Another artist shines a light on Guantanamo

News // Film

Mohammed el Gharani—one of the youngest detainees in Guantánamo, released without charge in 2009—is featured in Laurie Anderson’s monumental installation Habeas Corpus (2015), now on view at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC. If you can’t experience the powerful hologram in person, see the video titled “2015” to hear El Gharani tell his story.

Our friend Art Laffin has provided us with a transcript below. Here is his introduction. Thanks, Art!

Yesterday, Colleen and I viewed this powerful “Habeus Corpus” exhibit. The main focus of the exhibit is a moving video projection of Mohammed el Gharani offering heart wrenching testimony about his experience in Guantanamo. 

I was able to find on the Hirshhorn web site more background info about the exhibit as well as the transcript of Mohammed’s powerful testimony and did some reformatting to make it more readable (see below). For those of you who won’t be able to personally view this exhibit, I hope this will help give you a deeper appreciation of what this extraordinary exhibit conveys. I hope this exhibit will help more people in the U.S. better understand the horrific crime of Guantanamo and demand its immediate closing. I continue to be ever grateful for all that the WAT community is doing to advocate for the detainees, resist Islamophobia, end the crime of torture and indefinite detention and close Guantanamo.  

In peace, hope and gratitude,

Habeas Corpus 2015 Foam sculpture and projected video (color; sound; 35 min.)
Background:  Captured, imprisoned, and tortured for seven years from the age of fourteen, Mohammed el Gharani was one of the youngest detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The US government accused him of being, among other things, an Al-Qaeda operative in London when he was eleven years old. Yet he had never been outside Saudi Arabia. He was released without charge by a US federal judge in 2009. There was no explanation and no apology.

Wall Text All wall text by the artist Originally commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory, New York Courtesy of the artist Visual description: The darkened gallery contains a video projected on a thirteen-foot white foam sculpture of an armchair with a man seated on it; a mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling; and five wall texts. One of these appears in handwritten script, which reads, “I have chosen to be here virtually because I am not allowed to come to this country and I have some things to say. Mohammed el Gharani.” 

Video Projection
The video projection shows a larger-than-life image of Mohammed el Gharani. El Gharani is a young man with medium-dark skin and cropped black hair. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and sits with a hand in his lap. He is wearing an olive-green short-sleeved shirt, brown khaki pants, and gray and blue sneakers with bright yellow shoelaces. He wears a black watch on his right wrist and a silver ring on his right ring finger. In the gallery, lights pointed at the mirrored ball send moving dots of white light across the walls, carpeted floor, ceiling, and people. 
Sound description: Mohammed el Gharani tells his story, speaking with a slight Arabic accent. 

Full Transcript of Mohammed el Gharani Testimony

Silence–then Mohammed el Gharani speaks:  So, in the prison, it wasn’t allowed to study anything. I mean, no books, no pen, no papers, nothing. So I was trying to learn English. So I had to use soap to write letters every day. Like, three letters every day. So I was in the cell block then, where I had to hide the soap from the shower, bring it back to my cell, and hide it in the, in the room, because if they find it they will take it away, and it will be punishment if they found it. So I had to use the soap on the door, writing the, the ro—the words every day. And, like, three letters a day. Then, you know, when I heard the guards talking, so I asked the brothers who speak English what the meaning in Arabic. So when they tell me the meaning, so I have to write it, and with the meaning. So, you know, I have to write every day, three words at least. So that’s what . . . that’s how I learn English. So, yeah. So I had to put some water on the soap and stick it underneath the door, so when they open the door, they won’t see it. When I come back, I have to take it out and continue. So that’s how, you know, learn English. Yeah. Yeah, you know, when first we got to Guantánamo, it was in [inaudible] so in [inaudible] the guards were insulting us. You know, you know, if the person, even if you don’t understand the language, when he’s talking to you, you know from his face that if he’s insulting or not. So they were using the N word and F word when they are always calling me. And I didn’t know the meaning, so I asked the brothers. That was the, one of the frst words, you know, I learned in Guantánamo. So I had to ask the brothers, you know, “Why, why doesn’t call you . . . why is calling me the N word?” And they say, “Okay, because of this and that.” So now I understand. So anytime when I heard them calling me the N word, I had to prepare a surprise for them, to stop them calling me N word, so. That was one of the, you know, first letters, or first words, yeah. Yeah, it was so nice that so many people send me books when I was there. And a lot of books came, and message from people who were supporting me, to keep me hope . . . to keep my hope up. Um, it was really nice, and I would like to tell them all. So, yeah. Thank you.
Silence–El Gharani Continues Speaking
I was born and grew up in Medina, Saudi Arabia. And, uh, I was working when I was nine years old. I had to, because I had to be able to pay electricity bill and water, too, and support my family. And then when I was fourteen, fifteen years old, someone said, “How long you want to do that? You have to do . . . go education to get better life.” And I know it’s not easy for normal child, fourteen, fifteen years, to travel. But my life wasn’t normal life, so I had to travel, and for better life. So that was how my story begin. So. Yeah, one of the funny story happen when I was in Guantánamo. One of the brothers saw a dream that, uh, he told one of the, I mean, uh, you know, one of the soldiers, one of the people there told him that he saw a dream that submarine come in. People coming in a submarine to release us, to help us escape the prison. So the same day he told them the story, we saw the whole night helicopters and, you know, boats, and the whole night, people, they were looking for this submarine, so we were laughing. It’s one of the funny, funny nights for us. So, yeah. Yeah, well, first I saw the Armory. You know, it’s a nice place, big place, but it’s reminded me that when I was taken to, you know, one of the airplane, when I was going to Guantánamo, and it was, like, similar big hangar. And I didn’t know where am I. So they, when they took us to Guantánamo, the first, let’s say, six months, we didn’t know where we are. Then when we ask everybody, no one giving us answer. We were just guessing. Maybe Bahrain, maybe Oman, because it’s, like some people say the similar weather. But later, you know, somebody say this is Cuba. When I heard Cuba, I was like, where’s Cuba, ’cause I’m not good on geography. So somebody said, “It’s Guantánamo.” “Where’s Guantánamo?” And somebody say, “Okay, this is, you know, Caribbean, you know, close to America.” And I said, “Okay, we in America.” Then I was happy, because America was good justice, ’cause that’s what I know about America. But later, there’s no justice. They said, “There’s no justice for you. There’s no law for you.” So that was, you know, yeah. That’s what happen. After I got released, I was, I start reading about, you know, slavery, and how the thing happened, and I went visit one of the slave port, and I saw the cell, and I saw the prison. The way they were taking people. And I saw the shackles, everything. And it’s like, similar, similar with my story, because they took us, you know, by force, and we didn’t know where we going. The same thing, they didn’t know where they going. And, you know, the shackle they shackled us is a similar shackle. You know, and, uh, it was terrible thing, and you don’t know where you going, and you don’t know why you going. So it was, you know, it was similar thing, and I saw the, the rooms and how the, small the, uh, you know, the room, and there is no way to, you know, to air to come in. So I was thinking, I was like, “Wow, man, this is still happening. I mean, we in . . . we in, like 2000-something, you know, and slavery is still happening, but in a different way, but is still the same thing.” So I was, like, sad, you know? So, yeah. Female voice: Just say one thing. I live in Africa now. El Gharani: Yeah, you know, I’m . . . I’m living in Africa, and I, I moved around, and I saw this, this place, and I was not happy about it, so, yeah. 

Silence–El Gharani Continues Speaking: 
And one of the times they moved me from Camp Delta to Camp Five, which is a new building they built, and the first day, the interrogator told me that “We build this prison for people who never go home. Stay here forever. And one day my grandson will come and interrogate you. And we throw the key inside the ocean.” So, and it was, you know, it was too hard for me. But I really didn’t know that one day I be a free man, and walking by the same ocean he told me he throw the key in, as a free man. So I was sitting and thinking. Yeah, you know, I was in, uh, cell block, and, uh, you know, we had, you know, uh, spraying the last pepper spray, and the [inaudible] team coming up, and the following morning, they said I have to go appointment. So the guards came and took me to the appointment. And I didn’t know that it was the call from the judge from US. And my lawyer called, and he said, “Now, we listening to the court hearing now. And the judge is, uh, called Leon. He will, you know, he will now get in, he will tell us the final decision he made.” So I was like, “Okay,” you know, I was scared, because it’s like, big thing. So I was listening to him, and he was talking, talking. And my mind did . . . went somewhere else. Female voice: Laughs El Gharani continues: ’Cause I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. Then, the end of the call, the guard start jumping. I was like . . . and jumping and happy and crying. And he’s telling me, “He’s releasing you! He said you’re going home!” I was like, “He’s really saying I’m going home?” Then I had to, you know, go down, you know, like we pray, you know, to thank God. That’s it. Then they take me to Camp Iguana. Yeah. So it was wonderful. So, after the judge, the judge, uh, you know, the, the, the release from the judge came out, it was in January 2009. They took me to Camp Iguana, which is, you know, better than the rest, you know, because you have little, little, a little freedom. So from there, I was there, and I was thinking, for the brothers who was still in cell block, and who were still suffering. You know, then I was thinking to call Al Jazeera, or someone outside, to tell them what’s happening, because at that time, Obama just came to the office, and he was saying that everything, you know, fine, and he was gonna close the place, and, you know, the situation now is different. So at the same time, nothing different. I mean, everything get worse. So I was thinking to send a message to the world. And the only way I can do is through the phone call, when I, you know, when, you know, when I try to call family, then I can talk to Al Jazeera. And that’s the only way I can do. So I had . . . I called Al Jazeera, actually. Someone called Tamir [inaudible] who’s one of the brothers who was in Guantánamo with us. So I found him, and I told him what’s happening, you know? That everything is bad, and you know, brothers still suffering and everything. So after I called him, like, one week later, you know, the guards came and called. They told me that colonel wants to see me. And I was like, “Okay.” Then I went there, and he said . . . he was shouting at me. “Why you call Al Jazeera? Why . . . ?” He say, “Why you call people outside, and why you tell people what’s happening here?” I was like, “You know, you’re an idiot. You’re stupid. You know, whatever you’re doing here, it’s gonna go out, sooner or later, because you people are torturing us.” So then, you know, then I start telling him who did, who did this, who did that, and who broke my tooth, who hurt my back, who did this. Then he’s telling me, “Enough, enough.” You know, he doesn’t want me to, to continue. So that was, you know, the Al Jazeera call. 

Silence–El Gharani Continues Speaking:
Yeah, no, Chakir Khan is a really—great man, and I named my, my boy after him. And I met him in a jail, and he’s a really great man, and he’s a very strong brother. And from the day one, he told us to, to stay and unite, and stick together. We can face all the troubles coming to us. So we start from the day one, you know, it’s fighting against the injustice. And he speaks good English, and understand Americans, and understand what’s happening. So he was the . . . I mean, he’s a hero, because that day, from the, from the beginning, when they just open the prison, you know, no, no one can talk. No one can stand up and tell them that what you’re doing is wrong. You know, everybody’s scared. But Chakir, he was telling them that. Even though they take him to cell block, they punished him, they, you know, they start put him in cell block, and, you know, he, he never give up, and he’s telling us that we should stand up and stick together, and, you know, fight against the injustice. So American, they hate him so much, because he’s telling even the guards, explaining to them that, why you doing this, you know, what we have done. So, you know, he’s really nice guy if you know him, but same time, he never give up. He always fighting for our rights, and his rights. So that’s why, you know, we all like him, because he’s our hero. And he always tell us that if someone, you know, try to give us problems, we have to resist back. But if the guards, you know, they are nice, we have to be nice. So what he was telling us was, just make sense. So, you know, to talk about Chakir, you know, I need to talk about him the whole day and night, because we spend so many years together. So that’s why I named my brother . . . my, my boy after him. So, he’s a great brother, and, yeah. So, like I was saying, to talk about Chakir, you know, it’s like, you know, Chakir had lot of great stories, and lot of great actions in, in the prison. So one of them that Chakir was telling me, you know, I should calm down, I should not, you know, cause, you know, problems, and this and that. But if the thing is make sense, and he would do it, you know. For example, they took us to the recreation, I and Chakir. At the same time, but separately, you know? So, and, uh, we didn’t go out for, like, weeks. We didn’t see the sun. We didn’t see the fresh air for weeks. So that day was sunny day, so I, I decide to take my shirt of, because my shirt of, to, you know, to get some sun. So one of the guards told me that I have to put my shirt on, back on. Otherwise he would take me in. So Chakir asked the guards why. You know, we haven’t come out for weeks. So he took his own out, and he said, “Okay, go get the team. You know, we won’t go back. Go bring the six men to take us back for us.” So we had to stay for, like, three hours, you know. The rule is one hour, but we stay for three hours because we refuse to go back, and they were like, you know, they were not sure if they wanna bring the team or not. But the, in the end, after three hours, after the sun is gone, Chakir say, “Now, put it, put it back on.” And he put his own back on. Now he said, “If they come, we go, because, you know, we got, we got the point.” You know, the sad thing is, Chakir is still there, you know? So . . . Fourteen, I think. Fourteen years. Sounds of crying; silence El Gharani continues: As-salamu alaykum, everyone. My name is Mohammed el Gharani, and welcome, everybody, and nice to meet you. At first when I saw the Armory pictures, I was like, it’s the same place when they took me to the airplane hangar, it was a big hangar, and I didn’t know where am I, and from there they took me to, you know, uh, Gitmo. It was all confusion. You don’t know where you going. And when I get to Guantánamo, the first interrogator, you know, I asked him, I was like, “Where is my lawyer?” You know? He said that “You are here, and, you know, no lawyer for you here.” I was like, “Why?” you know? He said, “This is not America.” But I said, “You are American interrogator, and you are American people, and American army. So how I can get a lawyer?” He said, “This is not American land. That’s why.” So I was like, “Okay.” And, uh, you know, I told him the example of the Saturday fishing for the Jewish, when God said you can’t have fish on Saturday. They fish on Friday, they send the net on Friday, they collect the fishing on Sunday, and they said, “We didn’t fish on Saturday.” So God punish them anyway, because, you know, they play with the law. 

Wall Text: Defnition ha·be·as cor·pus \ˈhā-bē-əs-ˈkȯr-pəs\ noun 1: Latin for “you should have the body”; 2: an order to the prison from the court to produce the body for trial; 3: protection against unlawful imprisonment. 

Quote in Mohammed’s handwriting
“I have chosen to be here virtually because I am not allowed to come to this country and I have some things to say.”—Mohammed el Gharani 

“Habeas corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything that is not law, whatever shape it may assume.”—Thomas Jeferson, 1798

 “The practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.”—Alexander Hamilton, 1778 Habeas Corpus
Between October 2 and 4, 2015, an image of El Gharani was beamed live from West Africa into the drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Today El Gharani is still stateless.—Laurie Anderson, 2021

The Habeus Corpus Exhibit Will Be on Display at the Hirshorn Museum Until July 31, 2022.


WAT marked 20 years of Guantanamo with rallies around the country

Fast for Justice 2022 // Film

A warm hello, Witness Against Torture Community,
We have our work cut out for us, since President Biden appears to be immobilized when it comes to Guantanamo.  But we still resisted and we hope you enjoy these photos of WAT witness actions across the country on January 11, watch the videos of events you missed, and gear up for a year of raising our voices to demand that this administration close Guantanamo.   In peace and solidarity,
WAT Organizing Team 

On January 11 we were in the streets from coast to coast
….and witnessing in Tiffin, OH, Los Angeles, CA, Raleigh, NC, Greenfield, MA, Asheville, NC, Orcas Island, WA, New York City, Augusta, ME, Boston, MA, and at the White House.  Check out WAT’s post-J11 Facebook posts of photos and our 2022 Fast for Justice photoset on our website. Here is a sampling…

News stories about local rallies

J11 videos to watch if you missed the events

WAT Book Group to discuss Maha Hilal’s new book

Dr. Maha Hilal, one of our WAT organizers, has just published her book Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11 Maha’s hot off-the-press book analyzes the past 20 years of the War on Terror and how the US government’s narrative justified the creation of a sprawling apparatus of state violence rooted in Islamophobia.  

WAT Book Group 
What:   Reading and discussing Dr. Maha Hilal’s book together. (In December we discussed Mansoor Adayfi’s book Don’t Forget Us Here.)   

When: Tuesdays, February 1, 8, 5 and 22 at 7 pm ET
To  join us, Email with subject “Maha Hilal Book Group.”  We have complementary copies to send to the first two people who sign up.


January 2022: Events marking 20 years of Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2022 // Film

Close Guantanamo Rallies at the White House and virtual

• At noon local residents will stand with the men in Guantanamo, reading their names, singing, and calling out President Biden to give them justice (livestream on our Facebook page)

• At a 2 pm virtual rally we’ll hear a former Guantanamo prisoner, legal experts and activists speak about the the terrible human costs of these past 20 years. Register here.

White House Rally for local residents

President Biden: Why is Guantanamo still open?
20 Years Later and Still No Justice

Tuesday January 11, 2022
Noon to 1 pm ET

*People are being encouraged not to come to DC from out of town because of the Omicron surge. The rally will be livestreamed on our Facebook page.
*Local residents will gather at 11:30 am ET in Lafayette Park; the rally begins on Pennsylvania Ave at noon.
*Please be vaccinated and wear a mask to participate.
*Bring your orange jump suit and hood if you have one; if not, we’ll have one for you.

20th Anniversary 2 pm Virtual Rally

What: Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo 
Register here.
When: January 11, 2022 at 2 pm ET.

WAT Stay-at-home Fast for Justice with two Zoom gatherings

When: We will fast from Friday January 7 through Monday Jan 10.  We’ll meet by Zoom on Friday and on Monday, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, both nights.  To join us, email with subject line “Fast Jan 2022” to get more information and the Zoom link.
What: We have WAT stalwarts in our midst who have fasted every Friday for years, in a Ramadan-style fast, not eating from before sundown until after sunset.  However, for most of us this will be a liquids-only fast. Choose what’s best for you, in this year when we are each fasting alone. (And this is a WAT fast:  you don’t have to fast to join us!)

A conversation between Mansoor Adayfi and James Yee

What: Remembering Guantanamo: Reflections from a Former Muslim Prisoner & the Former Muslim Chaplain, moderated by Dr. Maha Hilal
When: Sunday January 9 at 4 pm ET, 10 pm Serbia time. 

Other vigils around the country

Boston, MA
Boston Rally at Park St Station
Jan. 11, 1-2pm.
Will distribute stash of Close Guantánamo t-shirts, signs, orange jumpsuits and black hoods. 
Expected to be very cold (around 10 degrees) so dress accordingly.  
Come prepared to speak if you like.  

Augusta, Maine (Date change)

What: Maine says “Shut it down”  —Vigil and walk to mark the 20th year since the opening of the Guantánamo Bay
Who: Pax Christi Maine
When: Tuesday, January 15, 2022 at noon ET
Where: We will vigil in front of the Augusta National Guard Armory, at the intersection of Route 202 and Armory Street, and then process to the Capitol.

Tiffin, Ohio
What: Close Guantanamo Rally: 20 years – Still No Justice
When: Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at 3 to 4 pm ET
Where: Seneca County Courthouse, 103 E. Market St., Tiffin, OH 44883
Who: Tiffin Area Pax Christi

Los Angeles, CA (2 events)
What: Annual Close Guantanamo Now Rally
In-person event, streamed live on Facebook. Speakers include Mohammad Tajsar of the ACLU of Southern California, Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, Carley Towne of Code Pink, Shane Que Hee of Out Against War, Shakeel Syed of American Muslims for Palestine, Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace
Who: Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), co-sponsored by WAT
When: Tuesday Jan 11 at noon PT
Where: Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building at 300 N. Los Angeles St. 90012 (in front of the building)
What: Online panel discussion featuring, among others, film maker Philippe Diaz, member of the Guantanamo Bar Michael Rapkin, and Marcy Winograd of Code Pink
When: Tuesday Jan 11 at 5 pm PT

Greenfield, MA
Two events hosted by No More Guantanamos and local WAT activists
Saturday, January 8, 11 a.m. to 12:00 noon
stand out on Greenfield Town Common with signs

Tuesday, January 11, starting at noon, meet at the common with signs (and instruments if you have them).  We plan to walk up and down Main Street.  Those with orange jumpsuits will wear them.

Northampton, MA
Radio talk show:
On Jan. 10 and 11, tune in to WHMP radio from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for Buz Eisenberg’s afternoon show, “Afternoon Buz.” Buz is devoting both shows to Guantanamo. Next Monday, he will host special guest Ramzi Kassem, who with his students at the City University of New York, has represented 15 Guantanamo prisoners. On Tuesday, Buz will talk with Pioneer Valley activists.

Asheville, North Carolina
Join WAT and Veterans for Peace, Asheville Chapter #099, as they vigil at Asheville Pack Square on January 11, 4:30-5:30 pm.

Raleigh, North Carolina
What: Close Guantanamo Vigil to commemorate 20 years since the opening of Guantánamo prison
Who: North Carolina Stop Torture Now
When: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Where: The Federal Building at New Bern Avenue and Person Street in Raleigh: Please bring a mask to wear.  If you have a black hood, that’s even better.  Orange jumpsuits are also very welcome.  Please come and bring family and friends

Orcas Island, Washington
What: Activists in a remote town on Orcas Island, a stones-throw from Canada, will witness in orange jump suits against the injustice of Guantanamo.  
When: January 11, 2022
Where: Eastsound WA, on the roadside, in synch with ferry arrival traffic, or at the main street intersection.

20th Anniversary 2 pm Virtual Rally
What: Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo 
Register here.
When: January 11, 2022 at 2 pm ET 

New York City
Close Guantanamo Now! 20 Years Too Long!

What: Join us January 11 to demand Close Guantanamo Now 
Who: The World Can’t Wait
When: Tuesday January 11, 2022 from 4 to 6 pm ET
Where: New York Public Library steps, 5th Avenue @ 41st Street

Cleveland, OH
Witness to Close Guantanamo
When: Tuesday, Jan 11th, 3 pm to 4 pm (Gather at 2:45)
Where: Cleveland Federal Building (at E. 9th & Lakeside)

Who: Cleveland Catholic Worker

And many more Events in January

CAGE invites you to join what is set to be one of the LARGEST GATHERINGS OF FORMER GUANTANAMO PRISONERS.  Join men who have not only survived Guantanamo but also continue to embody faith and resilience and have tirelessly worked towards its closure. 
When: 8th January 6:30pm GMT – 1:30pm EST


Reparations Now and Onwards: Voices of Survivors, Advocates, and Next Steps
Online panel on Guantanamo as an extra-legal prison
When:  Sat, January 8, 2022 from noon to 2 pm ET
Who: DePaul Art Museum with The Tea Project observes 20 years of Guantánamo as an extra-legal prison and the 7 years since the passage of the Jon Burge reparations ordinance, the first and only of its kind in the United States. Survivors of Chicago police torture have received reparations inChicago; reparations for Guantanamo torture survivors will be discussed on this panel. 

Exhibition at DePaul Art Museum
What: Tea, Torture, & Reparations/Chicago to Guantanamo
The exhibition highlights connections between policing and incarceration in Chicago and the human rights violations of the “Global War on Terror.” It celebrates the struggle for survival, justice, and reparations by imprisoned people, activists, and artists.  Exhibition catalogue will include testimony from CCR and photos from WAT events.
When: March 10–August 7, 2022

Amnesty International Multiple Educational and Action Events 
What: Action Guide: Outreach to members, especially youth: Call/message to the White House; Poster contest for youth; Quiz for young people
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 2022

DC Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Clarification of Thought
What: The Crime of Guantanamo: Session by Attorney Mark Maher, who works with Reprieve, is counsel to 6 men in Guantanamo Prison, and worked on Reprieve US’s death penalty casework.
When: Fri Jan 7 at 7:30 pm ET
Where: 503 Rock Creek Church Rd NW, Washington DC 20010, 202 882 9649

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) Webinar
What: Rupture and Reckoning: 20 years of Guantánamo Anthology and Digital Art Exhibition Launch
Panelists: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, former Guantánamo detainee; Katherine Gallagher, CCR; Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR.  ECCHR will be launching a digital art exhibition and anthology, which includes contributions from current and former detainees, lawyers, advocates, and artists.
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 11 am to 1 pm ET 

Center for Constitutional Rights Webinar
What: Guantánamo, Off the Record: 20 Years in the Fight
Speakers: Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager; Katherine Gallagher, Omar Farah, and Wells Dixon, Senior Staff Attorneys;  Moderated by Vincent Warren, Executive Director.  Candid reflections on two decades of work: Lawyers and advocates will share stories that didn’t always make the headlines, but that helped define the ongoing struggle to close the forever prison.
When: Wednesday, Jan 12, 3 to 4:30 pm ET

National Religious Campaign Against Torture Webinar
What: Guantanamo 20 Years on: A Religious Perspective
Hosted by The Episcopal Church and National Religious Campaign Against Torture 
Speakers: Dr. Shaun Casey, Georgetown University; The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church; Matt Hawthorne, NRCAT
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 3 pm ET

Book Launch: Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11
What: Join Dr. Maha Hilal for the official launch of her book “Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 25th, 2022 at 7 pm ET
Where: Gov Hub 
Pre-order the book
In “Innocent until Proven Muslim,” scholar and organizer Dr.Maha Hilal tells the powerful story of two decades of the War on Terror, exploring how the official narrative has justified the creation of a sprawling apparatus of state violence rooted in Islamophobia and excused its worst abuses. Hilal offers not only an overview of the many iterations of the War on Terror in law and policy, but also examines how Muslim Americans have internalized oppression, how some influential Muslim Americans have perpetuated collective responsibility, and how the lived experiences of Muslim Americans reflect what it means to live as part of a “suspect” community. Along the way, this marginalized community gives voice to lessons that we can all learn from their experiences, and to what it would take to create a better future.
Twenty years after the tragic events of 9/11, we must look at its full legacy in order to move toward a United States that is truly inclusive and unified.
#InnocentUntilProvenMuslim #EndIslamophobia #WarOnTerror 




WAT Fast during June Torture Awareness Week

In Focus - Front Page // Film


We invite you to join WAT’s Torture Awareness Week Fast (June 21-26).  We will be fasting in our homes in deference to the still unvanquished pandemic. Fast for a day or two or for all five days, and meet with us on Zoom for mutual support on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday morning.  Our purpose is to use our own bodies to deepen our understanding of the U.S. use of torture, especially against the Muslim men locked in Guantanamo. Read our Thoughts on Fasting.

If you would like to join us, please send an email to with “RSVP for Fast” in the subject line: you’ll receive the Zoom link and tips on fasting safely.  Below are actions to take and other Torture Awareness Week events.

Press release: Torture Awareness Week — WAT June 2021 Press Release

Menu of Actions to Take During the Week

Choose the actions that are meaningful to you. Even if you decide not to fast, you can still join in taking concrete actions to oppose torture and support torture survivors. Keep checking back for details: list is in progress!

-Write to the men in Guantanamo: Names and instructions are here.

-Email/call Congresspersons:  This week, call or email your representative and Senators telling them you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo, and why.  Urge them to press the administration to clear and release detainees and close Guantanamo. Find your members: House, Senate

-Email/call President Biden: Tell President Biden why you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo and urge him to act more quickly to empty the prison and close it. Email:  Call: 202-456-1111

-Vigil in your home town:  Make a sign stating your own demand and stand on a busy street corner for an hour.  Ask your friends to join you, but even a one-person vigil can have an impact.  

-Write a letter to your home town paper: Use your own words or draw on some of the ideas in this Sample Letter to the Editor . Draw on the stark facts as reasons to close Guantanamo. Your viewpoint counts, especially in your own community!  

Watch The Mauritanian, the film about former Guantanamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi, starring Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim.  Now available online for only $5.99.  Watch it yourself, or organize a group of friends to view it together!  


Keep checking back for what other groups are doing: the list is in progress!
(And send us your local anti-torture and close Guantanamo actions and events to post.)

–WAT Fast

Monday, June 21 – WAT Fast Begins: Zoom circle at 8 pm ET (Send email to with “RSVP to fast” in subject line for Zoom link)

Wednesday, June 23 – WAT Fast Zoom circle at 8 pm ET

Saturday, June 26 – 11 am WAT Fast Zoom circle and breaking of fast

–TASSC online conference – The Asylum Crisis in the US

Wednesday, June 23 –  Info and Zoom sign-up here.

–Close Guantanamo Vigil Livestream 

Saturday, June 26, 2 pm – We will livestream a WAT Close Guantanamo Vigil in Lafayette Park, Washington DC. 

Torture Awareness Week is the lead-up to June 26, the International UN Day of Support for Victims of Torture — a day that WAT has traditionally observed in conjunction with TASSC: Torture Abolition and  Survivors Support Coalition.  TASSC was founded in 1998 by Sister Dianna Ortiz after she was captured and brutally tortured while teaching in the highlands of Guatemala.  Upon her return to the U.S. she fasted in front of the White House demanding information about U.S. involvement in her torture.  Tragically, this courageous woman, who not only survived kidnapping and torture but used the experience to become a voice for torture victims everywhere  died of cancer February 19 at the age  of 62.  We miss her greatly.  Dianna, Presente!

In the early years of WAT we gathered in June to vigil in solidarity with torture survivors at the TASSC vigil in Lafayette Square, donning orange jump suits and protesting nonviolently.

This year a small group of WAT and other local activists will hold a vigil in Lafayette Square at 2 pm Saturday June 26, to read the names of the 40 Muslim men in Guantanamo.  Watch it live-streamed at

–Buffalo, NY
Silent Vigil for UN “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”

Saturday, June 26, 2021 from 6 to 7 pm at University Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of Main Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard, Buffalo (across from UB Main Street Campus).
All are welcome to bear living witness to Micah 6:8 through peaceful action.

–Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Events

June 29 – July 2, Supreme Court Washington, DC

Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Fast and Vigil   
Death penalty abolitionists from around the country will gather for the 28th year at the steps of the Supreme Court to call for an end to capital punishment in the United States.


–Online donations: Click here.

–By check:  Please make your check out to Witness Against Torture and send it to:

New York Catholic Worker
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third Street
New York, NY 10003





Lobby Congress about Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

We encourage you to contact your Congress members on or around the anniversary of Guantanamo on January 11 to encourage them to:

·      close Guantanamo in a just and quick manner,

·      charge or release remaining prisoners,

·      allow for transfers to US for trial or medical needs,

·      reopen the State Dept. resettlement office.

Check if your member of Congress is a member of one of these committees. If not, you may contact the chair of each committee. Find membership and contact info at the following links. House Armed Services: Chair-Adam Smith House Foreign Affairs: Chair-Gregory Meeks Senate Foreign Relations: Ranking Dem-Robert Menendez Senate Armed Services: Ranking Dem-Jack Reed

Find the contact information for your members of Congress at the following links:

Background reading: Toward a New Approach to National and Human Security: Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention


Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

Jan. 6, 2021

Join Us to Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

It worked! In December, human rights groups helped to block torture apologist Mike Morell from being nominated to lead the CIA. The groups circulated this letter detailing Morell’s lies about torture and contempt for the rule of law. The letter was signed by many torture survivors, including former Guantanamo detainees Mohamedou Slahi, Mozzam Begg, and Djamel Ameziane.

Now we are working to prevent Avril Haines from being appointed as Director of National Intelligence. We need you to take action!

Action Alert: NO on Haines for Director of National Intelligence

Please join CODEPINK, Witness Against Torture, Progressive Democrats of America, Roots Action and World Beyond War in urging Senators to VOTE NO on torture apologist and drone strike authorizer Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence.  

Haines, Deputy Director of the CIA under Obama, signed off on drone murders and co-wrote the guidelines that blurred the difference between enemy combatants and civilians. She also redacted the Senate report on torture from 6,000 pages to a 500-page summary, covering up the CIA’s crimes. In addition, she overruled the CIA Inspector General in failing to discipline CIA agents who hacked into the computers of Senate investigators. So we’re calling Senators to insist that they vote no on Haines.

See the script and contact information below:


Hi, my name is ____________ and I’m calling from zip code ___________ to urge Senator __________ to vote NO on the nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines signed off on drone strikes that made us less safe, suppressed evidence of CIA torture and failed to discipline agents who hacked into the computers of investigators. 

No on Haines!  Thank you.

Contact Info for all US Senators (Write your senator, too.)

Call and leave a message for Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader

(202) 224-6542

Senate Intelligence Committee Members

Democrats & Independent

Mark Warner (D-VA, Ranking Member)


Angus King (I-Maine)


Martin Heinrich (D-NM)


Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)


Michael Bennet


Kamala Harris (D-CA, urge her to let Biden know that activists are calling members of the Senate Intell Committee to publicly object to Morell for CIA)



Marco Rubio(R-FL, Ranking Member)


Richard Burr (R-NC)


James Risch (R-ID)


Susan Collins (R-Maine)


Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)

202-224-5721 (only takes calls during business hours)

Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska)


Tom Cotton (R-AK)


John Cornyn (R-TX)


For more on Haines see:

“Senators Must Reject Haines for National Intelligence”

by Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd

“The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director”

by John Kiriakou

2021 Fast for Justice: Join us from home

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

2021 Week of Action: January 11 – 15
19 Years of Guantanamo. Shut it down!

See the week’s schedule below. RSVP for these virtual events, gatherings, and actions from wherever you are!

Let’s renew our commitment to the 40 Muslim men still imprisoned in Guantanamo and the hundreds of others who suffered years of torture and abuse behind the prison’s walls.

January 11 anniversary events

Fast for Justice Circles: Monday – Friday

  • January 11-15: Zoom Circles at 8 pm ET each night to support us in our fasting and/or action. Fasting is a personal choice.
    RSVP to receive the Zoom link.

    Circles will be like our gatherings in DC: opening with centering music, a reflection, a topic or theme, checking in with each other and sharing around the circle.

    Monday, J11: WAT history – Discussion with Frida Berrigan and Matt Daloisio
    Tuesday, J12: The US “War on Terror” – Discussion and video with Maha Hilal
    Wednesday, J13: Executions and State/Police Violence – Discussion with Art Laffin
    Thursday, J14: Witnessing Against Atrocities – Discussion with Mark Colville, Kings Bay Plowshares 7
    Friday, J15: Celebrating Our Community Resilience – Celebration with Peace Poets (Lumi and LuAya)

Daily Solidarity Action Menu

Local Vigils Nationwide

In addition to these vigils, check your local happenings (let us know about others to add:  
  • January 11: Upper NY Veterans for Peace/ Western Massachusetts Peace Action. 
  • January 11 at 10 AM PT: Interfaith Community for Justice and Peace webinar in Los Angeles:
  • January 11 at noon to 1 PM ET: No More Guantanamos vigil, Commons, Greenfield MA.
  • January 11 at 1:30-2:30 PM: No More Guantanamos vigil, Downtown Northampton, MA.
  • January 11 at 4:00 PM: Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of Delaware and Kenwood Avenues (the five corners) in Delmar.
  • January 15 at noon: Schenectady Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.

Last but not least, here are some Fasting Tips 2020!

Please join us!

In peace and solidarity, 
Helen, Josie, Maha, Jeremy and Richard for the WAT Organizing Team



Martin Gugino – The “Buffalo Protestor” and our Friend

In Focus - Front Page // Film


Buffalo News | October 7, 2020

‘I’m good. The city is not good’: Man pushed by police speaks at protest


June 9, 2020

CONTACT: Matthew Daloisio, 201-264-4424


Trump callously lied this morning on Twitter about Witness Against Torture’s friend and fellow activist, Martin Gugino – the 75-year-old elder who was shoved to the ground and stepped over by the Buffalo police force while protesting the death of George Floyd. WAT organizer Jeremy Varon has written the following op-ed, exposing the person Martin really is and what is truly at stake in this moment.

Martin Gugino — The “Buffalo Protestor” and our Friend
By Jeremy Varon

I too reacted with horror at seeing the video of a 75-year-old man bleeding from the head after being shoved to the ground by Buffalo police. My stomach turned tighter when I realized, “Wait, I know that guy.”  And now the president has tweeted about him, spinning the grotesque falsehood that his fall and terrible injury were somehow a set up.

The man is Martin Gugino. For years we worked together in Witness Against Torture, a close-knit group dedicated to closing the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo and opposing torture. Our community is beside itself.

None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an “agitator,” as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.

The video of Martin is already part of the iconography of our times, in which every disturbing visual seems a metaphor for something bigger. Eulogizing George Floyd, Reverend Al Sharpton used the image of the policeman’s knee on his neck as a symbol for centuries of anti-black oppression.

Each video clip of police brutalizing protesters points to a much larger system of law enforcement abuse, endemic in communities of color. I saw in my friend’s vulnerability and the scene surrounding him other meanings as well, useful for understanding our troubled society.

A galling aspect of the video is how rows of officers strut indifferently past an aged man lying still and wounded, as if dead. It made me think of the tens of thousands of elder Americans needlessly lost to Covid-19 and the callous disregard shown them by the Trump administration. Its catastrophic response to the virus has entailed the seemingly willful sacrifice of our seniors to Trump’s strongman fantasy of a virile nation. Shove the old, decrepit people out of the way. Step over them. Don’t help them. They were going to die anyway.

Covid-19 is as well an infuriating story of race, with Blacks greatly more likely to die from the virus than whites. The death of Black seniors — often in poorer health and homed in under-resourced facilities — feeds that disproportion.

The shared root of the twin crisis of Covid-19 and racism is the stunning disposability of certain lives in America, no matter its capacities and ideals. The difficult lesson of the current protest movement is to think about that failure in a new way. The police have not lapsed in their mission to serve and protect. For many communities, the police are built to dominate and abuse. Our health care system has not failed to keep us healthy. It is designed to keep only some of us healthy, while lining corporate pockets.

Martin’s abuse signals as well the perverse priorities of our current government. Among the state’s solemn obligations is to protect the lives and well-being of its people.  So too, it must protect the nation’s ideals. For America, the true meaning of “national security” must be the defense of life and liberty.  And yet, rather than tirelessly working to mitigate the virus and safeguard our freedoms, the Trump administration has declared the urgent need to rid public space of the people exercising basic rights. Like in Buffalo, police departments have gotten the message.

My last thoughts about the video are linked to the anti-torture activism Martin and I shared. In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as “torture.” It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.  

For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to US courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label “terrorist.” Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that president Trump is an avowed supporter of torture. His former lawyer John Dowd wrote a bizarre letter, tweeted out by Trump, describing the peaceful protestors cleared from Lafayette Park as “terrorists.” Trump’s own tweet branding Martin as a member of “Antifa” is of a piece with this nonsense that uses baseless fears to justify repression.

Such rhetoric makes an enemy of the American people, threatening to sic on them the tactics of the War on Terror. It seems, as yet, more a sign of desperation than strength — like heavily armored police pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground and the President lying about it. Martin will get up, god-willing, and be back on the streets. The more of us who are there, the more pitifully desperate and disarmed those opposing the tides of change will become.

Jeremy Varon – Professor of History, The New School

Photos by: Justin Norman,