Video: The “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo” 20th Anniversary Virtual Rally on Jan. 11, 2022


A screenshot of participants in “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo,” a “Virtual Rally” for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2022.

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In the second of a series of articles linking to and promoting the videos of events held to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2022, I’m posting below the video of “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo,” a powerful “Virtual Rally” organized by a number of groups, including Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Witness Against Torture, which, for the second year running, because of Covid concerns, formally replaced the live rally outside the White House that has been taking place for many years, and which I took part in every year from 2011 to 2020 — although I do want to point out that, this year, local activists from the Washington, D.C. area held an actual physical vigil outside the White House, which you can watch here.

Here’s the video of the “Virtual Rally”:

The “Virtual Rally” was compered by Lu Aya of the Peace Poets, and the speakers began with Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, followed by Erika Guevara Rosas, the Americas Director at Amnesty International, and two remarkably eloquent young women, Jessica Murphy and Leila Murphy of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose father, Brian Joseph Murphy, was killed on 9/11.

I spoke next, from 27:40 to 33:15, providing information about the current situation at Guantánamo, including the good news — that five more men have been approved for release, out of the 39 men still held, bringing to 18 the number of prisoners who have now been told that the US government no longer wants to hold them forever without charge or trial. As I also explained, however, this conditionally good news (it’s only truly good news when the men are released) has to be balanced against the bad news: that another prisoner, Khaled Qassim, had his ongoing imprisonment approved, not because of anything he did before he was brought to Guantánamo nearly 20 years, but because, at Guantánamo, he has largely failed to be compliant enough.

As I described it in a Facebook post, “a review board at Guantánamo has approved his ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, not because of any crime he has committed — the board members recognised his ‘low level of training and lack of leadership in al Qaida or the Taliban’ — but because of his ‘inability to manage his emotions and actions,’ his ‘high level of significant non-compliance in the last year,’ and his ‘lack of plans for the future if released.’” As I wrote at the conclusion of my post, “What an absolute heartbreaking disgrace!”

For more on Khaled, check out the live video of my band The Four Fathers playing “Forever Prisoner,” a song I wrote about his case, which we released on the anniversary.

Next came Dr. Maha Hilal, of the Justice for Muslims Collective, who, at the end of her speech, from 45:25 to 47.35, read out a moving statement by former prisoner Omar Khadr. This was followed by a brief message from another former prisoner, Mansoor Adayfi, and, from 49:35 to 52:35, a powerful video of Abdul Latif Nasser, the only man freed to date under President Biden, in his first public appearance since his release, thanking everyone who has worked for so many years to try to secure the closure of the prison.

This was followed, from 52:40 to 58:20, by another powerful and emotional video, featuring members of the family of Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian who was approved for release in 2016, calling for his release, via one of his young female relatives, who speaks English fluently. Sufyian’s father died during his imprisonment, and his mother, pleading for his release, explains how her most fervent wish is to see him before she dies.

After these moving testimonies, we heard from Robert Saleem Holbrook, the Executive Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, Maira Khwaja, an organizer with Dissenters, an anti-militarism youth movement organization, Daniel Lakemacher, a conscientious objector and former US Marine, who served at Guantanamo, and who is a member of About Face: Veterans Against the War, Silky Shah, the Executive Director of the Detention Watch Network, and Lulu Matute of School of the Americas Watch.

* * * * *

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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

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 struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — 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.

2 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s the second of a number of articles covering events marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on January 11, 2022 — a “Virtual Rally,” entitled, “Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantanamo,” featuring numerous speakers, myself included, and also including a moving video of former prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, speaking publicly for the first time since his release last summer, a statement from Omar Khadr, read out by Maha Hilal, and a video of the family of Sufyian Barhoumi, one of the 39 men still held, who was approved for release back in 2016, and whose ongoing imprisonment is, frankly, inexplicable.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Vídeo: La protesta virtual de “Desmantelar, confrontar y cerrar Guantánamo” en su veinteavo aniversario el 11 de enero del 2022’:

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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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