June Newsletter: Torture Awareness Month

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Please join us as we mark Torture Awareness month with a vigil and teach-in, described below.  For our full  newsletter, please click here.

The Dark Legacy of The War on Terror & Muslim Victims of Torture

Vigil & Teach-In

Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 pm
White House, Lafayette Park

From the Bush administration to the Trump administration, torture has continued to be a tactic in the War on Terror. With Gina Haspel, a known torturer now leading the CIA, torture in it’s most egregious form may soon be revived. In the course of all of this, those who have been targeted most by the U.S.’s post 9/11 torture apparatus – Muslims have been marginalized and invisiblized. Join us during torture awareness month on the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture for a vigil and teach-in on torture in the War on Terror to uplift the voices and stories of Muslim survivors. The program will conclude with a light meal.

 

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On Speaking Truth to Power

News // Film

On Speaking Truth to Power

June 21, 2018
By Helen Schietinger

Haspel the Torturer

On May 9th seven human rights activists spoke out at Gina Haspel’s Senate confirmation hearing.  When I stood up, the first words out of my mouth were, “The question is, what did you do to human beings in U.S. custody?”  I was referring to the Muslim men tortured in the secret CIA prison Haspel was in charge of, but the question could also be asked of another administration head, Jeff Sessions, about the now over 11,000 unaccompanied children being jailed indefinitely in ICE detention centers, including over 3,000 who were cruelly separated from their parents at the border.  It is clear that neither the president nor Congress is willing to recognize our responsibility as a nation to respect the human rights of all human beings, including the right not to be imprisoned without just cause, much less the right not to be tortured.

In Senator Roy Blount’s banter with Haspel during the hearing, he noted that “truth to power” is a “time-honored tradition” of the CIA.  Haspel replied that bringing truth to power is her favorite CIA motto.  Already outraged at the whitewashing of the language of torture by the Democratic Senators and the accolades being heaped upon Haspel by the Republican Senators, I felt compelled to invoke that time-honored tradition by asking Haspel what no senator was willing to ask her:  “What did you do to human beings in U.S. custody?”  The answer was pretty obvious to me: you tortured them.

But even before addressing the grotesque fact of now CIA head Haspel having been in charge of torturing human beings, let’s go back to the fact of the US taking people into custody without due process in the first place, often indefinitely.  We live in a country that now is holding hundreds of thousands of human beings in prisons and “detention centers” — and perhaps black sites as well, although with so much state secrecy we have no way of knowing.  And decent people are rising to the demand to speak truth to power.

WAT member David Barrows paid his fine for speaking out in Haspel’s confirmation hearing and then a week later attended the full Senate session where she was confirmed.  As many of us know, David has a booming voice, and he made a powerful statement to that august body:

“You senators who vote to approve a human torturer and destroyer of evidence of human rights violations are violators yourselves of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and you violate the Nuremberg principles.  Hitler, too, had lawyers to excuse torture. All my life the CIA has committed crimes against humanity. No one has ever been held accountable. We tortured 3,000 Vietnamese to death under Operation Phoenix.  The CIA has overthrown four democracies: Iran, Guatemala, Chile…”

Asylum Seekers and their Children

Although torture has unfortunately receded from mainstream consciousness, across the country decent people are being moved to speak truth to power against the administration’s indefinite detention of asylum seekers at our borders. The administration’s justifying rhetoric invokes a brand of isolationist nationalism that is not only cruel, it’s unAmerican.

The administration added a cruel strategy to punish refugees who enter our country: in the past three months, over 3,000 infants and children have been jailed, separately from their parents, ostensibly to send a warning for other parents not to have the audacity to flee dangerous situations with their children.  When media coverage was substantial a massive public reaction followed.

The outrage over these vulnerable children being taken from their parents has not only mobilized the people; our elected leaders are speaking out.  Senator Nelson and US Representative Wasserman Schultz challenged the administration after being refused entry to a detention center holding vulnerable minors.  ICE assures that detained children have all their needs met, but the cloak of secrecy prevents us from knowing.

The word democracy can’t be used for a government in which elected representatives are not allowed access to the State’s prisons.  While the president has now ostensibly reversed the policy of separating families, lack of transparency and expressed unwillingness to reunite families already torn apart indicate that the injustice continues.

Refugees and Their Families

Communities are speaking out about other ruthless anti-immigrant activities.  Immigrants living and working productively in communities throughout the US have increasingly been terrorized by the fear of imprisonment and deportation. ICE oversees internment camps which contain “a hidden population of detainees who are effectively forever prisoners of the agency….. in 2015 ICE detained more than 355,000 people — some 3,166 of them had been held for more than a year, including 169 for more than three years, 32 for more than five years, and five for more than eight years.”  Communities across the country have mobilized to protest this outrageous policy and support the impacted immigrants.

On June 6, 2018, heavily armed ICE agents backed by helicopters and dogs raided two garden stores in Sandusky, Ohio, arresting 115 employees.  Alarmed by the raids, the community centered its concern on the impact of the arrests on the families. WAT member Josie Setzler and Tiffin Area Pax Christi helped organize a Rally for Justice in Immigration. According to local news, “People gathered at Suhr Park … to let the country know they wouldn’t remain quiet about more than 100 people being taken away from their families and the community.”  Fifteen-year-old Natalie Alonzo and her friends organized “Los Ninos de Corsos” to raise money for the families whose bread-winners had been taken into the black hole of ICE, where lawyers and family-members have no idea if and when their loved ones are to be deported.

Grass-roots organizations such as No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes have long attempted to help prevent asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border from dying in the desert.  WAT and No More Death member Paula Miller says that volunteers putting out water and providing first aide to vulnerable immigrants in the desert risk being prosecuted themselves for assisting and harboring “illegal aliens.”

The People Speak Truth to Power

So what do we do? We speak truth to power.  Those with the power — whether Senators or heads of agencies — may attempt to co-opt our ideas and phrases, but they can’t stop us from resisting and challenging their insidious double-think.  Entire communities are speaking truth to power over the injustice of ICE’s accelerating overreach. The world is watching.

On June 20, the United Nations observed World Refugee Day.  Not many Americans may know about World Refugee Day, but we do know it’s wrong to lock up people who are fleeing danger or economic disaster, and especially wrong to separate children from their parents.

WAT will stand with Justice for Muslims Collective on June 26th, the UN International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture, remembering especially the Muslim men who have been held for over 15 years and tortured in Guantanamo prison. We will continue to challenge torture by agents of the US that has gone unpunished.

We who choose to speak truth to power in the halls of Congress will continue our witnesses.  Of those arrested for speaking out against Haspel’s confirmation, four are still in court.  Medea Benjamin, Tighe Barry and Pete Perry paid fines, and Janice Sevre-Duszynska will go to trial on July 16th.  Ray McGovern, who was knocked to the ground and injured by the police after speaking in the hearing, was charged with resisting arrest and disrupting Congress and has a hearing on July 23rd.  I was charged with disrupting Congress and have a hearing on July 25th. David Barrows has a hearing on July 11th for his speech from the Senate Gallery.

Is it enough? It depends on what you consider enough.  We certainly weren’t able to prevent Haspel’s inevitable confirmation, any more than we’ve been able to hold her and others accountable for facilitating torture of human beings in their custody.  In the hearing, it was suggested that waterboarding is illegal now, but that it was legal when Haspel was in charge of the prison.  Somehow, the fact that Congress passed a law making waterboarding illegal wiped out the fact that this modern-day euphemism for a medieval torture method was already illegal in U.S. law, international law and in the Constitution.  Why was there not one Senator on the Committee able to insist on this fact, and by extrapolation, to ask why Haspel and numerous other high-level U. S. officials are not being prosecuted for participating in torture?  So we will continue to call out the many U.S. officials, both elected and appointed, who are complicit in this travesty of justice.

My final salvo, as I was being led from the room by police, was, “You are a torturer!” I could not leave this elephant in the room unacknowledged.  This truth did not matter to the high government officials in the room.  The torturer being interviewed by the esteemed Senators ultimately said all the right things and was promoted to head the CIA.  But this won’t stop some citizens from speaking truth to power.

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Invitation: Action opposing Gina Haspel for CIA on Wednesday

In Focus - Front Page // Film

May 7, 2018

Dear Friends and Supporters,

My name is Dr. Maha Hilal and I am a member of Witness Against Torture’s organizing team.  I’m writing to you today to express my rage and sadness over President Trump’s nomination for CIA Director – Gina Haspel.  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Haspel, she played a critical role in the CIA’s torture, interrogation, and rendition program, supervising the first black site in Thailand where both Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri were waterboarded repeatedly.  The torture that was inflicted on them would be replicated again and again as this first site provided a blueprint for others.  The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provides extensive detail on the CIA torture apparatus, identifying at least 119 prisoners – all Muslims in the report they published in December of 2014.  

It is Haspel’s participation in this violent apparatus of torture that makes it outrageous for her to be nominated, when she should, instead, be prosecuted.  But not only does the U.S. have a long and sorted history when it comes to the practice of torture, the era of the War on Terror has created an entirely separate system of justice where the laws that apply to others are malleable when it comes to Muslims.  This is by design, not accident.  But because the dehumanization and degradation of Muslims in the context of torture has been almost entirely omitted by the mainstream narrative, I wrote this piece to highlight the many Muslim victims of the CIA and beyond.

As a Muslim, knowing that the country I live in and of which I’m a citizen has chosen to promote an individual who participated in the torture and criminalization of other Muslims is outrageous and inexplicable.  That’s why I’m leading an action on Wednesday between 8:30-9:30 AM in front of the Hart building where Haspel’s hearing is set to take place at 9:30 in room 216.  I hope you will consider joining this action and helping us push back on the gamut of racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic acts of state violence that the CIA has spearheaded against Muslims in the War on Terror. We need to make it clear that torturers should not be promoted, but should instead, be held accountable.  Moreover, this is a critical time to hold the CIA accountable for their crimes of torture that spans the globe.

Will I see you on Wednesday at the Hart building?  I hope so.

Sincerely,
Dr. Maha Hilal

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Day 3 Fast for Justice: We grieve

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

 

In the dark times shall there be singing?

Yes.
There will be singing about the dark times.

–Bertolt Brecht

Day 3 Update – January 10, 2011

Friends,

Wednesday afternoon, we began a ceremony of grieving at the Museum of Native American History Museum, with the song:

‘Earth, my body; water, my blood; air, my breath, fire, my spirit.’

We then processed, singing and carrying flowers, to the Senate Park where the largest immigration support rally occurred just a month ago.

We remembered the long history of violence and oppression in the US and our hopes, from ending Islamophobia to ‘justice for the hills and rivers’.

Even this week we hear in the news more stories of violence intensifying: the loss of protective status for Salvadoran refugees and, that very afternoon, immigration raids on dozens of convenience stores.

Wise leaders among us sense that grieving is fundamental to the emotional life of nonviolence, as John Dear tells us in a passage read for our ritual.

We need to make grief a regular part of our daily meditation.  Grief needs to become a way of life for us.  For the millions of impoverished people in the world –from El Salvador to Chile to Malawi to South Africa to India and the Philippines–this is an old lesson.  The indigenous peoples of the world have long practiced grief.  But wealthy first world people, especially North Americans, do not know how to grieve.  We presume this is a morbid practice.  In fact, it is a way toward healing and comfort, as those who care for the human family and the earth show us.

The practice of grief allows the compassion within us to breathe and stretch, and the possibilities of universal love to grow within and among us.  If we learn to grieve regularly, we will awaken to our common humanity, expand our hearts, widen our compassion, and discover new horizons of peace.

For some the grief was personal, raw and recent.  Afterwards, one member remarked that the ritual helped her fold her personal loss into the suffering outside our doors and borders.  Our breaking hearts are strengthened for the work.

We ended with a litany:  We are grieving, we are sorry, let us hope.  You may find the litany at the end of this message.


There Is a Man Under That Hood:  book launch
Wednesday evening, at the Impact Hub down the street we held a book launch event.  WAT’s new book, There is a Man Under That Hood, features Luke Nephew’s poem by the same name, accompanied by photos taken or curated by Justin Norman.  The afterword is written by Omar Farah, staff attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights.

Many of you will remember Luke’s spoken word performance of the title poem in front of the DOJ on a snowy, cold J11 in 2011.  See it again at this link.

The book’s arresting photos provide us with a moving record of our work over the years.  As Omar Farah writes in the books afterword:

WAT has been fearless in giving voice to the prisoners’ lived experiences.  WAT has honored the prisoners’ humanity, even when the government cynically vilified them, and it has unflinchingly stood as witness to their suffering, even when the world’s attention turned away.

Learn more and order a copy at this link.


Yet another J11
It’s early in the morning on January 11th, as we write this message.  Can it be yet another J11 that we must come together?  Today we mark 16 years since the first prisoners were brought to Guantanamo.  We join with a coalition of 15 organizations to rally at the White House at 11:30 am.

At 9:30 this morning,  CCR will be livestreaming a morning press conference from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where they will announce a significant new filing challenging Guantánamo under Trump.

At 2:30 this afternoon, a panel entitled Guantanamo Under Trump, moderated by Peter Bergen, will take place at New America, 740 15th St., NW, Suite 900.  Featured speakers will be Andy Worthington, Karen Greenberg, and Thomas Wilner.


In closing, we offer you the litany we used in Wednesday’s grieving ritual.  Together may we find strength for this journey.

A Litany:  We are mourning. We are sorry. Let us hope

Response: We are mourning

From the arrogance of power….
From the tyranny of greed
From the politics of hypocrisy
From the addiction of control
From the idolatry of national security
From the cancer of hatred
From the hysteria of nationalism
From the sin of racism
From the sin of sexism
From the sin of torture
From the sin of war
From the waste and preparation of war

Response:  We are sorry.

For our hardness of the heart….
For wasting our gifts
For wanting too much
For wounding the earth
For ignoring the poor
For trusting in weapons
For refusing to listen
For exporting arms
For desiring dominance
For lacking humility
For failing to risk
For failing to trust
For failing to act
For failing to hope
For failing to love
For failing to negotiate
For our arrogance
For our impatience
For our pride
For our silence

Response: Let us hope

That we learn compassion…
That we embrace nonviolence
That we act in justice
That we live in hope
That we do your will
That we love our enemies
That we strive to be peacemakers
That we live simply
That we practice sharing
That we protect the earth
That we cherish all life

 

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Press release: WAT seeks answers from UAE on torture and secret prisons in Yemen

Uncategorized // Film

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: witnesstorture@gmail.com

January 9, 2017

Witness Against Torture (WAT) Seeks UAE Response to Allegations that the UAE runs a network of secret prisons in southern Yemen where “abuse is routine and torture extreme.”

On January 9, 2018, WAT members demonstrated in front of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates. They tried to deliver a letter to UAE Ambassador Yusuf Al Otaiba, raising questions based on a June 22, 2017 AP report which documented 18 secret prisons in Southern Yemen where detainees were subjected to extreme forms of torture, which include being trussed to a grill called “the grill” that rotated over an open fire. “2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons,” the AP report says, “a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers.”

Also released on June 22, 2017 was a Human Rights Watch report which accuses the UAE of supporting Yemeni forces that have “arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured and abused dozens of people during security operations.”

One of the main detention complexes is at Riyan Airport in Yemen’s southern city of Mukalla. Former detainees, speaking on condition of anonymity, told of “being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the ‘grill,’ and sexually assaulted.

A member of the Hadramawt Elite a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, said that American forces were at times only yards away.

The AP report notes that Amnesty International has called for a U.N.-led investigation “into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture” and into allegations the U.S. interrogated detainees or received information possibly obtained from torture. “It would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” said Amnesty’s director of research in the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf.

*  *  *  *

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Letter to the UAE Ambassador protesting secret prisons and torture in Yemen

Uncategorized // Film

Witness Against Torture
Washington, D.C.
www.witnessagainsttorture.com
general information: Matt Daloisio daloisio@riseup.net

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
Attn: His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador
Washington, D.C.

January 9, 2018

Your Excellency,

We write with great concern about reports of UAE officials maintaining clandestine prisons in Yemen. The June 22nd AP report which so deeply troubles us described gruesome tortures happening inside the secret prisons.

We want to write a word about ourselves. We are a group of people who have campaigned since 2005 to close Guantanamo and end forever any use of torture. Our group is called Witness Against Torture. We feel particularly responsible to confront the U.S. government’s involvement in torture. It’s alleged that U.S. interrogators have been present in Yemen and, while not inside the chambers where people have been
tortured, U.S. officials have possibly interrogated people who have been subjected to torture.

Within Yemen, stories about torture and disappearance of prisoners must have an extremely chilling effect on any individuals or groups who would attempt to demonstrate on behalf of their loved ones who have disappeared and who fear that their loved ones have been tortured.

Recognizing that it would be quite difficult for Yemeni people to reach your Embassy here in the U.S., we are assembling here today to raise questions: How specifically does the government of the United Arab Emirates respond to each of the allegations made in the June 22nd, 2017 AP report? What information can you offer regarding the presence of U.S. interrogators who acknowledge having been in Yemen? How has the government of the United Arab Emirates responded to the estimated 2000 people in Yemen who have claimed that their loved ones have disappeared?

Recognizing that the UN regards the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the worst in the world, as people face conflict-driven famine and disease, we feel increasing urgency to alleviate the suffering people face and help abolish any networks of clandestine prisons and any usage of torture by any of the warring parties.

Sincerely,
Members of Witness Against Torture fasting in Washington, D.C.

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Day 1 WAT’s Fast for Justice begins

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

Day 1 January 7,8 -The witness begins

***Please let us know if you would like to receive daily updates from the fast by sending an e-mail with “fast updates” in the subject to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Witness Against Torture members began assembling in Washington, D.C. on Sunday evening, January 7. Matt Daloisio and Luke Nephew arrived in a van that Matt had carefully packed with twelve years worth of posters, banners, and other paraphernalia, along with sleeping bags, pillows, cups, winter clothing and other essentials for a week of fasting intended to close Guantanamo and abolish torture forever.

Matt spent close to an hour organizing the equipment and the posters. “He curates it,” said Josie Setzler, recognizing that Matt alone seems to know what is packed in every box and stored at the Maryhouse Catholic Worker.  He organized a wall of past posters and flyers that offers a montage of WAT history.

In an opening circle reflection, Matt noted that many of the prisoners whose visages and names appeared on banners over the years have been released. In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. Matt mentioned that Shaker Aamer has been reunited with the son whom he had never met while imprisoned in Guantanamo. Mohammed Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, has finally been released. These encouraging realities don’t in the slightest diminish the urgency we feel in seeking the release of the 41 men still imprisoned in Guantanamo. Yet our sense of renewed purpose was heightened as Matt “curated” the stage, setting the scene for actions this week.


Early Monday morning, we met members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker at the Pentagon for their weekly vigil.  Art Laffin led us in the following Call and Response, as we greeted Pentagon workers hurrying into the building.  His words movingly framed our week’s work.

Pentagon DDCW-WAT Vigil Statement/Litany by Art Laffin—January 8, 2018

Good Morning. We greet all Pentagon workers and police in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. 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 life, love and justice, and NO to the death-dealing policies of a warmaking empire. God calls us to love our neighbor and to never mistreat, torture, kill and wage war against them. We witness in the hope that the Pentagon will one day be transformed into a center that serves life, not death!
Response: Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

WAT formed in 2005 when 25 Catholic Workers and other peacemakers from the U.S. went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. For the last 12 years members of WAT have fasted and engaged in numerous nonviolent actions to call for the closing of Guantanamo. Today is the first day of WAT’s week-long “Fast for Justice” to mark the 16th year of the first prisoners being taken to Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. We call for the closing of Guantanamo, and for an end to the crime of torture and indefinite detention.
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

We remember and pray for all victims of U.S. torture and warmaking, 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. We call for an independent investigation into the death of Latif and the other eight who died at Guantanamo! Before he died Latif wrote the following words: “Where is the world to save us from torture?” Adnan Latif: we and many others hear your cry and that is why we are here today!
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

The U.S. Senate Select Committee Intelligence Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was released on December 9, 2014. The report details actions by CIA officials, including torturing prisoners, providing misleading or false information about classified CIA programs to the media, impeding government oversight and internal criticism, and mismanaging the program. It also revealed the existence of previously unknown detainees, that more detainees were subjected to harsher treatment than was previously disclosed, and that more forms of torture were used than previously disclosed. We call for accountability for the entire chain of command who are responsible for carrying out torture, including those who, ordered, perpetrated, approved and provided legal cover for the torture of detainees. In the name of the detainees who continue to be unjustly held at Guantanamo, we call on all who work at the Pentagon to implore President Trump to issue an executive order to close Guantanamo immediately!
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

Today, 41 men continue to languish at Guantanamo enduring tortuous brutal confinement, most for the last 16 years, 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.
Response:   Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

In today’s scripture in the Catholic lectionary, the prophet Isaiah declares: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice…to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” (Is. 42: 6-7) What if we were to live as though this biblical mandate was a Divine summons for us to act on here and now, today? Now is the time to end the sin of torture and to proclaim liberty to the captives!
Response: Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

Please join us as we commit to resisting Islamophobia and all forms of oppression, and eradicating what Dr. King called the “triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.”  Together, let us strive to create the Beloved Community!


Lu Aya (Luke) Nephew offers the following poetic reflection on our experience.

The Pentagon, Sunrise
It’s the darkest hour as we levitate out of the metro. Then a golden splash licks our eyes as we rise up.  We float across the sidewalk.  We glide into position. Swoosh.  We in formation.  Face to face with the mansion of murder.  Our eyes stare in unison.  Our silence faces theirs. Our presence flourishes up into song.  Their alibis dissolve into uncomfortable coughs.

Orange jumpsuits bellowing melancholy messages in all kinds of languages at the volume of the breeze through the leaves.  Fierce like that.  Recklessly righteous.  Soaring wing to wing with the heart-filled history of the Dorothy Day Community witnessing the wonders of creation.  Right here. On this very land. This very patch of precious earth that cradles us sweetly in defiance of all the empires ever.  What a sight we are to behold.  Our love so radical it is warming up the cold.

And then guess what happened next?

The miracles of human life that are currently confined in the tragedy of working in the pentagon begin to pass by the natural temple of our tableau.

And turns out –  they don’t see the scene I described.

They see a bunch of beating hearts wearing activist uniforms doing activist things.

And you know what?

We couldn’t quite see ourselves in the true light of the sunrise either…

We saw ourselves as tired workers, stumbling out of sleep into the freezing cold and bumbling with a bunch of signs.    Unable to untangle the mic chord or unfold the banner or take the echo out the amplifier. We saw ourselves fumbling into a good try.  A valiant effort. A good intention.  But actually.  Get this… we kinda loved each for it. and we kinda really deeply loved our families and friends and the detainees and their families and their friends and all the other families and friends. We kinda loved. A little bit.

And that little bit of love was a smooth stone deep in the forest that reminds the weary traveler of the path back home.

And without realizing that we had just reminded each other where to walk while alive, we set off. Together.

In the right direction.

And we might never see what really happened.

Until everyone. everyone gets home.

And from there

From home… a golden splash licks our eyes as we rise up.


Khalid Qassim
At the Pentagon Chris Spicer-Hankle lifted up the name of Khalid Qassim, a Yemeni detainee still at Guantanamo.  Later in the morning we received a message from Khalid’s attorney at Reprieve.  She sent us images of  Khalid’s moving artwork from the exhibit Ode to the Sea at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York until January 26, 2018.  See these images on our Facebook page.  Read Khalid’s bio on the Reprieve website.


Monday turned into a rainy day in DC, a perfect day to work hard on our action planning.  Please stay tuned this week as our actions unfold.  We offer you our heartfelt gratitude for sharing this journey in solidarity with the men in Guantanamo and prisoners everywhere.


Witness Against Torture on Social Media:

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

Post any pictures of your local activities to our Flickr account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work:

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, click here to donate.

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Week of Actions: Closing Guantanamo, Ending Torture

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

We invite you to join Witness Against Torture and partner organizations for a series of events in Washington, DC, calling for closing Guantanamo and ending torture.  Highlights include:

Tuesday, January 9th, 6:30 pm
UNJUSTIFIABLE MEANS BY MARK FALLON
Kramer Books, 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036

“President Trump wants to bring back torture. This is why he’s wrong…In Unjustifiable Means, Fallon reveals this dark side of the United States government, which threw our own laws and international covenants aside to become a nation that tortured—sanctioned by the highest-ranking members of the Bush Administration, the Army, and the CIA, many of whom still hold government positions, although none have been held accountable.”  –kramers.com

Wednesday, January 10th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
THERE IS A MAN UNDER THAT HOOD: CLOSING GUANTANAMO AND ENDING TORTURE
Impact Hub, 419 7th St., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20004
PEACE POETS – ANDY WORTHINGTON – ALIYA HUSSAIN – BOOK LAUNCH
Sponsored by Witness Against Torture & Center for Constitutional Rights

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo. The book — “There is a Man Under that Hood” — sets the words of Luke Nephew’s (Peace Poets) remarkable poem of that title to images of anti-torture demonstrations: photographs taken or curated by Justin Norman (WAT). The afterword is written by Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Thursday, January 11th, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
RALLY TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO AND STOP TORTURE
White House, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC 20006
Hosted by a coalition of 15 organizations

Please join human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, ex-military officials, and members of diverse faith communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as they rally to close the prison, end indefinite detention, dismantle Islamophobia, and call for the immediate transfer of the cleared detainees.

Thursday, January 11th, 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
GUANTANAMO UNDER TRUMP
New America, 740 15th St., NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005
ANDY WORTHINGTON – KAREN GREENBERG – THOMAS B. WILNER – MODERATED BY PETER BERGEN

“What will happen to the prison and its detainees in the remaining years of the Trump administration? Will Donald Trump reverse course and increase the number of detainees held there? Will the prison ever close?”  –newamerica.org


2018 Fast for Justice
Witness Against Torture will be hosting activists for the entire week, Jan. 7 – 14, for its 2018 Fast for Justice.  Click here for the tentative schedule.  For RSVP or further information:  please email witnesstorture@gmail.com.

 

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2018 Fast for Justice Schedule

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE  2018 FAST FOR JUSTICE
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (Subject to change as the week progresses)
January 7 – 14, 2018

For further information or to RSVP, please email witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Sunday the 7th:
3 pm: arrive settle in*, supper on your own
8 pm: gather for evening circle (orientation, connecting, planning)

Monday the 8th we begin our fast**:
7 am: vigil at the Pentagon
9 am: share a simple final meal and begin the fast
10 am: opening circle (orientation, connecting, begin planning the week)
Team meetings, more people arriving, planning and preparing
7:00 pm Circle

Tuesday the 9th:
9 am: morning circle, followed by team meetings for planning and preparing actions
6:30 pm: Kramer Books (Speaker: Mark Fallon, who wrote Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture)

Wednesday the 10th:
9 am: morning circle, followed by more team meetings
2:30 pm: Meet at the church to leave for grieving procession/ritual
6 pm:  Event at Impact Hub (Book launch of There Is a Man Under That Hood, spoken word by Peace Poets, and much more)

Thursday the 11th:
9 am: morning circle and prep for the day
11:30 am White House rally with coalition partners, followed by an action
Other events for those interested:
9:30 am live-stream CCR press conference, announcing a significant new filing challenging Guantanamo under Trump
2:30 – 4:00 pm, Guantanamo Under Trump, at New America, 740 15th St., N.S., Suite 900, Washington, DC

Friday the 12th:
9 am: morning circle
Morning: possible participation in NCNR action
3 pm: No Foreign Military Bases demonstration in Baltimore
Evening: options include opening session of No Bases Conference and opening night of movie The Post

Saturday the 13th we end our fast:
10 am to 5 pm: retreat at First Trinity (to examine our capacity and explore how we move forward in these times
6 pm: evening meal to break the fast together and celebrate our community

Sunday the 14th:
9 am: breakfast, followed by circle and closing ceremony
noon: depart for home


*First Trinity Lutheran Church hostel, Washington, DC

**The Fast:  Our “fast for justice”  is a liquids-only fast.  Participants may adopt their own definition of liquids.  Juices, teas, supplements, and coffee will be made available to participants.  Those who choose not to fast may obtain meals on their own.

Our Fasting Tips document:
Fasting Tips

Witness Against Torture’s Community Values Statement:
WAT Community Values

 

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16 years of Guantanamo and a year of Trump: The work for justice continues

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

 

Close Guantanamo, Stop Torture:
Seeking Justice and Resisting Islamophobia in the Age of Trump

We invite you to join us in community in Washington, DC,  January 7 – 14, for Witness Against Torture’s 2018 Fast for Justice.  Please let us know you’re coming– for the week or any part of it– by sending an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

We will gather for a week of events marking a tragic and ongoing history:  After 16 years, the US detention camp at Guantanamo remains a living symbol of US torture and human rights abuses and a place of misery for the 41 Muslim men it still houses. Five of the men have been long cleared for release and yet still languish there.  The Trump administration is holding 26 of the detainees for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The Pentagon has plans to try only a small handful of the prisoners.

It is easy to lose hope in these troubling times.  Yet we know that hope resides not in calculating future probabilities, but in bearing witness to injustice in this present moment.  It resides in lifting up human dignity. It resides in imploring our fellow citizens not to turn their eyes away.  And so, once again, we gather.

Highlights of WAT’s 2018 Fast for Justice

Here is a preliminary skeleton structure for the week (Jan. 7 – 14):

Sunday evening: arrive anytime after 3; settle in and gather for evening circle
Monday:  share the morning meal and begin the fast; opening circle; begin planning the week’s actions
Tuesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Mark Fallon talk: see below)
Wednesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Book launch and Peace Poets: see below)
Thursday:  11:30 am White House rally with coalition partners; action; possible evening vigil
Friday:  morning circle; afternoon No Foreign Military Bases demonstration in Baltimore; possible evening circle
Saturday:  all-day retreat to examine our capacity and how to move forward; evening meal to break the fast together and celebrate our community
Sunday morning:  breakfast, circle and closing ceremony; depart.

January 9 – Mark Fallon Event

Author Mark Fallon presents Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, at Kramerbooks at 1517 Conn. Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.  6:30 pm.

Mark Fallon is a former intelligence officer and investigator at the heart of America’s “war on terror.”  Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security, calls his book “Essential reading for those who wish to understand this dark period in American history.”

January 10 –  Book Launch, Performance, and Speakers

There is a Man Under that Hood: Closing Guantánamo and Stopping Torture in the Age of Trump

The Impact Hub
419 7th St. NW, Washington, DC
Jan. 10, 6-8 pm

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo.

The book, There is a Man Under that Hood, collects highlights from eight years of anti-torture photography curated by Justin Norman, and pairs them with Luke Nephew’s powerful poem by the same name. The contents are book-ended by a foreword from WAT’s Jeremy Varon and an afterword from Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Peace Poets will perform pieces from current human rights struggles. UK author Andy Worthington will address the state of Guantanamo in the era of Trump. And legal advocates will report on the fate of their clients still in the prison. Together we will celebrate our resistance to torture and work to close Guantanamo.

New book from Witness Against Torture on Guantanamo activism

The 72-page book is available for pre-order in hardcover for $25. Release is set for January 10th, 2018. The proceeds will be used to further the human rights work of the creators.

January 11 – Rally Marking 16 years of Guantanamo

Please join human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantanamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, ex-military officials, and members of diverse faith communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2018 as we rally against Guantanamo, indefinite detention, and Islamophobia and call for the immediate transfer of the cleared detainees. The rally at the White House will begin at 11:30 am.

Muslim Ban

Just days after Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda, the Supreme Court decided to implement Muslim Ban 3.0 while the lower courts adjudicate the ban’s constitutionality, by kicking the case back to the 4th and 9th Circuit courts.  However, they have allowed the racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Muslim ban to go into effect in the meantime. See this op-ed from the ACLU.

In response, the Justice for Muslims Collective organized an emergency rally at the Supreme Court on December 7th. Co-directors Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raja MC’d the event that highlighted the voices of inspiring Muslim women speaking truth to power:

Here’s a link to the livestream video of the rally.

North Carolina Torture Accountability Hearings

On November 30 and December 1, several hundred people gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for an extraordinary event: the public hearings of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.  Over two days, eight commissioners heard riveting and often heart rending testimony about the global rendition and torture program undertaken by the United States following the 9/11 attacks.  The witnesses included the world’s leading rendition researcher; military, ex-military, and ex-intelligence officers outspoken against torture; legal experts on human rights; psychologists who treat torture victims; and, via Skype, survivors of US torture. The Commission grew out of local, North Carolina efforts to protest Aero Contractors — a private airline company contracted by the CIA to carry out likely hundreds of rendition flights ferrying US captive to torture by the CIA or foreign governments.  The commissioners will author a report based on the hearings.

The NCCIT hearings were a landmark event.  The Bush administration sought to define out of existence, conceal, and immunize grave crimes. The Obama administration chose not to prosecute potential perpetrators of torture operating under legal directives from Bush’s DoJ.  Several lawsuits targeting torture policies have been dismissed from federal and international courts for reasons of executive privilege, state’s secrets provisions, and pressure from the US government. It has therefore been up to civil society actors like the NCCIT to provide at least symbolic forms of accountability for years of US torture.  The hearings further educated the public about US conduct, solidified the legal case that torture occurred, and may help to deter future uses of torture by fortifying a public narrative that it happened and that it was wrong.  The hearings also brought victims of torture into a judicial-style inquiry, simulating forms of due process that has been denied them.

For more on the hearings, including links to media and video archive of them, go to the NCCIT website.

We Must Resist: Join WAT in DC in January!

For 13 years Witness Against Torture has championed the cause of the Muslim men unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo, also using our witness to shine a light on other U.S. institutions of racist, Islamophobic state violence.

Now, as our outrageous Narcissist-In-Chief distracts the world, those very institutions are quietly cementing into place and strengthening the security state that is stripping entire groups of people of due process rights and protection under the law.

We must resist: come to DC in January to witness in community with us and to engage the future together!

Donate to support our work

Please consider a donation to help fund our annual Fast for Justice this January.  We are completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff; all of the money you donate goes to funding the work we do together. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

 

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