Photos and Report: The Close Guantánamo March and Rally in Central London, Jan. 20, 2024

23.1.24

Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network in Parliament Square during the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).

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On Saturday (January 20), a colourful and inspiring march and rally for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay took place in central London, organized by the UK Guantánamo Network, which consists of members of a number of local Amnesty International groups from across London and the south east, plus other campaigners, myself included.

The event was organized to mark the recent 22nd anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, when a handful of campaigners braved bitterly cold weather to stage a vigil outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, as part of the monthly coordinated global vigils for Guantánamo’s closure that I initiated a year ago. See here for my report about, and photos from the 16 vigils that took place in the US and around the world to mark the anniversary.

Complementing that vigil, the march and rally took place on a Saturday for maximum visibility, and would have taken place on Saturday January 13 had it not been for the fact that a massive March for Palestine was scheduled for that particular date, which I posted photos of — and commentary about — here.

Prior to the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020, I used to visit the US every January to mark the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, but since 2021 I’ve remained in the UK, and have, therefore, been able to take part in the annual marches and rallies to mark the anniversary in London, which began on a spectacularly wet Saturday in 2022, and was followed by a very well attended march and rally on January 14 last year.

For this year’s march and rally, around two dozen campaigners came from across London and the south east, meeting in Old Palace Yard, by the Houses of Parliament, where we changed into orange jumpsuits and hoods, and then marching in single file around Parliament Square, and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where there were a number of speeches.

Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network in Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, at the start of the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024. All are hooded except Andy Worthington (Photo: Sinai Noor).
Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network in Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, at the start of the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).
Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network in Parliament Square during a march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Lise Rossi of Amnesty International and the UK Guantánamo Network in Parliament Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).
Hooded campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network opposite 10 Downing Street during the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network opposite 10 Downing Street during the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network at the top of Whitehall during the march and rally for the closure of Guantánamo on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).

Afterwards, a number of campaigners visited 10 Downing Street to hand in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to raise the urgent need for the closure of Guantánamo with President Biden, and also to urge the British government to consider resettling in the UK men approved for release from Guantánamo who cannot be repatriated (because of US laws preventing their return to their home countries), and for whom third countries must be found that are prepared to offer them new homes.

In Trafalgar Square, the speeches began with Apsana Begum, the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, followed by myself and two younger campaigners — Aaron Humphrey-May and Harry McWhirter, who brought an important youthful perspective by pointing out that they had barely been born when Guantánamo opened — as well as Lise Rossi of Amnesty International and Dave Esbester of the Guantánamo Justice Campaign.

Apsana Begum MP speaking at the rally for the closure of Guantánamo in Trafalgar Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Andy Worthington speaking at the rally for the closure of Guantánamo in Trafalgar Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Sinai Noor).
Aaron Humphrey-May speaking at the rally for the closure of Guantánamo in Trafalgar Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Harry McWhirter speaking at the rally for the closure of Guantánamo in Trafalgar Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

We were all grateful that Apsana — a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility — took time out from her busy schedule to come and talk, and that, as well as appealing for a more humane and law-abiding political system in the UK, in which she made reference to Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza, and politicians’ shameful and widespread support for it, she also mentioned the plight of Ravil Mingazov, one of the US’s most shamefully abandoned former prisoners.

Apsana posted a video of her speech on X, which is available here, and I hope that you have time to watch it.

Having been unanimously approved for release by a high-level US government review process in 2016, after being held without charge or trial for 14 years, Ravil, a Russian Tatar who had fled his homeland to avoid religious persecution, and was seized in Pakistan in 2002, was sent to the UAE in January 2017, on the basis of diplomatic assurances that were supposed to guarantee that he would be helped to rebuild his life; instead, he and 22 other men transferred from Guantánamo found themselves imprisoned, largely incommunicado, in shamefully abusive conditions.

The other men have subsequently been sent back to their home countries, but Ravil cannot safely be repatriated, and is still imprisoned in completely unacceptable conditions, with representatives of the UN Special Mandates required, in 2021, and again last year, to intervene to prevent the Emirati authorities from forcibly sending him back to Russia, where his life would be at risk.

His son, wife and other family members are constituents of Apsana’s, having been granted asylum in the UK, and Apsana, the APPG, the UK Guantánamo Network and lawyers are currently involved in trying to persuade the British government to do the right thing, and to bring Ravil to the UK to be reunited with his family.

Dave Esbester with a placard describing Ravil Mingazov’s plight at the rally for the closure of Guantánamo in Trafalgar Square on January 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Andy Worthington holds up the letter to Rishi Sunak outside 10 Downing Street on January 20, 2024, with Dave Esbester on the left and students Melissa Schweizer and Louis Treasure. Unfortunately, Andy didn’t bring his passport, and an inflexible policeman at the gate wouldn’t let him in, although it provided a great opportunity for the students to hand in the letter instead.
Handing in the letter at 10 Downing Street.

I’ll be making a video of my speech available soon, in which I criticized the Biden administration for failing to free the 16 men still held (out of 30 in total) who have long been approved for release, and pointing out that they are as fundamentally without rights now as they were when Guantánamo first opened.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photos, and, if you’d like to get involved, please join our monthly vigils for the prison’s closure, which take place in Parliament Square on the first Wednesday of every month, from 1-3pm. We have orange jumpsuits, hoods and placards, and the next vigil is on Wednesday February 7.

The monthly vigils in London began in September 2022, and, as I noted above, morphed into internationally coordinated monthly vigils last February after I contacted friends and colleagues across the US, and in Mexico, Belgium and Denmark, to see if they’d like to get involved in creating a global network of monthly vigils. I was delighted when so many of them got involved, with monthly coordinated vigils now taking place in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, as well as London, Brussels, Copenhagen and Mexico City.

Please get in touch if you’d like to join us in 2024, as we remind President Biden that he can only guarantee that he has this year to make significant progress towards the closure of Guantanamo, by — at the very least — freeing the 16 men still held who have long been approved for release.

* * * * *

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 (see the ongoing 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, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, featuring photos from, and my report about the UK Guantanamo Network’s colourful and well-attended march and rally for the closure of Guantanamo in London on Saturday (January 20). A small vigil took place outside the US Embassy on January 11 (the 22nd anniversary of the prison’s opening), as part of the monthly coordinated global vigils for the prison’s closure that I initiated a year ago, but the march and rally has been a regular occurrence since January 2022, generally taking place on the nearest Saturday to the anniversary, for maximum impact. This year, we delayed it by a week so as not to conflict with the huge March for Palestine that took place on January 13.

    Dozens of campaigners from across London and the south east gathered in Old Palace Yard, by the Houses of Parliament, and, after changing into orange jumpsuits and hoods, marched up Whitehall, via Parliament Square, to Trafalgar Square, where the rally was held, with speakers including Apsana Begum MP and myself. Afterwards a letter was handed in to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, urging him to discuss the urgent need for Guantanamo to be closed with President Biden, and also urging the UK to take in one or more of the 16 men approved for release from Guantanamo who cannot be sent back to their home countries.

    It was an inspiring day, and I hope you’ll join us for the ongoing monthly coordinated global vigils, which take place on the first Wednesday of every month. The next date is Wednesday February 7, from 1-3pm in Parliament Square.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Lizzy Arizona wrote:

    Thank you Andy for the ongoing writing!!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your ongoing interest, Lizzy. I’ll be doing as much as I can in the coming months to raise awareness that 16 men long approved for release are still held at Guantanamo, and that Biden’s running out of time to make sure that they’re freed.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Abdellatif Nasser wrote:

    Thank you very much Andy for your exceptional and sincere support for humanity and justice.
    May God bless you and help you with all your great deeds 🙏

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Abdellatif, for your wonderfully supportive words. If human rights are to mean anything, it is that we are all brothers and sisters, and all deserving of the same rights.

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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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