Jeremy Varon’s remarks at NYC protest

News // Film

Remarks on Guantanamo and Empire Jeremy Varon

Delivered at a protest in New York City on January 11, 2023


We gather today to call for the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, stupefied and infuriated that we are still gathering to demand that it at last close. The story of our protest today is the persistence of our protest, now for decades.

Our presence is grounded in the enduring shame of Guantanamo itself, and our stubborn insistence on hope against hope, for the sake, above all, of the men still held there. We will not abandon them.

On this grim anniversary let me reflect on what Guantanamo has been, what it came to represent, and what I think it now is.

From its first day of operation, Guantanamo was a place of the savage abuse of human beings, demonized by means of false accusation and religious and racial bigotry. Just this morning in The Guardian newspaper, Mansoor Adayfi recounted that torment:

I was 19 when I was sent to Guantánamo. I arrived in February 2002, blindfolded, hooded, shackled, beaten. When soldiers removed my hood, all I saw were cages filled with orange figures. I had been tortured. I was lost and afraid and confused. I didn’t know where I was or why I had been taken there. I didn’t know how long I would be imprisoned or what would happen to me. No one knew where I was. I was given a number and became suspended between life and death.

With modest variation, his experience is the experience of all the men who have passed through, or remain, in the camp.

Fortunately, people in this country and all over the world were horrified by what they learned of Guantanamo in the early 2000s. In courtrooms and in the streets they called out U.S. torture and called for Guantanamo to close.

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005, at the height of the War on Terror, when 25 Americans went on a pilgrimage to Cuba to fast, pray, and protest outside the US naval base in solidarity with the detained men. Their conscience was called by the extreme threats to life and dignity at the prison.

But their action was based also on a strategic assumption: that closing Guantanamo was a winnable issue — indeed the low-hanging fruit among the demands of a mass antiwar movement, arrayed against a war-mongering, but faltering, American president. The lawlessness and immorality were so egregious, the condemnation all over the world was so severe. Surely the combined force of the courts, public opinion, geopolitical pressure, and the defiance of the detained men themselves would reel America back from this darkest pocket of the dark side. Thereafter, much of the work was to make the detained men subjects before the law, entitled to due process, and able to win their release by challenging their detention.

Guantanamo, in short, was assailed as a terrible, but reversible, extreme of the already awful War on Terror.

That era of campaigning achieved apparent victory with Obama’s day one promise to close the prison. But Obama abandoned his own pledge. Courts clawed back hard-won rights, while some in congress demagogued the issue, appealing to the same fear-mongering and Islamophobia that drove the Bush era War on Terror. “Broken Laws, Broken Lives, Broken Promise” was Witness Against Torture’s signature slogan for the Obama era.

Only by the tenacious resistance of the detained men, their attorneys, and global advocates was the population of the prison brought down. Surviving Obama’s tenure, Guantanamo was now a symbol of feckless capitulation, shameful liberal tolerance of the intolerable, and the enduring power of the national security state to defy or gerrymander the law.

Guantanamo, thank heavens, never quite captured Trump’s dark imagination, and his threats to fill the prison anew never materialized. Largely forgotten, Guantanamo was nonetheless during his regime a shadowy echo of all things Trump: the demonization of the foreign, dark skinned other; wanton lawlessness and deliberate cruelty; lies, big and small; and the deep assault on purported, American democratic values. During Trump’s reign, people of good conscience worked mostly to defend U.S. society and its institutions from the assault, now internal, often visited by the United States on foreign peoples.

So what is Guantanamo now, two years into another liberal presidency, whose official policy is again to close the prison. As we have heard today, a pitiful five men have been released under Biden, while those remaining continue to endure petty cruelties. We know all the alleged reasons why the prison remains open: that it’s hard to find countries that will take released Guantanamo prisoners; that congress still stands in the way; and that the politics remain fraught, with small electoral margins on the line. We reject these reasons as craven excuses.

We can imagine other explanations. Among them, that institutional inertia has set in, giving Guantanamo an inextinguishable life of its own. Budgets, careers, protocols, deployments, rules, routines, and endless legal processes are are all tied to the prison.

But this explains only so much.

Guantanamo ultimately endures, I think, as the chronic, festering immorality of the American empire, reliant on double standards and incapable of reckoning with its cruelties and hypocrisies.

Representatives Adam Schiff, Jaimie Raskin and even Liz Cheney speak so eloquently about accountability, the sanctity of the rule of law, and the need for equal treatment of the most and least of us. Their sincere aim is to save America’s frail democracy and tattered soul.

But such noble sentiments drown somewhere off the Florida coast, far from Guantanamo’s shores. The demand for democracy, dignity, and rights for a mythical conception of “us” somehow accepts the continued misery and disenfranchisement of “them” — the alleged monsters of a bygone era whose fate is easiest to ignore.

The United States has not closed Guantanamo — perhaps it cannot close Guantanamo — because it cannot, as it currently exists, reckon with the violence, racism, and abuse that has always been part of the American project.

Closing Guantanamo, we have painfully learned, is about so much more than closing Guantanamo. It has meant confronting, against the tides of denial, the deep structures of American empire — its past and future, and the lies it tells itself.

Which means that our work is so big and so important, and that the reward even of small victories — like the next release of a man from the island prison — is so profound.


Pentagon Vigil Program and Litany

Fast for Justice 2023 // Film

Program for Dorothy Day Catholic Worker–Witness Against Torture Pentagon Vigil, January 9, 2023

(Prepared by Art Laffin)



SONG: Courage

Courage, Muslim Brothers

You Do Not Walk Alone

We Will Walk With You

And Sing Your Spirit Home


Poem of Guantanamo Prisoner 

SONG: A Beautiful Sound (by Peace Poets)

We hear a beautiful sound

It is the breaking of chains

We see a path full of hope

We have found the way

Let them go home

Let them go home

Let them go home

Let them go today

Poem of Guantanamo Prisoner 


SONG: Courage (New Version-Lyrics by Art)

Courage Muslim Brother

We Seek Your Liberty

We Will Stand With You

Until We All Are Free

CLOSING Song: Vine and Frig Tree

And every one ‘neath their vine and fig tree

Shall live in peace and unafraid

And every one ‘neath their vine and fig tree

Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares turn their swords,

Nations shall learn war no more

And into plowshares turn their swords, 

Nations shall learn war no more


Before he died in Guantanamo on September 8, 2012, Adnan Latif declared:

“Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?” 

 Adnan Latif: We and many others hear your cry and that is why we are here today! 

(From Witness Against Torture–Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Pentagon Vigil Litany, January 9, 2023)


Good Morning. We greet all Pentagon workers and police in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. Since 1987 the DDCW has vigiled here each Monday to uphold God’s command “Thou shalt not kill” in nonviolent resistance to an Empire that sanctions global violence and killing as evidenced through its vast war machine worldwide that includes over 800 military bases (including in Guantanamo), its military intervention in numerous countries, and its policy to threaten the use of nuclear weapons to control and protect its strategic national security interests.  

We, members of the Dorothy Day CW and Witness Against Torture (WAT), come to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to say YES to love, justice and life and NO to the death-dealing policies of a warmaking empire. God calls us to love and never to torture, opress, kill and wage war.

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Catholic Workers and other peacemakers from the U.S. went to Guantánamo Bay Detention site and attempted to visit the detainees being held at the facility. For the last 16 years members of WAT have fasted and engaged in numerous nonviolent actions to call for the closing of Guantanamo. This is day 4 of Witness Against Torture’s 5 day “Fast for Justice” marking the 21st year when the first detainees were taken to Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. We call for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, for an end to the crime of torture and indefinite detention, for an end to Islamophobia, and that those responsible for the crime of torture and indefinite detention of those imprisoned at Guantanamo be held accountable, and that reparations be made to all those who have been and continue to be detained and tortured.



About 779 prisoners have been held by the U.S. military at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Of those, 735 have been released or transferred, including one who was transferred to the U.S. to be tried and subsequently convicted. Today, 35 men continue to languish at Guantanamo, never knowing their fate, with no resolution to their cases in sight. We need to see these men as members of our own blood family and act on their behalf. 

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now

We remember and pray for all victims of the U.S. empire, including the 9 men who have died at Guantanamo since its opening. Adnan Latif was one of these men who have been all but forgotten. Latif, who spent more than ten years in Guantanamo without ever being charged with a crime, would often go on a hunger strike to protest his unjust confinement. A Yemeni citizen, poet, father and husband, Latif was subject to severe beatings, druggings and torture. He had been cleared for release at least four separate times yet continued to be imprisoned. On September 8, 2012, Latif was found dead in his cell. No independent investigation has been conducted into his death, or the deaths of the other eight detainees. 

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now

In Latif’s own words he asks: “Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?” Adnan Latif: We and many others hear your cry and that is why we are here today!  

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now

We call for an independent investigation into the death of Latif and those who died at Guantanamo! In the name of the detainees who continue to be unjustly held at Guantanamo, we call on all people of goodwill to implore President Biden to issue an executive order to Close Guantanamo immediately!

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now

We also remember today all those who have died and continue to suffer from the brutal U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen. The U.S. continues to provide direct military support and weapons to Saudi Arabia for this war.

The war in Yemen has killed over 150,000 people. According to UNICEF, more than 11,000 boys and girls have been killed and injured during the war and 2.2 million are malnourished. We demand an end to this war and all U.S. involvement, including helping to refuel Saudi planes, targeting and sharing intelligence.

New Refrain: The Children are Dying–End the War in Yemen

Since 2010, according to The New York Times, the United States has sold the Saudis 30 F-15 multirole jet fighters, 84 combat helicopters, 110 air-to-surface cruise missiles, and 20,000 precision guided bombs. A Lockheed Martin made bomb was used in the Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen on Aug. 9, 2018 killing 40 children. We demand an immediate end to this immoral and criminal war!

Refrain: The Children are Dying–End the War in Yemen

Please join us as we commit to ending, torture, oppression, racism, Islamophobia and war. Together let us heed the biblical mandate: “to proclaim liberty to the captives…to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and from the prison those who sit in darkness,”(Lk. 4:18 and Is. 42:7) to beat all the swords of our time into plowshares and train for war no more.  

Now is the time to Close Guantanamo, end all torture and indefinite detention, end the war in Yemen and ALL wars, transform the Pentagon into a center that serves life, convert the war economy to one centered on peace, justice and meeting urgent human needs, and create the Beloved Community! 


2023 DC Fast for Justice

In Focus - Front Page // Film

J11 ’23: We’re still here because they’re still there!

January 11, 2023 begins the third decade that Guantanamo has been open. We remain in solidarity with the men who suffer in Guantanamo and those former detainees still suffering outside Guantanamo.  Witness Against Torture has called out their names since 2005. 

For the first time since 2020, Witness Against Torture will converge on Washington, DC to publicly call on President Biden and Congress to close Guantanamo now and bring justice for Guantanamo survivors**!

WAT press release

**Learn about the Guantanamo Survivors Fund.

We will meet in the Shalom Room at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.**
222 East Capitol St NE, Washington DC 20003 (Note: there’s no housing here.)
A hostel** elsewhere has limited space for people to stay: email WAT to see if there’s still space. 
**We ask that everyone be vaccinated; Masks are required in both spaces.

Here’s the schedule:
Fri Jan 6-8: Fast at home; Fri evening Zoom call (email WAT for the link)

Mon Jan 9: 7 am: Pentagon Vigil
1 pm: Meet with legislators
2:00 pm: Public procession in jumpsuits in Capitol area
5:00 pm: Circle at church
8:00 pm: Zoom call. Email WAT for link.

Tue Jan 10: 
9 am: Circle at church
1 pm: At church, Zoom call with Andy Worthington
Public witness: TBD
6 pm: At church, Speaker panel – James Yee, Maha Hilal in person, Mansoor Adayfi by Zoom

Wed Jan 11
8 am: Shalom Room: Circle, Break Fast
                      1 pm: White House Vigil
                      4 pm:  Online rally

Rallies Around the U.S.

Washington DC Vigil
Wed Jan 11, 1 pm ET 
White House
Organized by WAT and National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Los Angeles Rally
Close Guantanamo Rally
Wed Jan 11, noon to 1:30 pm PT
Downtown LA Federal Building, N Los Angeles St, Los Angeles CA
Livestream link:
Organized by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace

New York Rally
Wed Jan 11,  4 – 6 pm ET
New York Public Library (On the Steps)
5th Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018 
Action Network linkFacebook link
Organized by World Can’t Wait

Northampton, MA Vigil and March
Wed Jan 11, start time 12 noon.
Begin at the Hampshire County Courthouse (Main Street between Gothic and King Streets)
Organized by No More Guantanamos

Raleigh North Carolina Rally
Wed Jan 11, 12:30  – 1:30 PM
Federal Building at New Bern Avenue and Person Street in Raleigh
Organized by NC Stop Torture Now

Augusta Maine Rally
Sat Jan 14, 1 – 2 pm (snow date Sun 15)
Augusta  Armory, 179 Western Ave
Organized by Pax Christi Maine, Peace Action and others

Berkeley CA Rally
Wed Jan 11, 12 pm PT UC Berkeley Law School press conference

Cleveland, OH Close US Torture Facility Rally
Wed Jan 11, 4 pm CT
Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building
Facebook link

Honolulu HI Rally
Wed Jan 11, 4 pm Hawaii Time
Thomas Square @ King/Ward intersection
Organized by Veterans for Peace Hawai`i, World Can’t Wait Hawai`i

21st Anniversary Virtual Rally: Building our Power to Close Guantánamo
Wed Jan 11, 4 – 5:30 pm ET RSVP and get link


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