WAT Responds to Fate of Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, Ex-GTMO Detainee/Hunger Striker

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Witness Against Torture, a US-based human rights organization, pleads for continuing assurances from all relevant authorities of the safety of Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab (aka Jihad Ahmed Deyab). Dhiab poses no threat to any nation, society, or people. He should immediately be set free so that he can continue to rebuild his life after years of detention at Guantánamo.

We also call on all governments — and the United States government in particular — not to impede Dhiab’s wish to travel to reunite with his family. Dhiab spent 12 years in US detention at Guantánamo, though he was never charged with a crime. As with so many of the detained men, no credible evidence links him at any time to anti-US hostilities.

At Guantánamo, Dhiab suffered unimaginable abuse, including years of brutal forced- feedings to break his protest of his indefinite detention by hunger strike. A pending case in US federal court seeks the public release of hours of videotape of the forced-feedings. An attorney for Dhiab, who privately screened the tapes, describes them as “Abu Ghraib redux.”

Released by the US government to Uruguay in 2014, Dhiab has experienced continued hardship. This includes physical and emotional distress, financial difficulties, and the pain of separation from his family and broader culture. While still at Guantánamo, he was promised that his family would meet him in Montevideo upon his release. Until now he has not been reunited with his family. Born in Lebanon and raised in Syria, Dhiab seeks to live within the Arabic-speaking world, reconnected with his loved ones.

The United States owes Dhiab, like other men it has held at Guantánamo, an official apology, substantial financial compensation, and other resources to aid in their resettlement. They are victims, in the vast majority, of wrongful detention. All have suffered torture, physical or psychological, at US hands.

And yet, the United States assumes little to no responsibility for the well-being of men it has kidnapped, tortured, and spat out of its island prison — often years after clearing them for release. It imposes onerous restrictions on their travel. It burdens countries like Uruguay, generous in taking in men from Guantánamo, with financial costs and other challenges associated with resettlement. Finally, some in the media and US government use grossly exaggerated concerns of former detainees engaging in anti-US hostilities to falsely paint innocent men like Dhiab as villains and to thwart further transfers from the prison.

Dhiab deserves the world’s sympathy, assurances of safety, reunion with his family, and just compensation from the US government. The videotapes of his forced-feedings should be released so that that people may see — as Dhiab himself wants — the detail of his abuse at Guantánamo. The prison must close, with the United States contributing to the long-term well-being of the men it has detained and tortured.

Witness Against Torture (WAT) formed in 2005 with the goals of closing the prison camp at Guantánamo and ending US torture. It has held marches and solidarity fasts, lobbied Congress and other US officials, sponsored petitions, held numerous educational events, and engaged in non-violent direct action. WAT members have twice been to Cuba to protest the prison, first in 2005 and again in 2015.


Groups to Rally Monday at White House on 14th Guantánamo Anniversary

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Washington, DC – This Monday, a coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, and members of diverse faith communities will hold a rally at the White House to mark the 14th anniversary of the first arrival of detainees at Guantánamo on January 11, 2002.

The coalition is calling on the Obama administration in its last, crucial year in office, to close Guantánamo and end indefinite detention. With recent transfers, 104 men remain at Guantánamo, dozens of them cleared for release, the majority from Yemen.

The rally will include a giant, inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer – the last UK resident held at Guantánamo, released in October. The figure was displayed outside the British Parliament where MPs and celebrities posed with it to press for Mr. Aamer’s release. Members of the coalition will share the words of Mr. Aamer and of Mohammed Al Hamiri, Ghaleb Al Bihani, Zaher Hamdoun, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, all of whom remain at Guantánamo. The rally will be followed by a “detainee procession” of figures in orange jumpsuits and black hoods and signs marking the anniversary.

The organizations drafted a call to action:

Last Chance for Leadership: Close Guantánamo

President Obama has just one year left to fulfill his first-term promise by closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention. Doing so will demonstrate leadership and fidelity to the principles on which he campaigned and won office.

On January 11, 2016, the prison at Guantánamo will enter its 15th year of operation. More than 100 men remain there; the vast majority will never be charged with crimes. Dozens of prisoners are cleared for transfer. Some remain on hunger strike and are force-fed, and a handful are facing charges in unfair trials. There has been no accountability for the torture that many detainees have suffered.

Though Congress has placed obstacles to closing Guantánamo, President Obama can and should make significant progress towards reducing the population and shuttering the prison. He must order the Secretary of Defense to expedite transfers and accelerate the Periodic Review Board process, and tell the Justice Department not to reflexively oppose habeas petitions in federal court. He must also reject a policy of indefinite detention, and formally try or release all detainees.

In addition, President Obama should order all relevant agencies to read the full Senate torture report. Refusing to read the report, more than a year after receiving it, reflects the “bury your head in the sand” mentality that will prevent the country from adequately learning from its past and permanently ending torture. Further, the Obama administration should prompt the Department of Justice to open a new, comprehensive investigation into the clear acts of criminality described in the report.

Now is the time for Obama to accomplish a central goal of his administration by closing Guantánamo. There is today a renewed climate of fear and hate reminiscent of the post-September 11 mindset that led to torture and indefinite detention in the first place. Guantánamo is the bitter legacy of a politics of fear, which must be rejected.

This is the president’s last chance to keep his promise and close Guantánamo. If he does not do so, there is a real chance that the current detainees will die there, and that more detainees will join them.

We cannot let that happen.  Close Guantánamo now.


12:00pm:  Interfaith service in front of the White House sponsored by the National Religious Coalition Against Torture

12:30pm:  Rally and program in front of the White House, followed by procession

Sponsors: Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, Center for Constitutional Rights, CODEPINK, Council on American-Islamic Relations, CloseGuantanamo.org, Interfaith Action for Human Rights, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), Witness Against Torture, and others.

Organizational Quotes

“Every year, for the last seven years, concerned activists and citizens have called on President Obama to fulfill his promise during his first year in office and demanded that Guantanamo be closed once and for all; every year, these calls have remained unheeded. This is President Obama’s final year in office. That means this is also his final opportunity to follow through on his promise, shut down Guantanamo, and restore some semblance of dignity to our justice system. This opportunity must not be left ignored.” ~ Dr. Zainab Chaudry, Interfaith Action for Human Rights

“It’s not enough for President Obama to say he tried, but that Congress and other obstacles are preventing him from closing Guantanamo. Obama has the authority to make significant progress. He is the Commander in Chief, yet officials within the Department of Defense openly defy his policy objectives and derail closure efforts. He could order the Department of Justice not to fight the habeas petitions of cleared men like 74-lb Tariq Ba Odah, but he hasn’t. There are more than 40 men, cleared for release, who could go home today, yet they continue to languish as the prison enters its 15th year. The president has real choices in front of him. Now is the time for him to take meaningful action. The clock is ticking.” ~ Aliya Hussain, Center for Constitutional Rights

“In November 2015, a CODEPINK delegation traveled to Guantanamo Bay and met with members of the Cuban government and civil society who are calling for the base to be closed immediately and the land given back to the Cubans. The Cubans are horrified that the United States government has committed torture on their land and continues to indefinitely detain prisoners who have never been charged with any crime. The prison facility within the naval base is a stain on US foreign policy, and we urge President Obama to issue an executive order to close the prison — and the base — immediately.” ~ Nancy Mancias, organizer, CODEPINK

“One day let alone 14 years is too long for the U.S. to imprison one hundred men at Guantanamo without charge or trial. For seven years the president has promised to close this prison – a blemish on our nation’s commitment to the rule of law – yet the situation has not improved. We are responsible for safeguarding the constitutional values which are meant to protect all Americans, persons who reside in the U.S., and those in our custody from the abuses of indefinite detention and lack of due process. We must shut down Guantanamo.” ~ Nihad Awad, national executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

“It must be stated clearly and boldly that the premise upon which Guantanamo Bay prison exists is illegal.  Moreover, the prison symbolizes the ways in which Muslims have been dehumanized, while at the same time, criminalizing the Muslim identity by virtue of housing a population of men adhering to Islam. While the number of prisoners has decreased from its height at 779 to 104, it is disturbing that the United States government continues to house men cleared for release while holding others hostage in protracted military commissions that seemingly have no resolution in sight. We call on President Obama to close the prison once and for all and end the destructive policies of the War on Terror that have so callously targeted Muslims.”  ~ Dr. Maha Hilal, executive director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

“After fourteen years, our experience with an official policy of detaining suspected terrorists without trial has not brought us security, but only more fear, more terrorism and worst of all, a deep stain on our honor and debasement of our most basic values. It’s long past time for us to end this inhumane and profoundly ineffective experiment with lawlessness.” ~ Bruce Miller, president, No More Guantánamos

“As an organization that serves torture survivors from all over the world, TASSC is appalled by the fact that Guantanamo –synonymous with a U.S. torture chamber – is still open after 14 years.  During his last year in office, President Obama should honor his promise to finally close this facility and either release the detainees or transfer them to other locations where they have access to justice.” ~ Gizachew Emiru, Esq., executive director, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

“As Guantánamo enters its fifteenth year of operation, there is a real risk it is becoming a permanent offshore prison for an endless global war. The longer Guantánamo stays open, the more likely it is to become a fixture of U.S. counterterrorism—and a permanent system of American injustice. President Obama has just one year left in office to make good on his commitment to close Guantánamo. His human rights legacy, and that of the nation, are on the line. It won’t be easy, but President Obama can and must come through.” ~ Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security With Human Rights Program

“Guantanamo is a moral disaster zone where the U.S. tortured people and continues to hold people without charge or trial, some for more than a decade. It would be a grave sin and a national disgrace for President Obama to leave office without closing Guantanamo.” ~ Rev. Ron Stief, executive director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture

“Guantanamo is the bitter legacy of the vengeful over-reaction to 9-11. A politics of fear and Islamophobia still rage. The United States can never truly embrace human rights, the rule of law, and its own democratic values so long as Guantanamo remains open. Obama doesn’t get points for trying to close the prison. Either he gets it done this year, or adds to his disgrace on this issue. ~ Mason Otaibi, Witness Against Torture

“It’s now or never. Seven years after he promised to close Guantanamo within a year, President Obama now has just one year left to make sure that a failure to close the prison, as promised, is not part of his legacy. There must be no more excuses. Guantanamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and every day it remains open poisons the U.S.’s claims to be a nation that respects the rule of law.” ~ Andy Worthington, CloseGuantanamo.org



Daily Update – Day 7 of the Fast for Justice

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Our community in DC continues to grow as we prepare to mark January 11th, the beginning of Guantanamo’s 15th year. As you read through this update, please watch and share the videos linked – like this one filmed in Union Station — inspired by the words of Mohammed Al-Hamiri, held captive in Guantanamo for 14 years.

Morning Reflection

We began our day with reflections and discussions about what we’ve been doing here in DC and where we want our work to go. The sense of sense of community and focus remained strong as we entered our final full day of fasting.

Frida Berrigan led the morning reflection, giving a personal and close telling of both the first WAT trip to Guantanamo in 2005 and the most recent trip this past November. Frida focused on the importance and centrality of creating rituals and nurturing community – and spoke of the creation of ritual serving to recognize and hold both beauty & horror. The reflection ended with the community in DC speaking a litany of resistance that was used a few months ago by the community in Cuba.

Action Planning & January 11th

We had some time to debrief our time yesterday with Comfort Oludipe, Darlene Cain, and Marion Gray-Hopkins – mothers from the DC and Baltimore areas whose sons had been killed by police officers. (You can WATCH & SHARE a video of a poem Frank shared at the vigil and LISTEN and HEAR the voice of Comfort Oludipe)

Our discussion focused on improving our connections to the Black Lives Matter community in the Baltimore/DC area. There was a general concern that we, who are mostly white, need to hone in on our own consciousness related to white supremacy and to take responsibility for working with other white people – a crucially important conversation for our community to be engaging.

In the afternoon we continued planning and preparing for January 11th, when we will join among a coalition of human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, and members of diverse faith communities to mark the beginning of the 15th year of Guantanamo.

The coalition is calling on the Obama administration in its last, crucial year in office, to close Guantánamo and end indefinite detention. There are demonstrations planned in many cities, including a London gathering outside the US Embassy led by 7 former British men who had been in Guantanamo, and including Shaker Aamer who was freed in October 2015 after being incarcerated for 14 years and ex prisoner Jihad Dhiab (aka Abu Wa’el Dhiab) will demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay.

Evening Panel – Visions of Home: Close Guantanamo!

This evening, we all walked over to the Impact Hub for a report back about recent Cuba delegations by WAT and Code Pink, an update on Guantanamo from Andy Worthington and Aliya from CCR, and a performance by the Peace Poets.

The evening included this powerful piece – written by Enmanuel Candelario when we were outside the perimeter of the base in November.

Our evening closed with a new song – written by Luke Nephew specifically for our action on January 11 at the White House.

We hear a beautiful sound
It is the breaking of chains
We see a path of hope
We have found the way

Let them go home
Let them go home
Let them go home
Let them go today


Daily Update – Days 5 & 6 of the Fast for Justice

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Good news as reported in the Miami Herald:

A Kuwaiti jet early Friday departed from the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with a freed captive…leaving 104 war-on terror prisoners in the remote detention center…

Fayez al Kandari, 38, was held at Guantánamo as Detainee 552 since May 2002.

Although a war court prosecutor at one point prepared a case against him, he was never formally charged with a crime.

Days 5 & 6 of the Fast for Justice

Our group is now about 70 people strong. As we fast and plan our actions, we are buoyed by our growing community and determination to raise our voices in public.

*if you are in DC, please join us Sunday Night for

Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantanamo!

Day 5 – @ the White House

We joined the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker at their weekly White House vigil, and took over the space in front of the White House with street theater & song.  Our presence was focused on the words of Mohammed Al-Hamiri.  One faster remarked how “it was striking, poetic and sad — very much so, as Mohammed’s words led us into his suffering, the injustice, the individual struggle for his very life, his spirit not to lose hope.”

Please WATCH & SHARE this short video of our time at the White House. 

Day 6 @ the CIA and Metropolitan Police Headquarters

At the CIA

This morning, we went to join the Pax Christi vigil at the CIA, walking single file down a busy road on a cold damp day to the gate of the compound, we were led in song, and when arrived at the gates, we lined up along the road in our orange prison suits and black hoods, holding signs: “Close Guantanamo,” “Force Feeding,” “Is This Who We Are?” Some of us walked onto the median to make our presence more visible to passing traffic.

For an hour or so, we stood vigil while speakers and singers highlighted the reasons we were there – the men in Guantanamo, of course, but also the U.S. aggressions in the Middle East that led to their imprisonment. The torture and the targeted drone assassinations.  There were a number of supportive car honks as the traffic whizzed by.

Afterwards, we were invited for refreshments to the local Langley Quaker Meeting house. There were some delicious looking goodies, but we fasters stuck to the hot apple cider, tea, and coffee. We were warmed by the generous and caring people providing us with the hospitality.

At Metropolitan Police Headquarters (MPD)

We came back from the CIA just in time for our vigil at to conduct another vigil at MPD, where the DC Central Cellblock is also located.  Our speakers were mothers from the DC and Baltimore areas whose sons had been killed by police officers: Comfort Oludipe, Darlene Cain, and Marion Gray-Hopkins.

The vigil closed with Chris Brandt’s (one of our WAT community) reading a poem he penned in the aftermath of WATs actions last year, and inspired by the mothers of those killed by state violence:

The Mothers

 Because they are mothers.
Because they carried life in their bellies and brought it into this bright world.
Because they lifted their infants and held them and suckled them and cleaned them and fed them.
Because they loved them and scolded them and petted them and raised them up.

Because their children died.
Because their children were killed.
Because their children were shot by police officers.
Because killed by a uniform is still murder.
Because nothing will ever make their children come back.
Because nothing is left of their children but their names and their mothers’ memories.
Because the emptiness that erupted when they heard “Ma’am, your child is deceased” – can never be filled by anything but more emptiness, not even by their screams and their tears.
Because the bullets and beatings that killed their children took away a part of their hearts also.
Because they have begun the long hard job of dying, too long after their children died in a hurry.

Because the ones who took their children’s lives are not even indicted.
Because they were all “tragic occurrences.”
Because they were “unfortunate accidents.”
Because “we are very sorry Ma’am, but we have to move on.”

They do not.
They do not move on.
They do not move at all.
They stand, pillars of salt grief.
They stand in Ferguson, Oakland, Staten Island, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Washington D.C.
They stand everywhere in these Disunited States.

They stand silent and look at us.
Their silence echoes in our skulls.
Their silent eyes ask why we are silent.

Let their names be known.
Wanda Johnson.
Sybrina Fulton.
Lesley McSpadden.
Kadiatou Diallo.
Susan Hunt.
Valerie Bell.
Samaria Rice.
Gwen Carr.
Comfort Oludipe.

Let their names be known.
Let their silence spread silence – amid the noise of t.v. sets, honking horns, yelling and cheering at football games, the crash and clatter of subway trains, the endless commands to buy, buy something, buy anything.
Silent they stand and look at us.
Let the silence spread until we can hear, until we can see, until we resolve that no other mothers must ever again have to bear such pain.

Their silence is the place where song might be born, the echoing cave give birth to melody.
Song of grief since that must be, song of the broken heart, call of trumpet and violin, song of loss, of the entrance to hell, that is their song.
But also songs of love and desire, blue songs and gay songs, another man done gone songs.
And the child’s song of joy, the cradle songs and nursery rhymes, the silly songs in school playgrounds, the angry songs, the lullabyes.
The dancing songs, the rocking hips, ecstatic mouths, the long embrace.

But song.
Always song,
let there be song.
Let their silence fill with song.

[Chris says anyone is free to use this any way you want].

As we walked in a procession back to the church where we staying, we sang the following refrain: “Comrade hold my hand/I know there’s a world worth fighting for/ I know there’s a world worth fighting for.”


Sunday, January 10th: 5pm @ The Impact Hub (419 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor)

Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantanamo!


The Peace Poets will perform. Witness Against Torture and CODEPINK will discuss their most recent trip to Guantanamo bay, Cuba. The Center of Constitutional Rights share the stories of the men they represent in Guantanamo.


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You can find out photos and video of our time together on Flickr and YouTube, as well as Facebook

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Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. If you are able, please donate here: https://www.razoo.com/story/Witness-Against-Torture


Daily Update – Day 4 of the Fast for Justice

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Muhammed Rahim al-Afghani is the last prisoner to have arrived at Guantanamo – in March of 2008, after nearly seven months in secret CIA detention.  Writing to his attorney, he quotes Camus:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence becomes an act of rebellion.” He then wrote, “I AM HERE.”

From ‘Inside Gitmo: America’s Shame’ – Rolling Stone

A moment of Reflection

Our community in DC continues to grow, both in numbers and creativity (and also hunger).  As we entered Day 4 of the fast, our morning reflection focused on recognizing and remembering the men detained in Guantanamo. We began the day by reading the names of the men in a call & response style.  Added to those, we spoke the names of those who could not join us here in DC on our fast, but are still present with us in spirit. The reflection was an important grounding in the reality that our movement is much larger than just those gathered in the circle right now. 

Union Station & The American Psychological Association

Our actions today were inspired and led by the words of Mohammed Al-Hamiri, held captive in Guantanamo for 14 years.

We incorporated Al-Hamiri’s words into a street theatre piece, which we brought to Union Station & to the American Psychological Association (APA). 

As some of our community read Al-Hamiri’s words, we staged one person in an orange jumpsuit and black hood – surrounded by a ‘cage’ made up of four people, representing the Pentagon, the Military, a psychologist, and a Congressperson.  The tableau also incorporated representations of the sun, the moon and stars – which visually represented Al-Hamiri words expressing his feeling that even “the sun abandoned him.”

After processing to and performing at Union Station and the APA, we processed back to First Trinity Church to gather and continue planning.

The Coming Days…

As we move past the mid-point of our time together in DC, there are some events to highlight in the coming days.  If you are in (or around) DC, please join us.

Saturday, January 9th: 7-9pm @ First Trinity Lutheran Church (309 E. St. NW)

Less Than Human: Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo North and the Criminalization of Muslims in the War on Terror

This panel will examine the physical confinement and conditions under which the Muslim body has been held in the War on terror. Further, the discussion will focus on the ways in which Muslims have been criminalized by virtue of their religious and racialized identity and subjected to a separate system of justice. Using specific examples, panelists will speak both to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, and Communication Management Units, two prisons that are notorious for their treatment of Muslim prisoners. Underscoring all of these issues, the panel will also interrogate the degree to which state violence has become law.


Major Raashid Williams, Counsel of Ammar Al-Baluchi;

Abdul Ali (Avon Twitty), Current leader of Dar At-Tawhid Masjid and Former Communication Management Unit prisoner

Dr. Maha Hilal, Executive Director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

Moderator: Darakshan Raja, Program Manager and Helga Herz Organizing Fellow

Sunday, January 10th: 5pm @ The Impact Hub (419 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor)

Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantanamo!

The Peace Poets will perform. Witness Against Torture and CODEPINK will discuss their most recent trip to Guantanamo bay, Cuba. The Center of Constitutional Rights share the stories of the men they represent in Guantanamo.


Daily Update – Days 2 & 3 of the Fast for Justice

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The Pentagon announced today it transferred two Yemeni men — Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby – from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Ghana.
Both men had been in Guantanamo for 14 years. 

105 men remain in the prison. 

Daily Update – Days 2 & 3 of the Fast for Justice

Days 2 & 3 of our fast have now ended, and we write as we enter Day 4.

“If there is no struggle, there is no justice.  –Frederick Douglass quote in the National Portrait Gallery

Action at the National Portrait Gallery

Our second day began with reflection about the idea of home – what do each of us think of when we think of home? 

We spent some time on Day 2 at the National Portrait Gallery’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibit, which features portraits, art and quotes relating to historical activists, movements, and struggles.

Our presence in the gallery – wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods – served to augment the current exhibit of famed justice struggles with a showcase of Guantanamo prisoners.

One of the fasters, Brian Terrell, reflected: “We put the men in Guantanamo in context with the other men and women who have struggled for justice in (and sometimes against) the United States.”

Reflecting on our solemn procession back to First Trinity Church, our home for our time in DC, Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez said this was her first time putting on the orange jumpsuit and black hood.  “As one of the ones in an orange jumpsuit, the isolation, the confusion of the black hood, and the dependency on others, was really moving today.”

The procession was interrupted at one point on the walk by a man who stopped his car to ask what this was all about.  After a brief explanation, he voiced his agreement with closing Guantanamo, and added “shut down all the prisons.”

Fort Dix Five

On the evening of Day 2, many of our community left for Camden NJ, where a court hearing in the case of the Duka Brothers was to take place. 

The Duka brothers received life sentences plus 30 years for their tenuous-at-best role in a government-manufactured “conspiracy” to attack the Fort Dix military base. At their trial in 2008, the government’s own witness (an informant paid to entrap the brothers) conceded that they had never been told about any conversation regarding Fort Dix. But under federal law, in a conspiracy case all associates are considered equally culpable, even if they do not know of the existence of a plan. The Duka brothers were convicted for a plot they literally had never heard of. They are as much victims of Islamophobia as the men in Guantanamo are.

Day 3 began with allies from No Separate Justice and others outside Federal Court in Camden, NJ.  Despite the bitter cold, our group and others stood outside the courthouse for more than 4 hours. We held banners and signs while chanting for the release of the brothers. The Duka brothers’ family showed up to the hearing in large numbers. Only 40 people were allowed to sit in the courtroom, and those seats were mostly filled by family.  

Action in DC

While half of our community was in NJ today, the other half stayed in DC where we woke up at 7am to walk around the neighborhood and tie donated scarves to the street poles.  The scarves were tagged with notes that encouraged those who need a scarf to stay warm to take one.  By 9am, all 75 donated scarves were claimed.  The rest of the day was spent meeting and building towards tomorrow (Thursday’s) action. 


Join Us for a Panel Discussion on Jan 9th

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Less Than Human:  Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo North and the Criminalization of Muslims in the War on Terror

When: 7 to 9pm 

Where: First Trinity Lutheran Church located at 309 E Street NW (Judiciary Square Metro) Washington DC 20001

This panel will examine the physical confinement and conditions under which the Muslim body has been held in the War on terror.  Further, the discussion will focus on the ways in which Muslims have been criminalized by virtue of their religious and racialized identity and subjected to a separate system of justice. Using specific examples, panelists will speak both to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, and Communication Management Units, two prisons that are notorious for their treatment of Muslim prisoners. Underscoring all of these issues, the panel will also interrogate the degree to which state violence has become law.


  • Major Raashid Williams, Counsel of Ammar Al-Baluchi
  • Abdul Ali (Avon Twitty), Current leader of Dar At-Tawhid Masjid and Former Communication Management Unit prisoner 
  • Dr. Maha Hilal, Executive Director, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

Moderator:  Darakshan Raja, Program Manager and Helga Herz Organizing Fellow


An Invitation to DC This January

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You’re invited to join the Witness Against Torture community from January 3-13 to fast, reflect and lift the voices of the men unjustly detained at Guantanamo Bay Prison in the streets of Washington, DC.

January 11th, 2016 marks 14 years of torture and indefinite detention at the prison, as well as President Obama’s 8th year of broken promises. This is our final chance to hold his administration accountable to their promise to release those unjustly detained and close the prison. Right now 107 men remain detained, 48 of whom have been cleared for release and are held without charge or trial.

Let us come together to use our creative energy and direct action to encourage citizens and government officials to see the humanity of the men and call for the closure of the prison.

If you only come for one day, join us for the rally with our coalition partners on January 11th @ 12:30 in front of the white house.

You are also invited to join us from afar. Every year people join us in fasting and organizing actions in their communities.

For more information email witnesstorture@gmail.com.


Update: Photos and More from Cuba

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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:

For up-to-date photos, reports and materials, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. 

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.

Witness Against Torture Activists Look Across the Bay

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.


Democracy Now, teleSUR and Public Seminar on WAT’s Cuba Journey

News // Film

Democracy Now, teleSUR, and Public Seminar have now published articles about our journey to Guantánamo. Read Jeremy Varon’s update below:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

A delegation from Witness Against Torture is gathering in Guantanamo Province in Cuba, in hopes of staging a days-long vigil in protest of the detention camp at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo. I am among that group. Our messages are simple: that the detention camp must close immediately; that GTMO not simply move to the US, by holding men without charge or trial in federal prisons; that the US bring legitimate terror suspects into a proper court system; and that the US military vacate its lease and leave the island of Cuba.

** We hope to generate media from and about our trip. We urge you to keep an eye out for it — read, share, like and post word of our actions — and to keep us and the men at GTMO in your thoughts and prayers. Activities to support our trip, including solidarity fasts and a prayer chain, are being organized by Beth Brockton at brockman.beth@gmail.com. To receive updates, send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com. **

Our trip will coincide with the US holiday of Thanksgiving (which itself papers over the history of Euro-American colonization). On Thanksgiving day we will fast in solidarity with the detained men, some of whom remain on hunger strike and are brutally force fed. Away from our own families, we hope to mark the cruel separation of the prisoners from their loved ones and communities. 48 of them have been cleared for release by the US government itself. None have ever had family visits, despite that the vast majority have been held without charge for more than a decade.

We abhor terrorism. But we know well the terrible things done in the name of combatting it. Guantanamo is the tragic, criminal legacy of the US reaction to 9-11, which the United States has yet to squarely confront. And we are acutely aware of the xenophobia, nativism, and Islamophobia that have raged over the last 10 days. Our hope is to help pierce the prejudice and fear and stand in solidarity with men — many of whom are guilty of nothing — whom much of American society has demonized, and whom our government has persecuted with the pain of physical abuse, mental torment, and open-ended detention.

Last, while we appreciate well-wishes, communication will be spotty and we need to keep our inboxes clear for various things related to our trip

Peace, with Justice

Jeremy Varon with Witness Against Torture