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Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Obama Close Gitmo Now!
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WAT 2014 – “FAST FOR
DAY 1 – JANUARY
January 11, 2014 marks
the twelfth anniversary of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the
eighth anniversary of Witness Against Torture’s January 11 presence in D.C., and
our sixth liquids fast.
For the next 8 days, we are
fasting in Washington, DC for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. We wish to frame
this act thusly:
This is not about us. This is NOT about the United
States cutting itself out of the patchwork of the family quilt of humanity. This
is about 155 men who have been stuck in prison cells in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for
up to 12 years, who continue to count the days, weeks, months and years they
must wait to go home.
Who are these men? Where did they come from? How
and why were they captured so many years ago to be held prisoners in Cuba by the
U.S. military? And when will they regain their freedom?
actions this week-- fasting and vigiling-- we reach out to them to connect. We
will connect you too through a daily update, which will include a report of what
we did here in DC, reflections from fasters, and links to news articles.
Finally, each day we
will share a profile of one GTMO detainee and one WAT member. We invite you to
discover your connections to the prisoners as we explore our own by introducing
ourselves beside them.
Witness Against Torture
*let us know if you
will join us for a day, or days of fasting
"The language that they use here at Guantánamo reflects how they treat us
prisoners. Just the other day, they referred to me as a "package" when they
moved me from my cell. This is nothing new. I have been a package for 12 years
now. I am a package when en route to Camp Echo, the solitary confinement wing. I
am a package en route to a legal call. "The package has been picked up … the
package has been delivered."
DAY 1 – Pentagon Vigil
5:45AM and Mary Grace, a fellow faster participating in the Fast for Justice has
the chore of waking up the first dozen who have arrived in
6:15AM, we have dressed ourselves in orange jumpsuits ready to begin our walk to
the train station: next stop, Pentagon City. There, we are greeted by Art of the
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. For more than 30 years, every Monday, the Dorothy
Day community has held a vigil at the Pentagon. We begin with an update on
Guantanamo--155 remain and 11 have been released from GTMO since the hunger
following are some reflections from those gathered at the
Ellen: No hoods today
because were not allowed to cover our face [Virginia law]. ...with the mask, you
know that nobody knows who you are.When wearing hoods, the lack
of a sight line means we need people with us to show us where to step up a curb
as we walk across a street, or when not to cross because its a red light. Today
the big difference was the eye contact. Eye contact means so much to me because
my basic connection with the world is other people.
Becky: I forget I’m
wearing the suit, just smiling and talking to people, like hey how's it going!
And for a split second there’s a smile, eye contact, then once again people are
washing over, but there was this recognition, just for a split second, and I'm
Fin: ..For me there was a moment when I realized that a few of
the people were willing to make eye contact with us. I got that from the woman
next to me I noticed she made deliberate attempt to make eye contact until that
person broke contact. In that passing moment we let someone know we're here in
order to let people see those who are not able to be here.
free speech zone, fences and gates and all of the parking and the buses and the
trains meet here, which is an entrance to the entrance. To me it’s sad that the
world has come to this. This is what national security looks like: these
ridiculous protocols and men languishing in Guantanamo and in prisons all
Michael: I was moved when we sang a song [Courage Muslim
Brother]. It has this really beautiful melody that repeats in a soft tone. I
felt like I was serenading the workers as they came in, with the song
transmitting calmness and peace.
Ellen: (quoting a detainee) my family,
my wife my kids my mom misses me, I need to get back, I need to see them. But
now I've heard of some Americans who are in our favor who are trying to help
Why I Am Fasting? – by Mike Henes
I fasting? Let's see if I can say at this point.
meal was 14 hours ago. I have pangs of hunger which once upon a time would have
terrified me. "I'm going to starve to death!" a voice might scream at me inside
minutes ago, walking in a hallway leading to the St. Stephen office in which I
write, I passed an upright cabinet in the hallway with a sign on the left door
that read, "Brain Food." The second word entered into some deep, dark place in
my psyche, and became a whisper of cookies and milk. Its reverberating echoes
had settled into silence by the time I made it into the office. I checked in
with my stomach, and the pain had not increased since the fifth hour
much worse can it get? Certainly no louder, as of a few hours ago its grumbles
had a brief but noisy exchange with a fellow faster's stomach sitting clear on
the other side of the room.
then I have wondered how we, here in Washington, D.C., can be in solidarity just
by not eating, with men thousands of miles away with whom we have almost nothing
we have quite a bit in common. We, like they, are hungering for
Faster Profile: Debra Van
Van Poolen is an artist, farmer, and activist. She grew up moving around the
midwest, attending ten different schools as her dad took various positions in
insurance. Her nomadic lifestyle continued into adulthood spanning from Oregon
to Montana to India where she studied subsistence farming and worked in
counter-development. She spent 2013 in the Washington DC area to document each
day of the Chelsea Manning trial with courtroom sketches. She is currently
hitchhiking from NYC with a couple bags of luggage back to Chicago where her
belongings have been stored. Throughout 2014 she will be an apprentice at an
electricity-and-petroleum-free farm called the Possibility Alliance in Missouri,
where she will help the White Rose Catholic Worker establish
spent a night in jail in Helena, Montana for a protest on March 20, 2003, the
first night of the Iraq War. Her first court room sketch was during a trial of
Witness Against Torture activists in January 2012. She enjoys various aspects of
several religions. She is most interested in creating loving connections.
Profile of Shaker Aamer
2001, Shaker went to Afghanistan to do volunteer work for an Islamic charity.
After September 11th, when the bombing of Kabul began, Shaker went into hiding
with an Afghan family.
Soldiers arrived at the
house, stripped Shaker of his belongings and took him away at gunpoint. For the
next two weeks Shaker was sold to various groups of soldiers, who accused him of
killing their leader and beat him mercilessly. The abuse continued, and when
Shaker and four other Arab prisoners were driven out of Kabul one night, he
thought the end had come and they were to be executed.
Instead, the sound of a
helicopter and American accents filled him with relief. “Americans!” he thought.
“We are saved!” In fact, his transfer to US forces marked the beginning of a new
nightmare. Shaker arrived at Bagram Air Force Base at the end of December 2001
where he suffered terrible abuse.
to stay awake for nine days straight and denied food, he dropped 60 pounds in
weight. US personnel would dump freezing water him. This treatment, combined
with the bitter Afghan winter, caused Shaker’s feet to become frostbitten. He
was chained for hours in positions that made movement unbearable, and his
swollen, blackened feet were beaten. He was refused the painkillers he begged
years later, the torture continues. Shaker reported to his attorney, Clive
Stafford Smith, that in retaliation for his participation in the on-going hunger
strike, the guards "have subjected him to additional sleep deprivation and
has been named the Voice of Guantanamo. In November 2013, his voice was heard
through the cell's doors during a tour of the prison by CBS's 60
the world the truth ... Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in
peace - or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place. Let the world
come and visit. Let the world hear what's happening…It is very sad what is
happening in this place.”
is one of 15 known men currently on hunger strike in Guantanamo, one of 76 who
have been cleared for release, and the last British resident in the prison. He
has been cleared since 2007 by a military review board and again by President
Obama's inter-agency Guantanamo Review Task Force in 2010. Aamer's British wife
and their four British-born children, reside in London, England --the youngest
child he has never met.
JANUARY 11 DAY OF
ACTION AGAINST GUANTANAMO
JOIN THE MARCH IN
and procession to mark the 12th anniversary of Guantánamo, and to demand its
WHERE: White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW., Washington, D.C.)
• Noon - Gather for rally and witness at the White House (1600
Pennsylvania Ave. NW)
• 1 p.m. - Procession leaves from White House, ends
at 2:30 p.m.
This January 11, 2014 marks the
unacceptable 12th anniversary of indefinite detention without charge or trial at
Guantánamo. Join us in Washington, D.C. to witness this anniversary together,
and to call on President Obama to finally fulfill his broken promise to shut it
down. Obama has the power to close Guantánamo, and the new National Defense
Authorization Act (NDAA 2014) just approved by Congress makes it even easier for
him to do so. 158 men remain detained at Guantánamo; most should never have been
detained in the first place and are entering their 13th year of being deprived
of their liberty without any charge or trial. They must be tried in a fair court
or released; Guantánamo must be shut down.
Witness Against Torture is
completely volunteer driven and run.We have no paid staff, but do
have expenses associated with our organizing work.If you are
able, please donate