Video: Moazzam Begg, Anas Altikriti and I Discuss ‘Guantánamo: 21 Years On’ on Al Hiwar TV’s New Show, ‘The London Circle’


A screenshot of ‘Guantánamo: 21 Years On’, the very first episode of a new English language show, ‘The London Circle’, broadcast by the Arabic news channel Al Hiwar TV, featuring Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington discussion with Anas Altikriti.

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I’m delighted to promote ‘Guantánamo: 21 Years On’, the very first episode of a new English language show, ‘The London Circle’, broadcast by the Arabic news channel Al Hiwar TV, which reaches millions of viewers throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

For the opening show, I was invited to join a discussion with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, hosted by Anas Altikriti, the CEO and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, which was established in 2005 “to provide a strong voice of tolerance and reason in promoting dialogue and a rapprochement between Islam and the West.”

The one-hour discussion was envisaged by Anas as a free-wheeling conversation rather than the regimented question and answer format of most news discussions, and I thought it was very successful. The video is posted below, via YouTube, and I hope that you’ll have the time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

In a discussion that could easily have gone on for another hour at least, we talked about Guantánamo’s history, in which I was able to explain how it is that 35 men are still held; fundamentally because, when Guantánamo was established, the men swept up and held there were imprisoned without any rights whatsoever as human beings, and that the only time that the law has had any meaningful influence at the prison was between 2008 and 2010, when the prisoners, via the Supreme Court, secured habeas corpus rights, and over 30 men were freed after judges reviewed their cases and ruled that the government had filed to establish that they were, in any meaningful sense, connected to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces.

Sadly, and shamefully, right-wing appeals court judges subsequently issued a number of rulings that ended up gutting habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, so that, since then, the release of prisoners has been reliant on administrative review processes established under President Obama, which have no legal weight.

This has led to a position whereby the release of prisoners is largely a matter of political will, as it was under almost the whole of the presidency of George W. Bush, when two-thirds of the 779 men held at the prison by the US military since it opened in January 2002 were freed. However, as we saw under President Obama, and are seeing again under President Biden, it is often preferable for Democrats to avoid conflict with Republicans by doing nothing rather than actually freeing men approved for release though these administrative processes. Currently, of the 35 men still held, 20 have been approved for release (16 under Biden), but progress towards getting these men freed has been — and continues to be — painfully slow.

Part of the problem, as we also discussed, is because some those approved for release (primarily Yemenis) cannot be safely repatriated (and in fact laws passed by Republicans explicitly prevent their repatriation), and so, because US laws also prevent any prisoner from being resettled in the US, third countries have to be prevailed upon to take in these men and offer them new homes.

As we also discussed, the resettlement of former prisoners has not always been a success, as some countries have failed to look after them, and have, instead, continued to regard them as a threat, even though they were never charged with crimes or put on trial. Resettlements (or even repatriations) can also be fraught with additional difficulties, because former Guantánamo prisoners remain as fundamentally without rights as they were when they were first seized and designated as “enemy combatants” — and can, largely with impunity, be arbitrarily harassed, refused passports, prevented from travelling, and even imprisoned. In the most extreme examples, former prisoners have even died as a result of medical neglect.

There was much more in the show, including a discussion of Bagram, the now largely forgotten prison in Afghanistan where all the men (and boys) sent to Guantánamo were first held, the CIA’s global “black site” program, which was in existence between 2002 and 2006, British involvement in Guantánamo and the “war on terror”, and the sad truth that, the longer Guantánamo exists, the more public interest in it has unfortunately waned.

If you care about the injustice of Guantánamo’s ongoing existence, please do get involved in the ongoing resistance via the Close Guantánamo campaign, via CAGE, via Witness Against Torture in the US, and the UK Guantánamo Network here in the UK.

* * * * *

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.

10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a post of the video – with my introduction – of ‘Guantanamo: 21 Years On’, the very first episode of a new English language show, ‘The London Circle’, broadcast by the Arabic news channel Al Hiwar TV, featuring Moazzam Begg and myself in discussion with Anas Altikriti.

    In a free-wheeling discussion, we talked for an hour about Guantanamo past and present, and the prison’s status under President Biden, and also discussed Bagram, the CIA “black sites”, and British complicity.

    I was also glad to have had the opportunity to explain that 35 men are still held because Guantanamo remains as fundamentally lawless as it was when it was first set up by George W. Bush 21 years ago.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Roseanne Bellotti wrote:

    21 years. Gitmo has just really aged me. I remember being so sickened by it. I think of how it has aged and hurt and violated the prisoners stuck in an apparently neverending Limbo. It is a sin. Never, before this, did I think America would do something so evil.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your analysis, Roseanne, as a US citizen appalled by what has been done in your name. Your comments are very powerful.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Roseanne Bellotti wrote:

    Thank you, Andy. Back then I thought I was going to have a stroke or something. I remember being so incredibly happy by the early Supreme Court decisions that supposedly reversed Bush’s prison – like the one where the prisoners were found to have habeas corpus rights – but as we know, that was not honored by the military powers that be down there.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    The whole legal story of Guantanamo is such a mess, Roseanne. After Rasul v. Bush, in June 2004, it was Bush and Congress that sought to undermine it, with Bush initiating the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) as an astonishingly cynical response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Congress then seeking to shut down habeas corpus in the Detainee Treatment Act. The only true glimmer of light was from 2008 to 2010, after the Supreme Court revisited habeas in Boumediene v. Bush, and ruled that Congress had acted unconstitutionally, but even then politically motivated appeals court judges ended up shutting down habeas yet again, leaving the prisoners, once more, without any fundamental rights. That’s now been the case for over a decade, and yet most people don’t even know.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Roseanne Bellotti wrote:

    Thank you, Andy, for keeping this alive. I do not know one American who remembers Gitmo or who will talk about it, or even understand our angst about it. The personification of “the ugly American” if there ever was one.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    That, sadly, is a devastating condemnation of most Americans’ failure to scrutinize their government’s actions, Roseanne, and a large part of the blames lies with the mainstream media, which is either corrupt and right-wing and pro-Guantanamo, or, in the case the so-called liberals, largely spineless or uninterested.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Roseanne Bellotti wrote:

    And while I am at it: what about Afghanistan. Biden totally washed his hands of it even as he repeats the predictable mistake America made when we (I want to say they) armed the people fighting the Russians who eventually became the Taliban. Ok Thanks for listening.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I feel so sorry for the people of Afghanistan, Roseanne, and particularly the women and girls, abandoned by the US in what appears to be an act of spite in response to the failure of the US occupation and the eventual resurgence of the Taliban. How shameful is it that the US has kept $7bn of Afghan reserves and won’t return it, and won’t, for example, even use that money as leverage for negotiations regarding Afghanistan’s future. It isn’t as though the US isn’t to blame for its failures between the invasion in 2001 and the withdrawal in 2021. They have an obligation to the Afghan people, who they’ve now completely abandoned.

    For the $7bn reserves story, see:

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Vídeo: Moazzam Begg, Anas Altikriti y yo discutimos “Guantánamo: 21 Años” en el nuevo programa de TV de Al Hiwar, “El círculo de Londres”‘:

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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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