Over 330,000 Concerned Citizens Sign a Petition Urging President Biden to Close Guantánamo

23.9.21

Campaigners outside the White House, on September 20, 2021, prepare to deliver a petition to President Biden, signed by over 330,000 concerned citizens, calling on him to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay without further delay.

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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.

On Monday, largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, campaigners delivered a petition to the White House, signed by over 330,000 people, urging President Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. They were joined online by former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, whose Guantánamo memoir, “Don’t Forget Us Here,” was published last month.

This impressive achievement was coordinated by the progressive activist network Daily Kos, MPower Change, which describes itself as “the largest Muslim led social and racial justice organization in the United States,” and other organizations familiar to those engaged in the long struggle to get Guantánamo closed — Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Justice for Muslims Collective — as well as the Juggernaut Project, NorCal Resist, Progress America, the Progressive Reform Network, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

The date chosen was the 20th anniversary of George W. Bush’s declaration to Congress that the US was launching a “war on terror” in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. As Bush said on that day, “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

You can still sign the petition, if you haven’t done so already. The text of it is posted below.

Petition: President Biden must close Guantánamo prison

The U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is an enduring international symbol of injustice and torture, and it continues to cause profound harm to the 39 men who remain imprisoned. New reports show that President Biden is currently reviewing policies with the goal of closing the prison — we must make sure that he moves quickly to end indefinite detention without charge or trial and close Guantánamo once and for all.

The prison, designed to indefinitely detain Muslims, is a critical fixture of the post-9/11 “War on Terror” that has predominantly criminalized, surveilled, incarcerated, and tortured Muslims, U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike, with little legal recourse. While Guantánamo is part of the US’s carceral state, its existence in the War on Terror symbolizes a place beyond the law where the US government has extended the boundaries of what is considered acceptable treatment of Muslims in addition to other marginalized communities. Moreover, Guantánamo has exported its harsh conditions to domestic prisons such as Communication Management Units, located in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois.

Since 2002, the U.S. has imprisoned nearly 800 Muslim men and boys. Today, 39 men remain. Most have never been charged with a crime, and none have had access to a fair trial. Many were tortured by the U.S., and all have suffered from the physical and psychological effects of indefinite detention for over a decade. A number of men have even been approved for transfer by the government, yet political delays have kept them languishing behind bars.

[On] the 20th anniversary of the global “War on Terror” […] ending indefinite detention and closing the prison is a necessary step towards justice, accountability, and reconciliation.

Guantánamo is just one the U.S. government’s more contemporary pursuits in egregious human rights violations in a long history of abuses against Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities within the US and abroad. The prison is part of the decades-long legacy of mass incarceration and U.S. militarism, and more recently, the connections with the mass immigration detention and deportation apparatus have also become clear. Calls for its closure must be part of our collective demands to expose the U.S.’s racist history and contemporary practices in policing and mass incarceration, and demand investment instead in community healing and other needs.

President Biden has said he intends to close Guantánamo. Now he must take action towards that goal. The Biden administration should release the dozens of men who have never been charged with a crime to their home or third countries and resolve the remaining cases by bringing them to federal court for trial or negotiating their transfer to foreign countries to serve sentences. The U.S. must ensure that no one is transferred to countries where they are in danger of persecution and torture.

Add your name: Urge the Biden administration to close Guantánamo prison and end indefinite detention once and for all.

As the petition was delivered, the following spokespeople provided comments.

Sijal Nasralla, Campaign Director at MPower Change, said, “Nearly 800 Muslim men and boys have been imprisoned indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay, most never even charged with a crime, all without access to anything resembling a fair trial. President Biden has the authority and power to permanently close Guantánamo Bay, turning it from a living symbol of torture and injustice to a historical warning to future generations. President Biden should keep his promise. He should close Guantánamo. Twenty years of institutionalized Islamophobic violence is twenty years too long.”

Alli Jarrar of Amnesty International USA said, “Closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay has been one of Amnesty International’s demands of the U.S. government since the notorious site was opened almost 20 years ago. Over a dozen Amnesty branches worldwide have contributed to this effort to call on President Biden to finish what Obama failed to do: shutter the facility once and for all, immediately. Its continued existence is a perpetuation of human rights abuses, a reminder of torture and indefinite detention, and it is an international embarrassment for the United States.”

Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, “Every day that Guantanamo remains open is another day added to the unprecedented and cruel, decades-long detention without charge or fair trial of Center for Constitutional Rights clients and the rest of the men who languish there. President Biden has the authority, roadmap, and public support necessary to close Guantánamo, and we join hundreds of thousands of activists from all over the world in urging him to take immediate action to fulfill that goal.”

Carolyn Fiddler, Communications Director at Daily Kos, said, “It’s long past time for the Biden administration to close Guantánamo prison and end indefinite detention once and for all. With the 20th anniversary of the global ‘War on Terror’ approaching, Guantánamo remains part of the nation’s decades-long legacy of mass incarceration and U.S. militarism. Closing this facility is an essential step towards justice, accountability, and reconciliation.”

Dr. Maha Hilal, Co-Director at the Justice for Muslims Collective, said, “In the post 9/11 War on Terror, Guantánamo has always been an emblematic example of how institutionalized Islamophobia has been manifested in the last two decades. It is outrageous that the prison remains open, that prisoners continue to be abused, and that those released are abandoned by the U.S. government. Biden must close Guantánamo immediately in addition to addressing the horrific aftermath of the prison and the lives that have been destroyed by it. The U.S. must be held accountable and this is one way to move forward towards this goal.”

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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).

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.

7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, publicizing a petition calling on President Biden to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which, impressively, secured over 330,000 signatures.

    The petition was initiated by groups including Daily Kos, MPower Change and Amnesty International USA, and was delivered to the White House on September 20, the 20th anniversary of George W. Bush telling Congress that the US had launched a “war on terror” in response to the 9/11 attacks.

    The petition is still open for signatures, if you’d like to add your voice to those calling for Guantanamo’s closure: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sign-the-petition-president-biden-must-close-guantanamo-prison

  2. Anna says...

    Will definitely sign if it’s open to non-US residents/nationals.
    Here’s the latest para-Gitmo news from the US :
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/24/us-wont-send-refugees-to-guantanamo-despite-seeking-contractor

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. The petition asked for Zip Code or Postal Code and accepted my UK postcode. Hopefully it will be the same for you.

    Thanks also for the link to the Al-Jazeera article. The migrant plans had been causing some consternation amongst activist friends until it became apparent that, as Al-Jazeera described it, when “[a]sked whether any Haitian migrants and asylum seekers would be sent to [the] Guantanamo migrant facility, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: ‘There’s never been a plan to do that. I think there was some confusion related to the Migrant Operations Center, which has been used for decades to process migrants interdicted at sea for third-country resettlement.'”

  4. anna says...

    Andy, the Psaki comment provoked an immediate sense of deja-vu. Cannot put my finger on it though.
    And I indeed signed the petition.
    On a different subject also very close to your heart, this shining example from New Zealand :
    https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/9/28/new-zealand-introduces-rules-to-cool-its-red-hot-housing-market
    Good you move around by bike, but I hope the fuel crunch does not create problems anyhow ? Were it only for X’mas shopping which I understand must already start, before shop supplies run out ?
    And too late to undo Brexit …

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Perhaps you’ve heard the Migrant Operations Center referred to before, Anna? I hadn’t, but then it took me many years of working on Guantanamo to realise that there had been huge prisons there in the 1990s for Haitian, and then Cuban and Haitian refugees. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_refugee_crisis

    Thanks for the link to the article about NZ’s housing crisis. It seems to be an unforeseen consequence of Covid that those with money – or assets, like a house they can sell – are massively driving up prices in the countryside, as they shun the cities. I suspect many here will move out, but then will have to go back to the office and will be faced with long and insanely expensive commutes, but maybe that’s just me being cynical.

    As for Brexit, I can’t even go there. It’s definitely good to be back on the bike, but I’d quite like us to run out of petrol. The volume of traffic is horrendous, and I can’t see any other way to get these stinking vehicles off the roads. Tonight, on Channel 4 News, there was a whole feature on medical personnel struggling to get to work because they couldn’t get petrol, but at no point did the interviewer ask if it was possible for them to take a train. Perhaps it wasn’t, but the fact that it wasn’t mentioned spoke volumes about how car use is so prioritised.

  6. Anna says...

    Apologies for mixing subjects and hardly reading you except the headlines as I am too busy with Afghan matters right now.
    So here more on housing crisis – word-wide – https://www.aljazeera.com/program/witness/2021/9/30/push-the-global-housing-crisis – and a four-part series on Afghan cinema, three of which already available off-line the last one next week.
    Not a masterpiece as such, but interesting for its context. I know most of its protagonists personally. Some 500 Afghan ‘artists’ with families on French evacuation list unfortunately missed the August evacuations and are now stuck in limbo – together with countless others – as our governments have since then turned to ‘more important matters’, such as submarines and petrol shortages… :
    1. https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-forbidden-reel/2021/9/15/the-birth-of-afghan-cinema
    2. https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-forbidden-reel/2021/9/21/the-communist-revolution
    3. https://www.aljazeera.com/program/the-forbidden-reel/2021/9/28/the-rise-of-the-mujahideen

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the links, Anna. The housing programme looks good (just started watching it now), and I completely understand your preoccupation with Afghanistan after so many years there. Very worrying that so many people were left behind, and, as you say, western countries have now moved on to whatever is the next thing in the hamster wheel of politicians in the age of short attention spans.

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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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