely,” because “the wounds run too deep.” As he said, “It’s always going to be in the back there in my mind, it’s going to be sitting there, coming back from time to time. It’s a long period of experience and it can’t be just gone.”

Rose also noted that it was clear that Shaker is “just as determined to rebuild his life as he once was, not to be broken by torture.” He said, “You cannot forget it, but you try to seal it, and put it where it’s not really bothering you. The way I grew up with my family, we give trust a lot, and you have seen me, you know me by now, I trust people still. You get along much better if you do. You can’t live your life being careful, having doubts about everything. You must embrace it.”

35 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my second article featuring excerpts from Shaker Aamer’s first newspaper interview since his release from ‪Guantanamo‬, as published in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday – plus, on occasion, my own commentary. Here he discusses his 13 years in Guantanamo, the joy of freedom and the challenges of getting to know his family again. In addition to the stories of brutality and resilience, there are some very moving anecdotes here about his family, about his kindness to strangers and the kindness shown to him by a bank employee.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    I enjoy so much to see him smiling!!!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, me too, Natalia – and it’s all there in real life, the dancing eyes and the winning smile!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    I can only think he must be one of the strongest people on this planet…what an unbreakable spirit. Can we write to him too?

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I know Mahfuja Bint Ammu was collecting messages for Shaker, Natalia. Is that still the case, Mahfuja?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Rick Burgess wrote:

    Andy Worthington did you see the stuff in private eye re the setting up of this interview?

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    No. Do tell, Rick.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Rick. I knew something of the rivalry between the two Dacre organs – if you will – but nice to get the Eye’s take on it.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Faqiirah Ilaallaah wrote:

    Always a pleasure to read your precious work Andy!
    The joy of seing Shaker free is so unique…

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Faqiirah. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Mahfuja Bint Ammu wrote, in response to 5, above:

    Yeh Andy Worthington. Please email

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Great, Mahfuja. You must be back from your lovely looking holiday!

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    And here I am discussing Shaker on Wandsworth Radio:

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    And check out my friend Sarah Kay​ on the case for reopening the Gibson Inquiry, the feeble first inquiry into British complicity in torture in the “war on terror”:

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Sarah Kay wrote:

    thank you Andy!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Sarah. Keep up the pressure!

  18. Julietta Cochrane says...

    I was distressed to see the Daily Mail comments, not only because of the unjustness and their timing but also how they may affect Shaker’s children in the future … I can only hope that they feel supported by their community. It must be an appalling thing to know not only that your father was detained and tortured in this way but to have been aware of it and not knowing if he would make it out of there …

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Very good to hear from you, Julietta, and thanks for your empathy with Shaker’s children.
    One of the great downsides of the internet is the way it has spawned so many people who think that it is somehow appropriate, while generally hiding behind false names, to be horribly insulting, racist, Islamophobic (and in many cases, of course, sexist or homophobic), as well as being appallingly threatening – in many cases threatening or inciting murder and/or rape.
    These people are mostly cowards and bullies who wouldn’t speak like this in real-life encounters with people, although I do also worry that their generally unchallenged internet presence is beginning to embolden them to openly spout their filth in the real world as well.
    I try not to read any of the comments below newspaper articles online.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Janie Marie Stein wrote:

    So glad Shaker is safe at home with his family!

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    You and me both, Janie. Good to hear from you.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Javier Rodriguez wrote:

    OMG – Katie Hopkins has decided that writing about Shaker Aamer will increase her profile – and decide to write about him in her Daily Mail column today. Perhaps we can arrange a prisoner swap? Katie Hopkins in exchange for the remaining men imprisoned in Guantanamo. Please God. (If there is a God.)

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I saw the dreadful woman had written something, Javier, but I couldn’t bear to read it. I generally try to starve these people of the oxygen of publicity.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Heather Abono wrote:

    I hope that he brings Guantanamo down!!!! I hate that my government was responsible for his and the other people’s incarceration. I don’t support this.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Heather. I too hope that Shaker gets to play a major part in finally getting Guantanamo closed!

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Laura Khan wrote:

    I watched the interview with Victoria Derbyshire…It was both saddening and an eye opener. All Guantanamo’s of the world MUST be closed…When did mankind become so heartless and cold. May Allah SWT bless you and your family, Shaker. Welcome home…

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Laura. And you ask a very good question, “When did mankind become so heartless and cold?” I think it has been getting worse in the last 15 years, in part because of the cruelty of this “war on terror,’ and in part because of the hideous greed and selfishness of this particularly horrible phase of capitalism.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Gia Duffy wrote:

    Cannot wait to watch on iPlayer. It will be heartbreaking and happy at the same time.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think that’s about right, Gia!

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    When Michael Bentley shared this, he wrote:

    Part two of Andy Worthington ‘s excerpts from the first newspaper interview with Shaker Aamer since his release from Guantanamo. The brutality of his 13 year detention in the US torture camp is contrasted with moving stories of kindness – shown BY Shaker and TO Shaker – since his return home. I can’t fully express my joy that Shaker and his wife Zineera (who suffered years of depression due to their ordeal) are together again at last!

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again for sharing, Michael. I found Shaker’s account of life since his return to his family very moving.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Sheila Penny wrote:

    An emotional read !

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, what a journey, Sheila – to hell and back. I am constantly amazed by Shaker’s resilience.

  34. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy!

    I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled to see if Shaker commented on the events of June 2006, the first three reported deaths reported in Guantanamo. In 2006, the public was told they were suicides. Warhawks claimed that the men committed suicide as an “asymmetric attack” — intended to damage the USA by making it look bad.

    Then the autopsy results were highly suspicious. The claim was that the men had first, stuffed rags down their throats; then put the nooses around their necks; then tied their hands behind their backs; and then hung themselves in cells where there was nowhere to hang a noose.

    A blue ribbon panel of third party pathologists noted alarming discrepancies — like that the men’s throats were not returned to their families, for burial, with the rest of their bodies.

    Then Scott Horton published the accounts of the brave guards who blew the whistle on Camp NO and Colonel Bumgarner’s shocking criminal cover-up. In Horton’s account the men who died had been taken to a former CIA compound, for torture, to determine who masterminded a very small riot in one hut in Camp 4, the hut for compliant detainees. In Horton’s account the choking rags down their throats was “dryboarding” a more dangerous and hard to control torture technique than waterboarding, that terrorized captives by bringing them to the brink of death by suffocation.

    Rumors circulated that Shaker had been dryboarded, with the other three men, but had survived when the others died. Some people were convinced this was the real explanation for extra years he was held.

    I haven’t heard any accounts of Shaker talking about June 2006. This could mean: (1) the rumors were wrong, he wasn’t present with the other three, after all; (2) he was present, but it remains too traumatic to talk about; (3) after an addition eight years of abuse that incident has faded from Shaker’s memory; or (4) he does remember, and he is choosing not to talk about because he considers it too divisive, he is concerned talking about it will encourage recruitment to ISIS.

    Am I correct Andy? He hasn’t spoken about those men, that event, has he?

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi arcticredriver,
    Shaker has spoken about it – to Victoria Derbyshire, when he suggested that the deaths were not suicides. However, he made it clear that he was not at liberty to discuss it in depth right now, as was also the case with his knowledge about what happened to Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. I can’t say why exactly (because I haven’t been briefed about it), but I suspect it’s because there are legal issues involved in both cases.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

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).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium



Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:


In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos



Tag Cloud

Abu Zubaydah Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo