Archive for February, 2022

Act Now or Face Extinction: My Birthday Present From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

A car driver in California watches a wildfire spread on December 6, 2017 (Photo: Noah Berger/AP).

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Today is my birthday.

59 years ago, in Salford Maternity Hospital, my mother brought me into this world during one of the coldest winters in modern history, believed to have been the coldest since the winter of 1739-40.

59 years on from my birth, as I reflect on all that has happened to me in the 21,550 days of my life — all my struggles, my achievements, my loves, my joys, my sorrows, and my persistent inability not to question what those in authority tell me — and as I also reflect on the political and cultural changes of these many decades, I am struck by how this is all in the past, and how the pulse of life itself, which inhabits a continuous present that so many of us struggle to accept, is now located in a world in which bleak winters, like that of 1962-63, will never happen again.

When we look at why that is, one abiding truth becomes clear. Life on earth is a chemical miracle, one that requires a fine balance between its various components to maintain an atmosphere in which life is abundant. We know of nowhere else in the universe where life teems as it does on earth, and yet, because of capitalist greed and hubris, and a dangerous disconnection from nature, we are undermining the miracle of life, changing the atmosphere, primarily through our use of fossil fuels, into one that that will make the world inhospitable.

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Please Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners, Let Them Know They’ve Not Been Forgotten Under President Biden

Eight of the 39 men still held at Guantánamo. Top row from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Sufyian Barhoumi, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Moath al-Alwi. Bottom row from L to R: Saifullah Paracha, Abu Zubaydah, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Mohammed al-Qahtani. Of these eight, all but Khaled Qassim and Abu Zubaydah have been approved for release.

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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.

It’s 12 years since two Muslim activist friends in the UK initiated a project to get people to write to the Guantánamo prisoners still held at that time — 186 in total — and I adopted it, and have been running it ever since, generally once or twice a year, although this is the first time I’ve asked people to write to the prisoners since May 2020.

Under President Biden, there has been little progress in releasing prisoners — just one man has been freed since he took office over a year ago — but there has been significant progress in approving prisoners for release. 15 men have been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards (a parole-type review process established under President Obama) since Joe Biden became president, bringing to 20 the number of men still held who have been approved for release.

This is over half of the 39 men still held, but approving men for release means nothing unless the men are actually freed, and on that front we seem constantly to be awaiting news that these men have finally been granted their freedom. Moreover, although these men now have some sort of future beyond Guantánamo to imagine — after the last five years, in which just two of their fellow prisoners were released — life at Guantánamo is still extraordinarily isolated.

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Quarterly Fundraiser for ‘The State of London’; Hoping to Raise £1,000 to Support My Ongoing Photo-Journalism Project

The most recent photos in Andy Worthington’s ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London.’

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Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support ‘The State of London’, my reader-funded photo-journalism project, for which I have no institutional backing whatsoever.

It’s now nine years and nine months since I first set out on my bike to record the changing face of London in daily photographs, and four years and nine months since I first began posting a photo a day — with an accompanying essay — on Facebook, and I’m thrilled that the project now has nearly 5,200 followers, and that so many of you clearly enjoying seeing the photos everyday, and reading the accompanying essays.

I hope, however, that you don’t mind me pointing out that, although it’s free to view and read, ‘The State of London’ is a significant daily undertaking on my part, via my bike journeys, the research I undertake for each photo chosen, sharing on social media, and responding to everyone’s comments, and even if I were to raise £1,000 it would only work out at slightly over £10 a day — way below the minimum wage!

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Over Half Of Guantánamo’s Prisoners Have Now Been Approved for Release, As Periodic Review Board Approves Release of Ghassan Al-Sharbi

Dawn at Guantánamo in 2013 (no photo exists of Ghassan al-Sharbi).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

In more good news from Guantánamo, Ghassan al-Sharbi, a 47-year old Saudi who has been held at the prison for nearly 20 years, has been approved for release by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process established by President Obama. His approval for release means that the US government has now accepted that over half of the men held — 20 of the 39 men still imprisoned — should be freed, with 15 of those decisions taking place since President Biden took office just over a year ago.

It has been a long journey to reach the point where a panel of US officials — from the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — has approved al-Sharbi for release.

Al-Sharbi was captured on March 28, 2002, with several other men who ended up at Guantánamo (most of whom have already been released), in a house raid in Faisalabad, Pakistan that also secured the capture of Abu Zubaydah, for whom the US torture program was subsequently developed.

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Mentally Ill Torture Victim Mohammed Al-Qahtani Approved for Release from Guantánamo

Mohammed al-Qahtani, photographed before his capture, in 2001, and subsequently photographed at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

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 February 4, another Guantánamo prisoner was approved for release from the prison by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process established by President Obama, which led to the release of 36 men in his second term in office. Of the 39 men still held, 19 — very nearly half of those still imprisoned — have now been approved for release, with 14 of those decisions taking place since President Biden took office just over a year ago.

There was surprise in some quarters, because the prisoner in question, Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi, was, in Guantánamo’s early days, considered the 20th intended hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, and was subjected to a specific torture program, approved by then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which, as the New York Times reported after the PRB decision was announced, involved him “undergo[ing] two months of continuous, brutal interrogation by the US military inside a wooden hut at Camp X-Ray in late 2002 and early 2003.”

The details of his torture shocked the world when a day-by-day interrogation log was leaked to Time magazine in 2006. As the Times described it, the log revealed how “military interrogators placed Mr. Qahtani in solitary confinement, stripped him naked, forcibly shaved him, and subjected him to prolonged sleep deprivation, dehydration, exposure to cold, and various psychological and sexual humiliations like making him bark like a dog, dance with a man and wear women’s underwear on his head.” As the Times added, “They extracted a confession, which he later recanted,” which included allegations that he had made against 30 other prisoners, falsely claiming that they were bodyguards of Osama bin Laden.

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Video: Mansoor Adayfi, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss Guantánamo’s 20th Anniversary and Its Chronic and Persistent Lawlessness at Revolution Books

A screenshot of “America’s Torture Chamber: 20 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an event hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, featuring Mansoor Adayfi, Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and moderated by Raymond Lotta.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On Sunday (January 30), I was delighted to take part in a powerful online discussion, hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, about the prison at Guantánamo Bay, marking the 20th anniversary of its opening, on January 11, with former prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, in Serbia, and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney who represents a number of the men still held.

Until Covid hit, I visited the US every January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening, and one of my regular events was a discussion at Revolution Books — in 2016, for example, discussing the successful campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer, in 2017, with the attorney Ramzi Kassem, in 2018, with Carl Dix, and in 2020, with Shelby.

Last year, as a resurgence of Covid shut down foreign travel, the event took place online, and I was again joined by Shelby, and so this year, as another Covid variant again shut down foreign travel, we again turned to Zoom to facilitate an online event. And while I miss my friends and colleagues in the US, and the thrill of a live event, Covid — and Zoom — have enabled us to hear directly from former prisoners, in a way that was not previously possible. This is particularly powerful when it comes to Guantánamo, as former prisoners are prevented from setting foot on US soil, and yet Zoom has now effortlessly dissolved that prohibition.

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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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