Witnesstorture

Calling for an end to torture everywhere, on any person for any reason.
www.witnesstorture.org
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shriekingtree:

Based on the poem “Is It True?” by Osama Abu Kabir (formerly detained in Guantánamo):

Is it true that the grass grows again after rain?
Is it true that the flowers will rise up again in the Spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up their streams?

It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we’ll leave Guantanamo Bay?
Is it true that one day we’ll go back to our homes?

I sail in my dreams. I am dreaming of home.
To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents, my world’s tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.

But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here, we’ve committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!

Report Back from Torture Survivors Week: June 26 Photos, Video and Update

June 27, 2014 / The White House / Source: Flickr

June 27, 2014 / The White House / Source: Flickr

Last week, members of Witness Against Torture gathered in Washington, D.C. for the International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture. Our group of about fifteen attended a panel organized by National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on U.S. sanctioned torture, engaged in nonviolent direct action at Senator Ayotte and McCain’s offices, and participated in an all-day vigil with Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)On Sunday, we retreated to the Peace Oasis to put in motion a framework for January 11, 2015.

No pushback now! Release those unjustly bound.

Got 90 seconds? Please watch & share the video of Witness Against Torture delivering letters to Senator Ayotte and McCain. This is our response to an amendment that could stop all transfers from Guantanamo. The bill has passed the House and is now awaiting the Senate before becoming law.

Click here to read full report & see photos.

Extended video

Click here to read the letters sent to Senator Ayotte and McCain Offices. 

SAVE THE DATE– January 513, 2015

Every January, the Witness Against Torture community gathers to fast and take action in Washington D.C. to remember the opening of the prison camp in Guantanamo.  This year January 11th, 2015 marks 13 years of torture and indefinite detention.  We will be gathering from January 5th 13th, 2015 to fast for justice and a week of actions. Join us as we stand in solidarity with those that remained unjustly detained. Save the date and stay tune for more information.If you have any questions please email WitnessTorture@gmail.com

Friday Fast for Justice

Susan / Boston

Susan / Boston

Join in solidarity with the men on hunger strike in Guantanamo by fasting on Fridays. We invite you to consider joining the Friday Fast for Justice. Go without food in solidarity with the hunger strikers in Guantánamo.  If you are already participating in or are interested in participating please sign up here. You can commit to fasting on a specific Friday; weekly for a particular time period; until Guantánamo is closed; or whatever works for you. If you join the fast, we would ask you to:

  • Fast on Friday, in any form you like;
  • Make three phone calls (click here to see who we are currently focusing our calls on)
  • Write to a prisoner at Guantánamo. (click here for instructions on how)
Dear Friends,
 
As nine of us gathered at the White House for our weekly Friday noon-time vigil our hearts were heavy with the news of the worsening violence in Iraq and increased U.S. military intervention. This vigil began in 1998, following my trip to Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness (since renamed Voices for creative Nonviolence). As the U.S. bombing continued on a regular basis and as U.S.-led UN economic sanctions were exacting such a lethal toll on Iraq, our Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community decided to sponsor a weekly White House vigil as a way to expose and resist the criminality of U.S. warmaking against the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have endured untold suffering and death from over twenty years of U.S. bombings, economic sanctions, invasion and occupation. And now Iraq is again back in the news. In our vigil we focused on the role the U.S. has played and continues to play in Iraq. As the Guantanamo hunger strike continues, along with tortuous force-feeding, we also remembered the plight of the hunger strikers and of the urgent need to end indefinite detention and close Guantanamo. 
 
Below is a reflection I offered at the vigil. We also read the testimony of Yemeni Guantanamo hunger striker, Emad Hassan, who describes in detail the horrific forced-feeding he has endured. We sang several songs during the vigil and concluded with a prayer to end torture written by torture survivor Sr. Dianna Ortiz.
 
We continue to keep our eyes on the prize as we strive together to create the Beloved Community.
 
With gratitude, Art
 
 

Reflection by Art Laffin for June 20 White House Vigil

 

We greet all who have come to the White House in a spirit of peace. We, members of the DDCW and WAT come to the White House today to say YES to love and justice and NO to the lies and death-dealing policies of a national security state and warmaking empire.

The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker began a weekly Friday peace vigil in 1998 here at the White House to call for an end to U.S. criminal warmaking in Iraq and that we embrace God’s command to renounce all war and killing and reverence and protest all of life and creation. Since then our vigil has included calling for an end to all U.S. warmaking and military intervention in our world, for the abolition of all weapons of war—from nuclear weapons to killer drones, for an end to all U.S.-sponsored oppression and torture and justice for the poor and all victims. We remember and pray for all victims of our warmaking empire, including the nine men who have died at Guantanamo over the past seven years.

The U.S. continues to operate with impunity as it has waged lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses deadly killer drones as part of its kill-list and assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and continues its criminal policy of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo.

 

Regarding the present critical situation in Iraq, it is heartbreaking to see the violence and upheval taking place. This all didn’t happen in a vacuum. Listen to these insightful words by our friend and Iraqi political analyst, RAEDJARRAR, taken from a June 16 interview with Democracy Now

"Oh, I think (the present crisis) has everything to do with the U.S.-, British-led invasion and occupation. The idea of destroying the strong central government and creating three or more partitions in Iraq was heavily promoted at that time. It was promoted sometimes on the political level, but many times on the demographic level. We saw, during the occupation of Iraq, millions of Iraqis were displaced inside the country. Sunnis were kicked out of what we call now Shiite provinces, and Shiites were kicked out of what we call now Sunni provinces. Same happened with Kurds and Christians. So this ethnic cleansing happened during the occupation, laying grounds for making this partitioning a reality. So, I think, in retrospect, what’s happening in these few weeks of, you know, like an uprising in these Sunni-dominated provinces in Iraq can be directly traced to the divisions that were installed by the U.S.-led occupation in 2003…

The U.S. is still interfering in Iraq. Although the last U.S. soldier left the country at the end of 2011, the U.S. continues to supply the Iraqi central government with weapons, training and other military assistance. This year alone, the U.S. is sending billions of dollars’ worth of jet fighters and other weapons. We just included $150 million in the defense appropriations bill for training Iraqi forces, although many human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have flagged a number of Iraqi security forces and militias as human rights abusers that the U.S. should stop funding. So in addition to the military funding, of course, there is a lot of support that—to legitimize the Iraqi central government. So this week’s narrative from the U.S. side is a good example of how the U.S. has been taking one side in this conflict all along. It has been arming and supporting one side of the conflict, and this side happens to be the Iraqi central government and the militias affiliated with it.”

There has been a lot of focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) because it makes a good media story. It’s this crazy group. Everyone is an expert now on ISIS and where it came from. And it tells a compelling story for a U.S. intervention: There is an extremist terrorist group that is threatening a legitimate central government that is our friend. That is the narrative now. I think that is important to unpack and deconstruct, because, on the one hand, ISIS is one of many players in this uprising. It’s really naive to believe that one crazy terrorist group can take 50 percent of Iraq’s territory in a week. There are many other players, including—I think the most important players are tribal leaders in all of these provinces, and their armed militias, and former Iraqi officials from the Saddam Hussein government, led by the former vice president, Izzat al-Douri, who runs a group called al-Naqshbandi, a group. There are other smaller players like the Iraqi Islamic Army, the Mujahideen Army, the 1920 Brigades. There are, I would say, at least 12 other players. So it’s more indigenous. The vast majority, I would say, maybe almost everyone who’s fighting, is an Iraqi, unlike what the image that is being drawn by the Iraqi authorities.”

Raed Jarrar goes on to say that dialogue among all conflicted parties, which the al-Maliki government refuses to engage in and not military intervention, is the key to the solution to help resolve this crisis.

It is important to remember that he U.S. has never repented for or made reparations to the Iraqi people for waging war against Iraq for over twenty years. U.S.-led bombings, sanctions and occupation has claimed over 2 million Iraqi lives, displaced over four million Iraqis, destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and society and created the instability and turmoil that now exists today in Iraq. On Monday, Mr. Obama authorized the deployment of 275 specialized troops to Iraq. And yesterday the president ordered 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq. There are reports that the U.S. is considering other military options in Iraq, including the use of killer drones. Let’s be clear: the violence currently taking place in Iraq is a consequence of the violence that has been used by the U.S. and which continues to be used  by the al-Maliki regime since the US occupation formally ended. More U.S. bombing and military involvement will only perpetuate the cycle of violence now engulfing Iraq. What is needed is for the U.S. to repent for its past war crimes against Iraq, and that reparations be made to the Iraq people. A process of true reconciliation can then begin. This is the most important first step that is needed to begin to break the cycle of violence in Iraq. And then a diplomatic course of action must be pursued which brings together all the conflicted parties in the region to negotiate a peace process. We pray for an end to all violence in Iraq and for the protection of all people there, including those Iraqi Christians who live in fear of persecution.

And so we stand here today to say as clearly as we can: No to all violence and Yes to Life and Justice! Abolish the Crime of War! No to U.S. Military Intervention in Iraq! 

 

During this month of June, which marks Torture Awareness Month, let us also redouble our efforts to End the Crime of Torture and Indefinite Detention—Now! Let us Close Guantanamo Now!

 
Regarding the situation curently in Guantanamo, lawyers for some of the GITMO hunger strikers believe that, of the 149 men being held, about 34 are still on hunger strike and about 18 meet the guidelines for forced feeding feedings.
 
Regarding the recent prisoner swap, The Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins,  said Sunday that in 2011 he studied the files of the five Taliban prisoners recently traded for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and concluded they could not be prosecuted here. A reporter asked the general whether it was true that two of the long-held Afghan prisoners released by the Obama administration in the May 31 Bergdahl exchange were identified by the United Nations as war criminals. Martins replied that in 2009 a task force of federal and military prosecutors concluded: “There was not a successful prosecution to be had of any of those five.”The general added that when he took the job as chief prosecutor in 2011, he reviewed all detainee files, including the five Taliban who were traded, and concluded the same thing, “based on a careful searching look at everything that was available.”
 
As we conclude our vigil today, Let us recommit ourselves to labor together to create the Beloved Community, free of torture, oppression, violence and war. Let us never forget that we are all part of one human family. What affects one, affects all.
 

*Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon has an important piece on the state of the movement to close Guantanamo at Wagingnonviolence.org. Please read, tweet, post, circulate, and let us know what you think.

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IN THIS UPDATE YOU WILL FIND:

-The Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

-Report on May 23rd Global Day of Action to Close Guantanamo

-June 26th – June 30th in Washington, DC

-Witness Against Torture FRIDAY FAST FOR JUSTICE

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The Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner Exchange

In the midst of the media frenzy about the Bergdahl-Guantanamo Prisoner exchange, there has been a deeply troubling national discourse that portrays all the men in Guantanamo as security risks and calls for the prison to remain open indefinitely.

Witness Against Torture has engaged in the conversation, and our own Palina Prasasouk has written this piece for Truthout.org.  Our friend, Andy Worthington, has also written two important pieces, for PolicyMic & CloseGuantanamo.org that speak to the truth of what is happening, and the ongoing crisis of Guantanamo’s existence.

Please take a minute to read and share these pieces, along with Jeremy Varon’s analysis of where we stand as a movement.

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Report on May 23rd Global Day of action to close Guantanamo

The Global Day of Action to Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention garnered national and international participation, with activity in over 50 cities in eight different countries.  It’s inspiring to see the photos and read reports from many of those who participated on May 23rd.

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June 26th – June 30th in Washington, DC

Participate in Torture Awareness Week with Witness Against Torture

June 26th is the date that the United Nations has marked as the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture.  Every year Witness Against Torture travels to Washington D.C. to support events organized by the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) and other human rights organizations for Torture Awareness Week.

This year, we will be gathering in Washington, D.C. from June 26th to June 30th. You are invited to join us.

Email witnesstorture@gmail.com if you are interested in participating and/or helping to organize activities while in DC.

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Witness Against Torture FRIDAY FAST FOR JUSTICE

Join in solidarity with the men through the Fast for Justice

Please consider joining WAT’s Friday Fast for Justice.  If you join the fast, we would ask you to:

-Fast on Friday, in any form you like;

-Make three phone calls (click here to see who we are currently focusing our calls on

-Write to a prisoner at Guantánamo. (click here for instructions on how)

If you are already participating in or are interested in participating in theFriday Fast for Justice, please sign up here.

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WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE SOCIAL MEDIA

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Post any pictures of your local activities to http://www.flickr.com/groups/witnesstorture/, and we will help spread the word onhttp://witnesstorture.tumblr.com/

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DONATE

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run.  We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work.  If you are able, please donate here.

www.witnesstorture.org

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Why is President Obama now releasing “high-level” prisoners from the prison when he has repeatedly blamed Congress for blocking him from closing the prison? The swap means the President does have executive power after all.

"Close Guantánamo" banner along Obama motorcade route in Worcester yesterday

Dear Friends,

Seven of us stood vigil yet again in front of the center of imperial power at noon today to bear witness to the truth. The main focus of the vigil was the prisoner exchange negotiated between the White House and Taliban. I offered a brief reflection which was followed by a reading of the excellent Witness Against Torture statement on this matter (see below). We also read a riveting article about the tortuous force feeding of Emad Hassan, a Yemeni Guantanamo detainee.

Our friend George Pauk,  a doctor of some 40 years who is visiting from Arizona, was on hand to speak. He commended the many organizations that have spoken out against the tortuous practice of force-feeding. He also stated that the medical profession should be ashamed that some of its members have directly participated in this immoral dehumanizing practice.

We then read Andy Worthington’s most recent powerful commentary on the subject titled: “Missing the Point on the Guantanamo Taliban Prisoner Swap and the Release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.”

See: PolicyMic & CloseGuantanamo.org.

 

To conclude the vigil we did some singing and ended with a closing prayer circle.

 

We continue to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!!!

 

With gratitude,

Art

 

June 6 White House Program/Reflection

 

We greet all who have come to the White House in a spirit of peace. We, members of the DDCW and WAT come to the White House today to say YES to love and justice and NO to the lies and death-dealing policies of a national security state and warmaking empire. 

 

The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker began a weekly Friday peace vigil in 1998 here at the White House to call for an end to U.S. criminal warmaking in Iraq and that we embrace God’s command to renounce all war and killing and reverence and protest all of life and creation. Since then our vigil has included calling for an end to all U.S. warmaking and military intervention in our world, for the abolition of all weapons of war—from nuclear weapons to killer drones, for an end to all U.S.-sponsored oppression and torture and justice for the poor and all victims. We remember and pray for all victims of our warmaking empire, including the nine men who have died at Guantanamo over the past seven years.

 

The U.S. continues to operate with impunity as it has waged lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses deadly killer drones as part of its kill-list and assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, and continues its criminal policy of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo. We stand here today to say loud and clear: Abolish the Crime of War! And during this month of June, which marks Torture Awareness Month, let us also redouble our efforts to End the Crime of Torture and Indefinite Detention! Let us Close Guantanamo Now!