Shaker Aamer never gave up and advocated for other detainees
On 24th September at 2.10 pm I wrote on a Facebook page which supports prisoners,
Eid Mubarak to Shaker Aamer and all prisoners unable to celebrate with their families #WeStandWithShaker
I had gone to bed praying for Shaker but could hardly have imagined that just a day later I would learn that Shaker Aamer (46) the last British citizen in Guantanamo Bay detention centre would finally be coming home. Shaker originally from Saudi Arabia has been held captive for 13 years of his life, sold as bounty to the Americans in 2001 in the post 9/11 frenzy whilst working as a volunteer at a school in Afghanistan. He has never been tried or charged, was cleared for release not once but twice and remains an innocent man. Shaker was arrested the day his son Faris was born and has never even met his youngest child.
The news ironically first came to my attention via Brandon Neely, a former Guantanamo Guard who has since spoken out about his time there and believes the place should be closed down. He tweeted,
Later he continued,
I and others like me were the real terrorist at Guantanamo not detainees like Shaker Aamer
Shaker’s family eagerly awaiting his return
My first thought was Shaker’s daughter Johina, I tweeted,
So happy for you… the most wonderful news, my love to all your family and joy that you will soon be reunited.. Allahu Akbar
Johina sent a message to well wishers stating,
Thank you everyone for all the support. The news hasnt hit yet. We can’t believe we might finally see our Dad after 14 years.
Cori Crider, Director at Reprieve and part of Shaker’s legal team wrote, “Shaker’s wife and his four British kids have been on a terrible emotional rollercoaster over the past nearly decade and a half so we really need some clarity around when he’s going to see them again.” Supporters were encouraged to take to social media for confirmation of a date of return and push for Shaker to be “put on a plane tomorrow”. CAGE Outreach Director and former detainee of Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons, Moazzam Begg said in a statement,
“I have confirmed from personal sources that Shaker Aamer’s release is imminent and could take place within days. CAGE has been fighting for the release of Guantanamo detainees since its inception. Shaker has been featured as one of the most prominent cases in the history of the organisation. His case encapsulates everything wrong with the War on Terror; detention without charge or trial, torture with the complicity of the UK government, cruel and dehumanising treatment, destruction of a young family, and lack of a accountability for war crimes committed against this man and those held with him – these are key features of Shaker case.”
Link to video at Guantanamo where Shaker Aamer can be heard protesting…
Shaker is now in poor health both physically and mentally
Back in December 2014 I wrote,
“In August we heard how Shaker (cleared for release) was allegedly beaten during the process of having blood extracted and over recent times has been subjected to the inhumane and degrading process of force-feeding. In the past, according to his lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith he was physically abused and alongside the beatings was subjected to strappado (dislocating the shoulders by hanging by the wrists).
We know that Shaker has been diagnosed with severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after an independent medical examination (though it took 12 years to get this) and according to Reprieve human rights organization it is recommended that he ‘receive urgent psychiatric treatment’ and ‘reintegration into his family.'”
Shaker himself stated,
“they’ve taken almost all my ‘comfort items’ away again now, along with the knee brace the doctors ordered, the back brace, the medical socks for my edema, and the blanket for my rheumatism. Not that I care. Everything is meaningless, so long as I am still here, cleared, without charges, and without a trial”
Andy Worthington (writer) Roger Waters (musician) Clive Stafford-Smith (lawyer) and Caroline Lucas MP launch the campaign at Westminster
There were fears voiced by campaigners that Shaker would never be released, he was often referred to as “the man who knew too much”.
“Shaker’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of human rights group Reprieve stated,
“We are calling on the UK to demand that President Obama send Shaker home tomorrow, so that Shaker’s family do not have to endure yet more agony, uncertain every time a phone rings.
British politicians may talk about our ‘robust and effective systems to deal with suspected terrorists’ but Shaker is not and never has been a terrorist. He has never been charged with a crime or had a trial. He has been cleared for release by the Americans themselves for 8 years.
I hope the authorities will understand that he has been tortured and abused for more than a decade, and what he wants most is to be left alone with his family to start rebuilding his life.”
Several photos showing campaigner supporting Shaker in action
There are many people to thank for helping bring Shaker home, too many to mention by name. However those who did stand up for Shaker’s rights wrote articles, letters to MPs, songs, signed petitions, demonstrated outside parliament with a giant blow up inflatable of Shaker, dressed up in Guantanamo style orange jumpsuits, ran marathons, donated money to the family, agreed to be waterboarded and force-fed to highlight his suffering and went on hunger strike in solidarity. There were also those who did not live to see the results of their efforts. Maryam Hassam wrote,
“Thinking how happy Salim Akbar would have been at today’s news, how tirelessly he campaigned for Shaker and stood by his family long before it was popular or common to do so… may Allah accept your efforts and make it a source of delight for you in His Paradise.”
A delegation of MPs, including new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, lobbied Washington to release Shaker after his case was debated in the House of Commons in March. As Andy Worthington investigative journalist with a website on Guantánamo wrote,
“under US law, the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, must sign off on any prisoner releases, certifying that all steps have been taken to ensure that it is safe to do so, and Congress then receives 30 days’ notice. As a result, Shaker may not be home until late October, but the announcement of his impending release is a clear cause for celebration.”
Dr David Nicholl, who campaigns for Shaker said,
@AmnestyUK Who will never have to drive me to Downing St in a jump suit & chains AGAIN! http://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/shaker-aamer-reports-return-uk-welcomed …
Save Shaker Aamer tweeted
– A great day for everyone involved in the campaign for
#ShakerAamer, not least his family. Reminder that Justice prevails, sooner or later.
London Guantanamo stated,
One of the regular protests calling for Shaker’s release
Shaker’s case does not end with his release. He will need time and a great deal of support to readjust to life outside Guantanamo and cope with the many changes in society. The issue of compensation for 13 years lost with his family must be addressed. Campaigners are also calling for accountability for his treatment during detention. The role played by government agencies must be investigated further.
“Shaker Aamer: 8 questions answered”
“Wonderful News: Shaker Aamer to be released from Guantanamo finally”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.