That Our Hearts May Be Broken… and Filled: Reflection on Our 2014 Fast to Close Guantanamo and End Torture
Many of you know that for the last five years I have joined Witness Against Torture (WAT) in January in Washington DC for fasting and public witness calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo and an end to torture. Having journeyed over 4000 miles this year I was compelled to reflect more deeply on why I make this journey. Wanting to understand my reasons more fully and realizing with much regret, that I have not spoken about my motivations with so many of you I decided to share some thoughts on why I go.
I join with Witness Against Torture because Guantanamo exists.
I join Witness against Torture because of who I am and who I know we can be.
The reality of Guantanamo is horrific, but articulating the reasons I continue to make the journey to Washington require deep introspection. I am aware that while it is the plight of the men at Guantanamo that drew me, I continue to go in part because my identity has been formed and my convictions cemented amidst this transformative community. This aspect of why I go is more difficult to articulate. Perhaps I can say simply that Witness Against Torture helps bring out the best in me and allows me to see the beauty in all of us. Amidst this incredible community:
Throughout my time in DC I am emptied I many ways; emptied of my daily routine and preoccupations, emptied of food, comfort, and my own personal agenda. Yet amidst this emptiness I am nourished and filled in the most extraordinary way; nourished by community and filled with love.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for the important role that each of you hasplayed in my life. I am so very grateful.
Link to 12 minute video about January 11th action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYPdfIasyGE
I started fasting Wednesday at 10 pm and hope to continue till sometime Saturday. I’m 73 years old, from Bethesda, Maryland. Are there any plans for fasters to meet up at the White House?
I’m pretty hungry, but nothing that happens to me will even come close to what my country is doing, in my name, to our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. i want to reduce my responsibility for what the United States is doing to them as much as I can. Sharing their hunger is the very least I can do.
- Steve L.
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE
Press Advisory - For Immediate Release, January 10, 2014
Make Guantanamo History: Activists Fast & Rally in
Washington, D.C. to Close the Torture Prison
WASHINGTON, D.C. — January 11 marks the beginning of the thirteenth year of the operation of the US detention detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Activists from throughout the country have gathered in Washington, D.C. this week to engage in street theatre, demonstrations, fasting, and direct action to demand that Guantanamo be closed immediately.
As part of these activities, Witness Against Torture will gather today, Friday, January 10, at 12 noon at the White House.
Furthermore, a larger coalition of human rights and grassroots groups will rally at the White House on Saturday, January 11 at noon, followed by a “detainee procession” through the streets of Washington.
Responding to the hunger strike of the men at Guantanamo and global solidarity with their plight, the Obama administration has at last resumed the transfer of innocent men from the prison and renewed its pledge to shutter it. Nevertheless, the administration remains far from fulfilling its promise. The torture of indefinite detention without charge or trial and the force-feeding of hunger strikers continues daily.
Since the hunger strike started in February, members of Witness Against Torture have participated in a rolling fast in solidarity with the prisoners. This week in Washington, we participate in anti-torture activities, which include a group fast of several dozen people, a national solidarity fast, and street protests in the nation’s capital. On January 11, anti-Guantanamo protests and vigils will take place throughout the country, including in Los Angeles, CA, Boston MA, Chicago IL, Santa Monica, CA Erie, PA, and Cleveland, OH.
“Through their hunger strike the prisoners in Guantanamo have again made the prison a matter of broad public concern and presidential action,” says Chris Knestrick, an organizer with Witness Against Torture. “But indifference or even hysteria can again set in. We need to close Guantanamo, without delay, and we’ll keep saying that to the President until he fulfills his promise and it’s done.”
“We know that Guantanamo is a crime and a sin,” says Chrissy Nesbitt, a faster from North Carolina. “We need to make Guantanamo history. We can do this by both closing the prison and facing up to torture as part of the U.S. national experience. In doing so, we must demand accountability and restitution to the victims of torture.”
Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. January 2014 will be the eighth year the group has gathered annually in Washington, DC to call for justice and accountability. To learn more, visit www.witnesstorture.org
Erie Catholic Worker
Jan 6-13. 5:15PM to 5:45PM at the federal building.
Saratoga Peace Alliance
Jan 5-10 12PM-1PM at the downtown post office.
Committee for Peace and Human Rights
Jan 11 1-2PM at Park Street Station on the Boston Common
Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo
Jan 10 4:30-5:30PM Dearborn and Jackson
12 Years Too Many, An Evening to discuss and dissent
Jan 11 6:30PM-9:30PM
Chicago Danz Theatre
Santa Monica, California
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Jan 11 3PM-4PM Santa Monica Palisades Park
London Guantanamo Campaign
Jan 11 2-4PM Trafalgar Square, outside National Gallery
The World Can’t Wait Tour with Andy Worthington and Debra Sweet
Jeff Kaye, Michael Kearns, Jason Leopold, and Todd Pierce will join Andy and Debra
I’ve been fasting nearly every Wednesday since the beginnging of September. Until it got chilly in Michigan, I would sit with a hunger strike sign in an area on the University of Michigan’s campus with many passerbys for about an hour. Usually at least two people would stop and talk to me and inquire about my purpose and the sign. Coincidentally, Sept. 11 was on aWednesday this fall, and that day I spoke to seven people.None of the individuals were ever hostile or negative, and nearly all of them were actually supportive of the cause and expressed admiration. I was often vexed that the people I spoke with were rarely students - maybe they were always in a rush to class.Some days I fasted 36 hours - some days 12, but I put most of my time and energy into writing letters to prisoners, congressmen and Senators. I also made multiple phone calls to the White House, Southern Command, and Department of Defense. All phone calls were usually cordial, except for a guy from Southern Command who seemed to be a supporter of the prison. He questioned, “You really want to release some of the guys here?” and defended, “They’d be just as likely to blow your house up than go home. They throw their urine and feces at us and shout epithets.”I’ve grown from my participation, and managed to write all of the prisoners who were posted on the Amnesty International list. I also got feedback from my congressman and Senators expressing their willingness to close the prison.Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I can’t imagine what life in Guantanamo must be like.Sincerely,NaimJoin the Rolling Fast here:
These few weeks haven’t been easy for us as it pains me to see him in the cell screaming for his rights. http://www.channel5.com/shows/5-news/features-archived/british-guantanamo-bay-resident-speaks-out-for-the-first-time
All I say is what Clive and Shaker say:
(Clive Stafford Smith: “What I have said and what Shaker has said for years is that if you have got an allegations against him, put up or shut up.”)
Alhamdulillah, We recieved a message from Shaker through Clive for us and for everyone else. May Allah bring Khayr and thank you all.
By the way we did not recieve any postcards from Shaker. We haven’t recieved anything from him in ages.
(By: Umm Johina Aamer)
My special thanks and gratitude to Jane Ellison, Joy Hurcombe, Mr Sadiq Khan MP, and Cortney and Cori – all of whom stand up for rights and for justice. Please make sure you send a message and tweet to all of them that I am very very thankful. I am overwhelmed by their love, care, prayers, and help. I know for a fact that my debt to them is greater than I can ever pay back. No matter what I do, I pray for their guidance and happiness in this life and in the hereafter.
Sorry if I did not mention everyone by name and that I cannot thank them in person. However, even if I do not know all of my supporters, it is not really important because God knows all of you and He will not forget your good deeds.