From the Archive
Update: Photos and More from Cuba
Greetings from Guantanamo
Fourteen members of Witness Against Torture have been in Guantanamo province for 3 days now, vigiling in solidarity with the 107 men remaining at the US detention camp. See a full set of high-resolution photos here.
As the group left from Havana, we were moved to hear a solidarity statement given by Shaker Aamer, released from Guantanamo just weeks ago. It reads:
I give thanks to my lord and then to all the good people all over the world who’ve worked so hard over the years for my release and to support justice. I’m grateful to Witness Against Torture for travelling so far and carrying a message of hope to my brothers in Cuba. I want my brothers to understand that everyone is working hard for their release and ask them to work together to help each other so that others can help them. No one in the world should accept what’s happening in this prison. Guantanamo has been built for one reason and that is to destroy human beings, mentally, physically and spiritually. I truly thank Witness Against Torture, Save Shaker and We Stand With Shaker for telling the whole world about the suffering of my brothers still there. Thank you to all and every one and every group and establishment who stands for justice. May Our Lord Allah, guide us all.
–Ex-hostage 239, Shaker Aamer
Action on the Ground
At dusk on Wednesday, we established camp at El Mirador – scenic grounds overlooking the base from a distance of 2-3 kilometers. To close our first day, Peace Poet Frank Lopez led us in a Four Directions ceremony that came from the traditions of the Arawak peoples, who are indigenous to Cuba.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we faced the base directly and announced one-by-one our political, personal and spiritual intention in being there. Each person’s words were followed by the somber singing of “Courage, Muslim Brother”:
Courage, Muslim brother
You do not walk alone
We will walk with you
And sing your spirit home.
Anger, compassion, hope, and tears flowed during the two-hour ceremony. Cuban visitors at the overlook observed our act, adding their humble support for a moving cause. Many of the speakers referenced the years of demonstrations all over the world to close the base and the countless people who have participated in them. Two of the intentions are shared at the end of this email.
To conclude the day, we performed a Thanksgiving ritual titled “Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantanamo.” Twelve persons, all fasting for the day, sat at a table in front of empty plates to represent the terrible pain endured by hunger strikers, past and present, at Guantanamo. At the head of the table, one WAT member dressed as a detained man sat in front of the terrible apparatus of forced feeding. Forced-feeding continues to be used to wound the bodies and break the spirit of hunger-striking men.
The journey so far has generated powerful experiences, stories, images, and insights. Some media have reported our trip and published our reflections. See:
Global allies have joined us in acts of protest and solidarity. Nearly 50 members of Code Pink, in Cuba for a conference opposing the presence of the US naval base in Guantanamo, fasted on Thanksgiving Day. Members of We Stand with Shaker, which helped to bring Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo to the UK, held a vigil at the US embassy in London.
Witness Against Torture will be at the US naval base until Sunday, and in Cuba until Tuesday. We will continue to bear witness in powerful and creative ways and build a global community calling for justice at Guantanamo and the world.
We thank our families, who have made this important trip possible; the kindness of friends and allies, who have supported us with their solidarity efforts and well wishes; the Cuban people for their hospitality and to whom Guantanamo rightfully belongs, and the detained men themselves, who have inspired us with their courage.
We would like to invite you to participate in a pilgrimage of prayer, meditation and fasting through December 1st. We ask folks who sign up to fast in any form they like for 24 hours on the date they sign up on. Please click here to sign up to join the rolling fast.
Will I Rise?
By Uruj Sheikh
13 years, 7 months & counting. That’s how long Guantanamo bay has been used as a torture chamber for hundreds of men whose crime is being Muslim after 9-11. Currently, 107 men remain inside. Collectively, nearly 1500 years lost. That’s countless changes in seasons. That’s children being born and living full lives, over and over again for generations. That’s countless revolutions in human civilization. I am sorry for those almost 1500 of life lost. I am sorry for the years I spent doubting if I could make a difference.
I’m here now in Guantanamo Bay to get painfully closer to one of the most heinous manifestations of anti-Muslim violence, a stain on humanity. As the men inside those cages are trapped in hellish conditions, I, as a Pakistani-American Muslim, am reminded that we are not meant to survive. This was a painful reality I had avoided for years since the War on Terror took full force because I had internalized a state sponsored fear mongering that made me work so hard to be the good Muslim or just not draw attention to myself as a Muslim. Looking at Guantanamo Bay with own eyes, I am confronted with a choice: will I allow myself to be trapped, too, or will I rise? Will I answer my Muslim brothers calls to struggle with them? The answer is very clearly yes because as more time goes by with metal bars secured with red, white and blue, I comply with my own oppression and am complicit in the destruction of my own brothers’.
A call to action is met with a thousand calls–to answer, to give up fear, to connect to a force more powerful than us. I am committed to continue answering this call and to work so others can hear it too.
Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.