Close Guantánamo: Online Events Marking the 19th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison on January 11, 2021


Campaigners from Witness Against Torture and other organizations call for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

For the last ten years, I have traveled to the US from London (since 2012 as the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, which I co-founded that year with the US attorney Tom Wilner) to take part in events marking the anniversary, on January 11, of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, with a particular focus on a vigil outside the White House, with representatives of numerous NGOs including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Witness Against Torture.

This year, sadly, because of Covid, the vigil is only happening online, and my visit has been called off, although I am currently finalizing details of online replacements for events that I usually undertake in person — a panel discussion with our other co-founder Tom Wilner at New America in Washington, D.C., and another at Revolution Books in New York with Guantánamo lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis — as well as some other online discussions. See my post here about the Revolution Books event, which is on Sunday January 17, and begins at 4pm Eastern time. It will be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. I hope to have details about the New America event soon.

For this year’s anniversary, I urge you to join Close Guantánamo’s photo campaign, taking a photo with our poster marking how long Guantánamo has been open on January 11 — 6,941 days — and sending it to us at You can also take a photo with our follow-up poster for January 20, the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, when the prison will have been open for 6,950 days. We’ll be posting the photos on our website, and sharing them on social media.

Meanwhile, the online replacement for the annual vigil outside the White House, “19 Years of Guantánamo: Remembering the Men Detained,” is taking place on January 11 (that’s next Monday) from 1-2pm EST (6-7pm GMT), with special guest speaker Mansoor Adayfi, a good friend of the Close Guantánamo campaign, who has written articles for us about Saifullah Paracha and Khalid Qassim, two of the “forever prisoners” whose release we will be calling for persistently throughout 2021. RSVP for the event here.

At 6.30pm GMT (1.30pm EST), former Guantánamo prisoner, torture survivor and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi will be appearing for the first 30 minutes of “Guantánamo End Game?,” a CAGE event, also featuring former prisoner Moazzam Begg and former Bagram prisoner Abdul Basit, the brother of Guantánamo prisoner Muhammad Rahim. Register for the event here.

Then at 7pm GMT (2pm EST), I will be introducing Mohamedou in an Amnesty International event wth the Lewes Amnesty Group, in which Mohamedou will be talking about his experiences — and the forthcoming feature film “The Mauritanian,” which will be released next month. To join this event, please email the Lewes Amnesty Group here.

Mohamedou is also taking part in “Rights or Rightlessness? The Lives of Men Imprisoned at Guantánamo” from 5-6.30pm EST (10-11.30pm GMT), with Baher Azmy, the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Dr. A. Naomi Paik, Associate Professor of Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Register for the event here.

And finally, if you’re around at 8pm EST (1am GMT), my good friends at Witness Against Torture, who are normally at the heart of the vigil in their hoods and orange jumpsuits, and who fast and hold actions in Washington, D.C. for the week around the anniversary from their base in a church, are holding the first of five “virtual circles” for those who are fasting, and for activists in solidarity. The “Fast for Justice” is taking place from January 11-15, with “virtual circles” every evening at 8pm. RSVP to be sent the Zoom link, and see here for more information about WAT’s actions.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from eight years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Monday January 11 marks the shameful 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and unfortunately, because of Covid, the annual vigil outside the White House has been called off, as has my annual visit.

    However, various online events are taking place instead, including an online vigil featuring former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, and several other events in the US and the UK featuring former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi.

    I do hope you can get involved. With the Democrats now in control of the Senate and the House, Joe Biden can do away with the ban on using funds to close Guantanamo, and the ban on bringing prisoners to the US for any reason that have been in the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) every year since Obama’s presidency.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    I’ll be protesting outside the US Embassy like every year.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Natalia, for representing the cause in Mexico City!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Luk Vervaet wrote:

    In Brussels on Monday 11th

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s great, Luk! Good to hear from you.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Spanish readers can find the article here, courtesy of the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website – ‘Cierra Guantánamo: eventos en línea para marcar el aniversario 19 de la apertura de la prisión el 11 de enero del 2021’:

  7. Anna says...

    Hi Andy,

    I could not watch/listen to the events in real time, I do hope that they will also be available at a later time on YouTube? AJE’s ‘Inside Story’ was about Guantanamo. I usually do not watch that programme and got just its tail end so I do not know yet how it went. It was hosted by Peter Dobbie who usually is well prepared and incisive.
    Let’s hope that last week’s upheaval in the US will be a wake-up call, particularly for politicians, and that Biden when he wakes up from his present euforia as some sort of Superman-saviour will remember to include Guantanamo in his benevolence …

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Anna. It was strange not to be in the US for the anniversary – the first cancellation of events in my pre-Covid life that really hit home. The online vigil is online, but only on Facebook, it seems:

    Later, I was interviewed by Kevin Gosztola, and that interview is here:
    It certainly made my day as far as someone taking an interest in my 15 years of experience working on Guantanamo – and on Julian Assange’s case too.

    As for Biden, I think as long as campaigners can stay focused, he’s going to feel the heat. The first thing is definitely to appoint someone to take charge of issues relating to Guantanamo, and he really needs to do that as soon as possible. Abdul Latif Nasser, Sufyian Barhoumi and Tawfiq al-Bihani have patiently been awaiting their release for far too many years.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Also, Anna, check out the Revolution Books page for my event with Shelby Sullivan-Bennis on Sunday:

    It starts at 4pm Eastern time, and will be livestreamed on YouTube.

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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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