- By Andy Worthington
Please sign the e-petition to the British government, calling for Shaker Aamer’s release, and the international petition on the Care 2 Petition Site, addressed to both the British and the American governments.
The family of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, have just released this photo of him, smiling and waving, and looking, for all the world, like a free man, even though he has just started his twelfth year in US custody. My headline is slightly misleading, as February 14, 2013 will mark the 11th anniversary of Shaker’s arrival at Guantánamo, if he is not released beforehand, but he was first sold into US custody on November 23, 2001, so it was a convenient shorthand for his eleven years in US custody. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.
This photo is the first to be made available since April 2011, when a photo of him was included in his classified military file, which was released by WikiLeaks. Hundreds of photos of the Guantánamo prisoners were included in the WikiLeaks files, and many of them featured prisoners who had never been seen before, or had only been seen in photos taken before their capture, which were often taken many years before their capture.
Dehumanising prisoners was part of the Bush administration’s program for those seized in the “war on terror,” an essential part of a regime in which those held were supposed to have no rights whatsoever, and could be subjected to abuse — and even torture — with impunity. This is something that Shaker Aamer knows all about, not just because he was privy to numerous stories from his fellow prisoners, as the most articulate and passionate defender of their rights in Guantánamo, and also as a fluent English speaker who could liaise with the authorities on their behalf, but also because of the abuse he received in US custody in Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo, and the abuse he subsequently endured in Guantánamo. This was most recently reported by Shaker himself, in the notes from a meeting with one of his lawyers that he specifically asked to be made available to me.
It took until 2009 for the first photos of any of the prisoners to emerge from Guantánamo, as part of a policy that involved representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross taking photos that were then sent to family members. One of these photos, for example, was of Fayiz al-Kandari, one of the two Kuwaitis who are still held, although very few of the photos were made public.
I am delighted to see this photo, as I believe that Shaker’s evident humanity and kindness is something that those of us campaigning for his release will be able to use, as we push both the British and the American governments to secure his freedom, at least five years since he was first told that the US authorities no longer wanted to hold him, and that the Britsh government was actively seeking his return, and two months since, for the first time, his name was included in a list of 55 prisoners cleared for release but still held, that was made publicly available by the US Justice Department.
Bring Shaker Aamer home now! His wife and his four children, here in London, have the right to be reunited with him, and have the right not to have their husband and their father detained indefinitely as a scapegoat — a victim of Obama’s paralysis and indifference when confronted by the bigots, cynics and fearmongers who populate Congress and America’s right-wing media.
On Facebook, publicising this photo of Shaker, Mahfuja Bint Ammu, one of the tireless campaigners for Shaker’s release, and for the closure of Guantánamo, wrote, “Shaker Aamer’s wife said, ‘Shaker sends his Salam to everyone, and may Allah reward you all, Aameen.’ She has given permission to share and circulate, so please do so.”
Mahfuja also included the following dedication by Shaker to his family, which is very moving:
To my wife and kids:
You are the breath of my lungs
You are the beat of my heart
You are the light of my eyes
You are the reason I am alive
God witness, no lies.
So please, share this photo, share this story, and sign the petition and get others to sign it. Securing Shaker’s release is hugely important in and of itself, but it will also pave the way for the release of other prisoners, from other countries, who have also been cleared for many long years, but are still held because of President Obama’s failure to close Guantánamo, and the black propaganda of those who want to keep it open.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.