“I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. This is happening to all of us. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for many years.”
– Shaker Aamer, Guantanamo Bay inmate since 2002. (2006)
Aamer is one of 162 detainees currently imprisoned in the US military facility in Cuba, who are facing systematic abuse of unimaginable extremes on a daily basis.
In June 2001, Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British national, travelled to Afghanistan with his family to carry out charity work digging wells and building a school. Four months after his arrival in Afghanistan two planes flew into the World Trade Centre in New York, and so began the ‘War on Terror’. Aamer was captured by local Afghan militias in 2001 and subsequently sold to US officials for a ransom of $5000. After passing through various prisons in Bagram and Kandahar, and being routinely subjected to torture, he was finally transferred, in an orange suit, ear-muffs, shackles, a blind-fold, and a nappy to Guantanamo Bay where he remains to this day.
Cleared for release twice under Bush administration in 2006 and 2007, Shaker Aamer has been neglected by past and present US and British governments, each promising his imminent return to the UK. When Obama first took office in 2010, he promised to close Guantanamo “as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order”. Nearly four years on, it is clear that the closure of Guantanamo is not a priority.
Shaker Aamer and nineteen other inmates are currently on hunger strike in protest at the inhumane treatment they face. Torture methods include the medieval procedure ‘strappado’ (devised by the Spanish Inquisition), in which the victims hands are tied above their head as they are suspended by a rope attached to the wrists, often leading to shoulder dislocation. Sleep deprivation, constant bright lights, permanent loud noise, sexual assault, water-boarding, exposure to dogs, and solitary confinement are commonplace, and used to coerce prisoners into admitting to crimes of which they are innocent, and to agree to false statements used to frame other prisoners and justify their incarceration. In response to hunger strikes, prisoners are brutally force-fed.
As Aamer’s 47th birthday looms, concerns are growing for his physical and psychological wellbeing. In a statement published by The Guardian on December 8th, he claims he has not seen a doctor in two years and is being deprived of medicine for his numerous health issues. Human rights charity Reprieve claims detainees are being indirectly murdered through medical neglect and intolerable abuse, leading to suicide, in further efforts to keep the details of the horrors of Guantanamo undisclosed. Aamer has never met his youngest son, Faris, 11, who was born on the day he arrived at Guantanamo.
Foreign secretary William Hague has personally written to Aamer, assuring him that the British and US government are in negotiations for his return to UK. Words to this effect were promising when first spoken by Hague six years ago when the Free Shaker Aamer Campaign began, but are starting to wear thin. Speaking at the meeting on December 10th, Aamer’s lawyer has stressed the importance of raising awareness and civil protest to shame and put pressure on UK officials, in the hope that after years of empty words from politicians, a public outcry will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and Shaker Aamer will be returned to the UK, before it’s too late.
Join the campaign: