To let suffering speak: Our final update from our week in DC

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

To let suffering speak is a condition of all truth. –Theodor Adorno

January 12, 2019

Dear friends,
After a full day in DC yesterday marking the day 17 years ago that the first prisoners were brought to Guantanamo, we took today to debrief our week-long Fast for Justice and look toward the future.  We opened with a circle of over 40 people, each person speaking to the question, what was the highlight of your experience.  One member of the circle quoted Theodor Adorno to make his point: “To let suffering speak is a condition of all truth.”

“To let suffering speak” captures the essence of the events that marked the January 11th anniversary of Guantanamo.  Stories of the detainees’ suffering were lifted up again and again during the day, during panels, a rally, and a post-rally procession through the streets of DC. 

See our photos below and then scroll down for more about all these events plus news of solidarity vigils in other cities.
Former Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Slahi addressed a Congressional Briefing from Mauritania  by Skype.
 
Congressional Briefing on January 11

Mohamedou Slahi, former Guantanamo detainee and author of the Guantanamo Diary. addressed a Friday morning congressional briefing by Skype from Mauritania.  Mohamedou told us that “Guantanamo is a concept not a place,”  because detainees lives cannot return to normal after their release.  Mohamedou knows he risks a great deal by speaking out, but he continues because he wants to have the same freedom that Americans have. Members of our community were uplifted by Mohamedou’s smile as he observed the packed meeting room and answered questions. 

CCR Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei spoke about her client Sharqawi Al Hajj.  While we see only his military mug shot taken 17 years ago, Pardiss reported that his face now shows decay. He weighs only 108 pounds and is in chronic pain.  She told us that the long years of imprisonment are causing accelerated physical decline in the men, adding 15 years to those in their 40’s and 50’s. One detainee shows up to his proceedings in a hospital bed.  She asserts that two major issues for the detainees is access to good medical care and to family contact.

What can Congress do?  Daphne Eviatar, Amnesty International, laid out three actions: Hold a congressional hearing about releasing those prisoners who have been cleared.
Lift restrictions on transfer to the US for trial and for medical care.
Do not fund transfers of any new prisoners to Guantanamo.
Panel at New America

Andy Worthington, who spoke on a later panel at New America, reports: Check out the video of the powerful panel discussion, ’17 Years of #Guantanamo‘, at the New America think-tank yesterday, the 17th anniversary of the prison’s opening. I was part of a panel discussion with the attorney Tom Wilner, my colleague in the Close Guantanamo campaign, and Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch, moderated by David Sterman.
The event – which, I’m glad to note, was also broadcast live by C-SPAN – was extremely well-attended, and in complete contrast to last year, when everyone seemed crushed by Trump’s first year in office. This year there was a real spirit of resistance, in part because of people’s realization that there is no option but to resist, and partly because of the slim glimmer of hope offered by the Democrats taking the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
 
J11 Rally to Close Guantanamo – Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump
Stop Cruelty, Fear, Racism, Islamophobia, and Lies



We came together to demand the closure of Guantanamo and its legacy of institutionalizing Islamophobia, and to invite our government and fellow citizens to choose love, mercy and justice. A dozen organizations including WAT cosponsored the rally. In addition to the prison at Guantanamo, speakers also addressed connected issues such as the war in Yemen, Latin American solidarity, Cuban sovereignty, and more.  WAT speakers included Luke Nephew, Kathy Kelly, Maria Luisa Rosal, and Maha Hilal.  Jessica and Leila Murphy, who lost their father at the World Trade Center on 9/11, spoke out against vengeance.  They believe the men imprisoned at Guantanamo must be dealt with justly and the prison closed before they can feel closure about their father’s death. They joined  September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in order to work toward this end.

After the rally, WAT members dressed in jumpsuits formed a circle in front of the White House, while members of the larger community presented them with candles of solidarity.  Then they processed singing —

“Courage Muslim brothers
You do not walk alone
We will walk with you and 
Sing your spirit home. “
 
We processed down Pennsylvania Avenue to Trump Hotel where we vigiled in solidarity with indigenous peoples.  We ended at a plaza above DC Central Cell Block where we stood in a circle and held a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the prisoners housed below ground, disappeared from public eyes.  Afterwards we headed back to the church to break our fast with a marvelous feast of Middle Eastern and Salvadoran food.

Over fifty of us circled up at the church Friday morning and many more allies joined us along the way.  More than forty stayed on for Saturday’s retreat.  A snowstorm greeted us as we emerged from the church and returned home!


Solidarity Vigils
 
We were pleased to receive word from a couple of groups who vigiled in solidarity on the J11 anniversary. 

From Peace and Justice Works in Portland, Oregon
Last night at the “Close Guantanamo– Still America’s Shame” action, the 12-foot-tall Tower of Peace was visible to thousands of Portlanders driving past Pioneer Square for 90+ minutes during rush hour.* Over 15 people participated in the rally/march and handed out roughly 150 fact sheets. About half the crowd wore orange jumpsuits to remind people of the dehumanization imposed on the inmates by the United States. Many passers-by in cars honked their horns and gave thumbs up, and pedestrians thanked us for being there. Several grassroots media folks including PSU students and the famous Joe Anybody came by to document the event.

New York City
Twenty-five people vigiled in New York City’s Union Square for an hour on Jan. 11 to mark the anniversary. Four students from Xavier University in Cincinnati, who were visiting the Catholic Worker, wore the orange jumpsuits.

We’ll be happy to receive news from other groups doing work in solidarity with us.  Email your news to  witnesstorture@gmail.com. 

For more photos and news of our work, please visit our website www.witnessagainsttorture.com. 

We’re deeply grateful for your solidarity.  Let’s challenge one another to continue to “let suffering speak” and to carry that truth to the American people.

In peace,
Witness Against Torture

 

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Midweek Update from DC: Yemen action and more

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

WAT action Wednesday at the Supreme Court
“Know where you stand and stand there.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Dear Friends,

This evening we are holding in our hearts our five community members who are spending the night in Central Cell Block awaiting their arraignment tomorrow afternoon.  Read our press release about the action and arrests below.

Then scroll down for news of our Tuesday evening protest at the White House during Trump’s speech and our community dialogue event earlier in the day. We conclude with an uplifting reflection by Ellen Huffman who is fasting in solidarity with us from Colorado. Thanks, Ellen!


WAT Press Release
Five Witness Against Torture Activists Arrested for Bannering on the Supreme Court Steps as Part of “Stop Torture” protest

Activists Participate in week-long fast calling on the U.S. to Stop Support for the Murderous War in Yemen and Close the Prison Camp at Guantanamo

On January 9, 2019, five human rights activists protesting all forms of torture were arrested while bannering on the Supreme Court steps. Their banner stated: “We Target. We Torture. We Terrify,” followed by the question “Who Are We?”  

Joining them were dozens of protesters who formed a tableau to denounce US-backed war on Yemen and call for closure of Guantanamo.

Alongside the banner, 36 children’s bookbags were scattered atop bloodied shrouds. Each backpack bore the name of a Yemeni child killed on August 9, 2019 when a Saudi warplane dropped a Lockheed Martin 500 lb. laser guided bomb on their school bus. Remembering the nine prisoners who died in Guantanamo, activists clad in jumpsuits and hoods laid down on bloodied shrouds, across from the backpacks.

While Supreme Court security guards handcuffed those holding the banner, supporters sang: “Know where you stand. No more war. Know where you stand and stand there.”

Arrested were Sherrill Hogen, Manijeh Saba, Ellen Graves, JoAnne Lingles, and Charley Bowman.

Explaining why she chose to risk arrest, Ellen Graves, a social worker from Western Massachusetts said she is troubled by grotesque practices that have starved, maimed, dismembered and traumatized Yemeni children. Graves and many of the other activists have gathered for a week of fasting and action that marks January 11, the seventeenth year since Muslim men have been imprisoned in Guantanamo. “The misery of Muslim people continues,” said Dr. Maha Hilal after reading the names of the Yemeni children being commemorated along with the names of nine Muslim men who have died in Guantanamo.
####


Tuesday evening at the White House protesting the Trump address

We expected a quiet evening of planning on Tuesday, until Trump decided to make an address stumping for his wall.  So we made haste to join other protesters in front of the White House to give our own counter-message: Is this who we are? We had been reflecting on that question earlier in the day in the context of Guantanamo and Yemen.  We had no problem extending our analysis to “The Wall” and other state violence happening at our border.  Indeed, is this who we are? #NoWall #CloseGitmo #YemenCantWait

Mike Fiala reports reports back on our community dialogue session at Codepink house on Tuesday

Local tenant justice activists Minnie and Yvonne warmly introduced us to their neighborhood where housing justice is one of the fundamental challenges.
We learned that battles they won in the past for holding onto affordable HUD-subsidized housing have returned. As Yvonne described it: first, it was segregation; then it was integration; now it’s gentrification. For her, gentrification is segregation by another name.  Minnie & Yvonne were supremely interested in our work in WAT, easily expanding their hearts and their own concerns to us. In fact, they were struck by our WAT t-shirts and so two men gave them their shirts off their backs. They were also delighted to talk with Xavier University students who joined us for the dialogue. They invited us all back in the summer, talking about the wonderful parties, food, and children there are in their neighborhood!

Reflection from Solidarity Faster Ellen Huffman

40 men detained at the prison at Guantanamo.  Less than ever since its opening in 2002, but still, 40 people.  People. Individuals who have been held for years, some cleared for release for years, some never charged with a single crime.

I couldn’t attend the Witness Against Torture (WAT) convergence in Washington, D.C. this year–an experience that was incredibly meaningful to me the three years before–and so I tried to fast in solidarity with those 40 men from my home in Colorado.  I knew the stats. I knew the reasons why striving to live in solidarity matters. I knew what it was like to hear the words of Guantánamo prisoners read over a handheld sound system while my stomach folded in on itself.

But this time I was alone.  This time I could only be connected to the actions of my colleagues through texts and tweets.  I’m in a new city where I don’t know too many people and certainly don’t know any other WAT/IRTF folks.  I was alone.

And I know through my struggles with fasting on my own, with feeling isolated from my community, with feeling lonely and heartbroken, that I was not even skimming the surface of what it might feel like to be separated from family and neighbors, tortured and held for years on end.  And I know that ultimately, I was not alone. How could I be?

We are made to seek justice in community.  We are made to form connections while working for equality and peace.  We need each other in this work. It is too hard on our own and we get so much more work done together.  I know I treasure my year in Cleveland working with IRTF so much more–and I appreciated it quite a lot while I was there–now that I’m across the country.  

This work of solidarity matters.  You are no less alone than the men I fasted with.  Watch your individual actions multiply by partnering with IRTF and WAT. You will be amazed.

Con paz y luz,

Rev. Ellen Huffman

Former IRTF board member, now residing in Boulder, Colorado, enrolled in a graduate program in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Naropa University


If you are in the DC area, we hope you’ll make plans to attend the following:

  • Thursday evening panel, entitled The State of Muslim Rights in the War on Terror. 
  • Congressional Briefing on Guantanamo, Friday, 10 am, Longworth House Office Building, Room 1539.
  • Rally at the White House, marking 17 years of Guantanamo, 2:30 pm.

Visit our website for our schedule, photos, and more. 

Peace and gratitude,
Witness Against Torture

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Day 1 Fast for Justice in DC

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

A beautiful sunrise back-lit our protest at the Pentagon early Monday morning.

O crisis, intensify!
The morning is about to break forth.
–Abdulaziz

Reflections on the first full day of our 2019 Fast for Justice in DC


O Prison Darkness

O prison darkness, pitch your tent.
We love the darkness.

For after the dark hours of the night, Pride’s dawn will rise.

Let the world, with all its bliss, fade away–
So long as we find favor with God

A boy may diespair in the face of a problem,
But we know God has a disign.

Even though the bands tighten and seem unbreakable,
They will shatter.

Those who persist will attain their goal;
Those who keep knocking shall gain entry.

O crisis, intensify!
The morning is about to break forth.

— Abdulaziz (Poems from Guantanamo: The detainees speak)

January 8, 2019

Dear Friends,
The 2019 Fast for Justice has begun!  The above poem written by Guantanamo detainee Abdulaziz served to frame our first full day in DC on Monday. We read and reflected on the poem during our solidarity fasters conference call in the evening.  The final verse, “O crisis intensify! The  morning is about to break forth” reminded us of our start to the day: our vigil at the Pentagon, where a beautiful sunrise unfolded behind us and eerily lit up the Pentagon facade we faced.  Abdulaziz kept his hope alive in the darkness of his Guantanamo imprisonment, imagining the new light of dawn in the midst of crisis.  We feel the responsibility to foster that hope on the streets of DC and in the communities of our readers who accompany us from home.  Below please read more from Paulette and Art about the Pentagon vigil.

Borrowing from the words of Clare Grady, a Kings Bay Plowshares activist who was on our conference call in the evening:  Let us remember the value of steadfastness and communal work.  May our message be heard and magnified.  In intense crisis, let us long for the dawn!

Peace and gratitude,
Witness Against Torture


At our Witness against Torture Action at the Pentagon
by Sr. Paulette Schroeder

At out Witness against Torture Action Jan. 7 in front of the Pentagon, I felt so humbled and grateful to be standing for the 40 men still detained in Guantanamo. Though many of these men have been cleared for release or for trial the men still languish in conditions that are deplorable. President Trump refuses to even consider releasing anyone during his term of office.

Every Monday a.m. The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community in D.C. stands in solidarity with all who suffer from U.S. militarism. Our Witness Against Torture group had the privilege of joining this faith-filled community for this freezing Monday morning.

While singing, praying, and speaking on behalf of the men, I held the sign: “Is this who we are?”  I felt the profound sadness and discouragement of these men who haven’t seen nor heard nor touched their spouse or child through many long years. It is this hope to be rejoined with their family that keeps them going, hoping for good people of conscience to give attention to these men’s unjust confinement. Please God, let it be.

Pentagon DDCW-WAT Vigil Statement/Litany Prepared by Art Laffin—January 7, 2019
(Readers: Art Laffin, Frida Berrigan and Brian Terrell)

Good Morning. We greet all Pentagon workers and police in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. Since 1987 the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker has vigiled here each Monday to uphold God’s command “Thou shalt not kill” in nonviolent resistance to an empire that sanctions global violence and killing as evidenced by its vast war machine worldwide that included over 800 foreign military bases (including Guantanamo Bay), its military intervention in numerous countries, and its policy to prepare for and threaten to wage nuclear war. We, members of the DDCW and Witness Against Torture (WAT), come to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to say YES to love, justice and life and NO to the death-dealing policies of a warmaking empire. God calls us to love and never to torture, kill and wage war.  WAT formed in 2005 when 25 Catholic Workers and other peacemakers from the U.S. went to Guantánamo Bay Detention site and attempted to visit the detainees being held at the facility. For the last 13 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 17th year when the first detainees were taken to Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. We call for the immediate closing  of Guantanamo, and for an end to the crime of torture and indefinite detention.

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now!

Today, 40 men continue to languish at Guantanamo, 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. 

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now!

We remember and pray for all victims of the U.S. empire, 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, or the deaths of the other eight detainees. In Latif’s own words he asks: “Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?” Adnan Latif: we and many others hear your cry and that is why we are here today!  

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now!

We call for an independent investigation into the death of Latif and those who died at Guantanamo! 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!

Refrain: End the Crime of Torture–Close Guantanamo Now!

We also remember today all those who have died and continue to suffer from the brutal U.S.-backed Saudi war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The U.S. continues to provide direct military support and weapons to Saudi Arabia for this war, even though a recent Senate resolution called for an end to refueling Saudi warplanes, targeting and sharing intelligence. Thousands have died from the war, starvation is widespread and suspected cholera cases have exceeded one million. Save the Children conservatively estimates that 85,000 Yemeni children under age five have died from starvation and disease during the last three years. 

Refrain: The Children are Dying–End the War in Yemen!

Since 2010, according to The New York Times, the United States has sold the Saudis thirty F-15 multirole jet fighters, eighty-four combat helicopters, 110 air-to-surface cruise missiles, and 20,000 precision guided bombs. Last year, the United States also sold the Saudis ten maritime helicopters in a $1.9 billion deal. A Lockheed Martin made bomb was used in the Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen on Aug. 9, 2018 killing 40 children. We demand an immediate end to this war!

Refrain: The Children are Dying–End the War in Yemen!

Please join us as we commit to ending, torture, oppression, racism, Islamophobia and war. Together let us heed the biblical mandate: “to proclaim liberty to the captives…to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Luke 4:18 and Is 42:7)…to beat swords into plowshares and to train for war no more.” (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3)    Now is the time to Close Guantanamo, end the war in Yemen and ALL wars, transform the Pentagon into a center that serves life instead of death, and to create the Beloved Community! 


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17 years of Guantanamo: Rally in DC

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

Dear WAT friends,
Our community is gathering this week in DC to mark another tragic year since the opening in 2002 of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo, where forty prisoners remain. Follow our daily updates this week on Facebook and our websiteWe would like to invite you to join us for Friday’s White House rally, a congressional briefing on Guantanamo, and Thursday’s speaker panel.  Please read on for details. 
In solidarity,
Witness Against Torture

White House Rally on 17th anniversary of Guantanamo

WHAT: Rally to Close Guantánamo

WHEN: Friday, January 11 at 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm EST

WHERE:
Lafayette Square
Pennsylvania Ave NW & 16th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

WASHINGTON, DC – On the 17th anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, Witness Against Torture will be joining Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Justice for Muslims Collective and others for a rally to demand the closure of the detention camp, end indefinite detention of the detainees, and condemn the fear-mongering, cruelty, racism and xenophobia that has defined Trump’s presidency.

More than a decade after they were detained, 40 people remain at Guantánamo including five who have been approved by the U.S. government for transfer out of the detention camp. Most of the detainees have never been charged with or convicted of a crime.

Media contact: Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture,  732-979-3119,  jvaron@aol.com


Read WAT’s 2019 statement marking 17 years of Guantanamo:

CLOSE GUANTANAMO — Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump
Stop Cruelty, Fear, Islamophobia, Racism, and Lies

 

Please encourage your members of Congress to attend the Congressional briefing on Guantanamo to be held at 10:00 am, Friday, at Longworth House Office Building, Room 1539.


Thursday evening speaker panel:
The State of Muslim Rights in the US War On Terror

 

Thursday at 6 PM – 8:30 PM
Public Welfare Foundation Inc
1200 U Street Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia 20009
RSVP

Sponsored by Justice for Muslims Collective, Center for Constitutional Rights, Defending Rights and Dissent, Codepink, and Witness Against Torture

From drones, to proxy wars, to CIA Black Sites, to Communication Management Units, Muslims domestically in the US and around the globe have continued to be targeted under the guise of the War on Terror seventeen years after its onset. The panel will be moderated by Kristin Garrity Sekerci and will begin with a keynote from Dr. Maha Hilal (Justice for Muslims Collective), and followed by a panel featuring Darakshan Raja (Justice for Muslims Collective), Aliya Hussain (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Aya Saed (Center for Constitutional Rights) will speak to the impacts of the War on Terror on Muslims, both in it’s current manifestations under the Trump administration and it’s systemic nature, while addressing the role of institutionalized Islamophobia as part and parcel of the post 9/11 national security apparatus.

Artwork painted by Guantanamo prisoners will also be on display.

 

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CLOSE GUANTANAMO — Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

WAT’s 2019 statement marking 17 years of Guantanamo

CLOSE GUANTANAMO — Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump
Stop Cruelty, Fear, Islamophobia, Racism, and Lies

On January 11, human rights activists and attorneys will gather at the White House in Washington, D.C. to mark another tragic year since the opening in 2002 of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo, where forty prisoners remain. The demonstrators will call for the closure of the prison camp.

Shut Down Guantanamo

Playing to Islamophobic fears of Muslim peoples, Guantanamo was founded with the lie that it houses only “the worst of the worst” terrorists.  It continues to hold exclusively Muslim men, many of whom were severely tortured, without charge or trial. 

Other detained men face prosecution in the Military Commissions.  The unworkable Commissions have failed to provide due process for the accused or justice for the victims of terrorism.

Guantanamo has been a place of physical and psychological torture, the imprisonment of innocent men, brutal forced-feedings to break hunger-striking prisoners, and the pain of indefinite detention without charge. 

The prison remains a profound violation of law. It is a threat to American security and a blow to American ideals.  It is an insult to the world, to the tenets of all religious faiths, and to the idea of human rights. 

Guantanamo must close.

Guantanamo Today

Trump has put his own terrible stain on Guantanamo. Trump openly supports torture. Last year he appointed as CIA head Gina Haspel, who supervised a CIA torture “black site” in 2003.

The Trump administration has ended the U.S. policy of seeking Guantanamo’s closure. Trump has threatened to bring new prisoners there. And he has forbidden the release of anyone from Guantanamo into freedom.  This includes five men long cleared for release by the U.S. government itself. 

With no functioning mechanism for the release of any prisoner, Guantanamo has plunged deeper into lawlessness. Federal lawsuits are challenging this detention regime that deprives prisoners of nearly all rights of due process.

The newly elected Congress and the American people must awaken to the persisting damage of this immoral and illegal prison and demand its closure.

Rule of Law — Not Rule of Trump

Guantanamo is now subject to the Rule of Trump.  It feeds the fear-mongering, cruelty, racism, xenophobia and lawlessness of his presidency.

Much of the world has been aghast at Trump’s defining policies and rhetoric: the Muslim travel ban; the separation of migrant families; physical and other assaults on asylum seekers; and the incessant slander of “foreigners” as threats to the American nation.  

Such cruelty and racism has always been part of Guantanamo.  They now lie at the heart of vast domains of Trump’s policies.  Images of Guantanamo detainees behind barbed-wire and in cages are echoed by those of migrants in detention camps. The hateful, fear-mongering rhetoric long used to denounce Muslim “terrorists” is now used to tar the people of whole nations and whole categories of immigrants.

Now entering its seventeenth year, the prison at Guantanamo is newly dangerous in the hands of a bigoted authoritarian, contemptuous of the rule of law and human rights.

We must work to establish the rule of law and respect for the rights and dignity of all peoples.  We must close Guantanamo.

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Schedule – 2019 Fast for Justice

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

(Please check back periodically for latest updates.)
Sunday, January 6 to Sunday, January 13, 2019
First Trinity Lutheran Church Hostel
501 4th Street NW (entrance on 4th St)
Washington DC 20001 (4th and E Sts NW)
(Judiciary Square Metro)

Sunday, January 6
We gather: People can arrive after 3 pm.
Contact person on Sunday: Don Cunning (848 200 0847)
7 pm: Last meal together before the fast begins on Monday
8 pm: Opening Community Circle

Monday, January 7
6:15am: Leave for Pentagon
7-8am: Pentagon Vigil w/ Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
9am: Community Circle and day of planning and action
1 pm Action planning meeting
8 pm: Conference call with solidarity fasters and Kings Bay Plowshares. Email us for call info.

Tuesday, January 8
9:00 am: Community Circle and day of planning and action
1 to 3 pm: Community Dialogue at Code Pink House (1241 Evarts St. NE, Washington, DC 20018) with local tenants rights activists struggling to protect their homes and local Poor Peoples Campaign activists demanding the minimum wage for all restaurant workers in DC.
7:00 pm Community Circle

Wednesday, January 9
9:00 am: Community Circle, day of planning and action
Noon: Demonstration against US violence in Yemen and Guantanamo,
Capitol lawn across from the Supreme Court
7:00 pm: Community Circle
8:00 pm:  Conference call with solidarity fasters

Thursday, January 10
9:00 am: Community Circle, and day of planning and action
Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill: Leave the hostel at 11:30 am to go to the Hill, reconvene at 2:30 at Russell Senate Office Bldg.
6:00 – 8:30 pm: Panel Presentation
The State of Muslim Rights in the US War on Terror,
Public Welfare Foundation Inc, 1200 U Street Northwest
Speaker list and RSVP are at this link.

Friday, January 11 – commemorating 17 years of Guantanamo
8:00 am: Community Circle
10:00 am: Congressional briefing on Guantanamo, 10:00 am, Friday, at Longworth House Office Building, Room 1539.
12:15 pm – 1:45 pm:  Panel-17 Years of Guantanamo
New America, 740 15th St NW #900 Washington, D.C. 20005
2:30 – 4:00 pm: Coalition Rally at White House.  See the Facebook event page  and WAT’s J11 Statement.
Post-rally: Candlelight procession back to hostel, followed by a meal to break the fast.

Saturday, January 12
9:00 am: Retreat to reflect on the week and plan moving forward

Sunday, January 13
9:00 am: Breakfast, closing circle and cleanup
12:00 noon: Return home

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WAT responds to Trump’s executive order on Guantanamo

In Focus - Front Page // Film

It was with heavy hearts that we, as members of Witness Against Torture, listened to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening. We heard him attempt to stoke fear in his listeners with wave after wave of references to terrorists and criminals. He began by linking terror to “illegal immigrants,” border walls, “chain migration,” and visa lotteries, before moving on to ISIS, Al Qaida, rogue regimes, unlawful enemy combatants and more.

By the time he mentioned the prison at Guantanamo, he had already clearly connected the foreigner and the immigrant with the idea of danger in his listeners’ minds. He had already skillfully set the stage when he announced his executive order to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay. In Guantanamo, he reassured his listeners, we would “have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down.”

The prison at Guantanamo has always depended for its existence on xenophobic fear, fueled by racism and Islamophobia. Stoking this fear helps leaders aggrandize their power, as the history of authoritarian regimes has amply demonstrated.

Witness Against Torture from its founding has sought to counter this hatred by recognizing the human dignity of each prisoner, beginning with our attempt to visit the prisoners in 2005, to fast in solidarity with their hunger strikes, and to lift their names, faces, and stories in the public eye and before the seats of power in Washington year after year. We have spoken up relentlessly for the right of every detainee to trial or release.

We continue to stand against the horror of the torture these men have suffered. We regard as an ominous warning Trump’s stated resolve to bring more “unlawful enemy combatants” to Guantanamo where “they should be treated like the terrorists they are.”

And so we resolutely continue. We turn our eyes with hope to the major legal challenge to Donald Trump’s continued detention of the men at Guantanamo, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and co-counsel on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. We are deeply grateful to our friends and allies who continue to plan rallies and actions in support of closing the prison.


New Yorkers gather to protest Trump’s Guantanamo policy

On Thursday, Feb. 1, human rights activists from Witness Against Torture, the Justice for Muslims Collective, World Can’t Wait, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups gathered at Grand Central Station to protest Trump’s recent Executive Order on Guantanamo. Announced in the State of the Union address, the Order directs that the detention camp remain open, reversing the policy of President Obama to try to close the prison.

The camp at Guantanamo has been a place of torture and other gross human rights abuses. It continues to imprison 41 men — including 26 held without charge or trial and 5 whom the US government had already cleared for release. Trump’s policy also freezes any releases from the prison and orders that new captives can be brought there.

Guantanamo remains a blight on the US Constitution, the rule of law and basic democratic values. Trump’s policy, as challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is based in his well-documented racism and Islamophobia.

“Trump’s Executive Order brings us back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, when lawlessness and cruelty ruled,” says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture from Brooklyn. “President Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot, pro-torture, and favors keeping a torture prison open forever,” says Maha Hilal of the Justice for Muslims Collective. “With the Guantanamo policy, New Yorkers and the peoples of the world now have another reason to loathe this terrible leader.”

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Human Rights Activists to Protest Trump’s Order to Keep Guantanamo Open

In Focus - Front Page // Film

For immediate release

Contacts:
Jeremy Varon 732-979-3119 jvaron@aol.com
Elizabeth Ramos 347-581-2677 nyc@worldcantwait.net

Human Rights Activists to Protest Trump’s Order to Keep Guantanamo Open in Grand Central Station, Thursday 2/1 @ Noon

What: Demonstration/vigil to Protest Trump’s Guantanamo Policy
Where: Main Terminal, Grand Central Terminal
When: Noon, Thursday, February 1

Human rights activists from Witness Against Torture, the Justice for Muslims Collective, World Can’t Wait, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups will gather at noon on Thursday, February 1 at the Main Terminal in Grand Central Station to protest Trump’s recent Executive Order on Guantanamo. Announced in the State of the Union address, the Order directs that the detention camp remain open, reversing the policy of President Obama to try to close the prison.

Demonstrators will hold a solemn vigil, with some people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods and others holding signs condemning Trump’s policy.

The camp at Guantanamo has been a place of torture and other gross human rights abuses. It continues to imprison 41 men — including 26 held without charge or trial and 5 whom the US government had already cleared for release. Trump’s policy also freezes any releases from the prison and orders that new captives can be brought there.

Guantanamo remains a blight on the US Constitution, the rule of law and basic democratic values. Trump’s policy, as challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is based in his well-documented racism and Islamophobia.

“Trump’s Executive Order brings us back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, when lawlessness and cruelty ruled,” says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture from Brooklyn. “President Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot, pro-torture, and favors keeping a torture prison open forever,” says Maha Hilal of the Justice for Muslims Collective. “With the Guantanamo policy, New Yorkers and the peoples of the world now have another reason to loathe this terrible leader.”

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Day 4,5 Update – 16 years of Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

January 11-12, 2018

Rally and Action marking 16 years of Guantanamo
“Forty-one hearts still beat in Guantanamo prison cells. That’s forty-one too many,” writes Kathy Kelly in The Progressive on January 11th, the 16th anniversary of the prison.

Marking that sad anniversary, we gathered once again along with 15 coalition organizations for a rally at the White House to call for the closure of Guantanamo and an end to torture and Islamophobia.  Read Witness Against Torture’s press release about the rally and arrests that followed.  For photos from the rally and WAT action, please see our Flickr page.  AJ+ did an excellent, short video about the event.

WAT member Mike Fiala writes about the action and arrests and reflects on the ritual we incorporated.  Following his reflection is another written by Lu Aya Nephew.


 

J11 Action Reflection:  A cup of tea
by Mike Fiala

It moves fast here with Witness against Torture, though not our fast from food – that languishes like waves lapping on Lake Erie.

We continue fasting though most of our actions are completed for the week. Continuing the fast is a way to keep remembering the men in Guantanamo. Just because we have accomplished something this week with our witness, they are still there, another day, and another day.

SO, the news here:
5 people from WAT were arrested at the Jan 11th action in front of the White House.
5 Muslim men have been cleared for release and remain in Guantanamo.

Solidarity. FIVE.
Of 41.

Ridah Bin Saleh Al-Yazidi (Tunisia) – Detained for 15 years; Cleared for 10 years
Muieen Adeen Al-Sattar (United Arab Emirates) – Detained for 15 years; cleared for 7 years
Tawfiq Nasir Awad Al-Bihani (Saudi Arabia) – Detained for 14 Years;  Cleared for 7 years
Abdul Latif Nasir (Morocco) –  Detained for 15 Years; Cleared for 1 year
Sufyian Barhoumi (Algeria) – Detained for 15 Years;  Cleared for 1 year

The five from WAT,  Ken Jones, Manijeh Saba, Helen Schietinger, Beth Adams,  and Brian Terrell, were arrested by the Secret Service after they crossed a police line, and were then handed over to the DC police.  It now appears that even walking on to Pennsylvania Avenue which runs in front of the White House and across from Lafayette Park, can get you arrested.  Yellow police tape is ready to be rolled out frequently around Pennsylvania Avenue.

At the rally at the White House Jan 11th for the men in Guantanamo, one lawyer shared a letter, message, from her client in Guantanamo. He appreciated our work and effort at support and solidarity. He indicated the importance of it to him, and others there.

The strength of WAT’s nonviolent actions is to use our bodies as the way to connect with the men in Guantanamo. If they are fasting, we must be. If they are imprisoned, we must be too.

And so, when you imagine the beauty of them being released, you imagine what it would be for them to come home to their families.

It is among the ordinary things that families do: to serve tea. It’s the essence of refreshment of friendship. warmth and commensality.

So, after the rally, with speakers addressing the awful injustice done to these men with their continued imprisonment, we had a tea ceremony as though they were returning home.

Each of us from WAT in our orange jumpsuits with black hoods received tea in a cup. We pushed up our black hood at the offer of tea to reveal a person under the hood, and we were served tea, with each man’s name still in Guantanamo called out.

Then we placed our cup, with the man’s name penned on it, on the sidewalk at Lafayette Park, in a row. 41 for the 41 men.

Simple acts, simple hospitality. It is the core of being human.

The men in Guanatanamo, their simple humanity, remembered and called out that they may be released to return to their families, to provide for them, to love them, to eat and drink with them.  We sang with passion:

We hear a beautiful sound
It is the breaking of chains.
We see a path full of hope
We have found the way
Let them go home!
Let them go home!
Let them go home!
Let them go today.

And we could see/believe it happening if only for a moment, in hope. It will happen. It’s hard to trust. To trust that the arc of the universe bends towards justice.

So we do something with our bodies to give it a push, to em-body it before it happens. It will be. It will.

So, what kind of tea would you serve the men in Guantanamo when they come home?  If/when they come to your home?
And would you fear it, its fierce reality?
What kind of tea did we serve in preparation for their homecoming?


WHOSE AIR?
Reflection by Lu Aya, fka Luke Nephew
January 11 th, 2018

Martin wants to know who owns Pennsylvania Avenue. Fair question. Because
after a procession flowed into a speak out that sang into a ritual of remembrance,
something happened. Five friends slowly turned around and stepped off the
sidewalk and peacefully and strongly walked under the police tape and out into that
very avenue. And then…
Well, let’s go back to the mourning in the morning.
The church basement. The imperfect circle. The solemn song.
Actually, let’s go back to the slaughter of human rights that is occurring during each
second of the day a few miles away in DC Jail and a few hundred miles away in
Guantanamo and in so many more prisons. Let’s return to the breath of the tortured.
The unheard words upon their tongues. The forty-one beating hearts in their chest.
Yes. Let’s return to them.
Wait.
Let’s stay here for a moment.
Right here. Heart. Beat beat. Heart. Breath. Breath. Breath.
Breathe.
Yes.
Let’s stay there.
Even as we go on.
Knowing that the air there is the same air as we breathed here. In and out. Slowly as
we stare across the circle in the church basement. Slowly as we step by step by step
sweeping through the streets of DC with our long line of loved ones. Single file. In
orange jumpsuits and black hoods. Detainees forward. Into a city of fear. Through
the capitol of crushing callous capitalist brick and stone and cold. Let us return to
where we hold a sign saying, “It Would Take A Genius To Close Guantanamo”. Let us
break the park department rules and fill the sidewalk while the park police freak out
over nothing. Lets remain calm. Let’s begin the rally with song. Lets go back to the
faith leaders praying, that comfort may never seduce us away from the struggle for
liberation. And let’s back to the booming voices of comrades catapulting beautiful
cries for justice and freedom in the sky of all those listening. Lets go to the tea
poured
Cup,
By cup
By cup
By 41 cups
That rose up higher and realer and wider than the white house.
And let’s go now
To our family
Who were arrested
For walking
Onto Pennsylvania Ave
And realizing that maybe the streets are actually theirs…

But the air.
The air, my beloved friends,
The air
Is definitely
Ours.


CCR files first major challenge to Trump’s Guantanamo policies
From the Center for Constitutional Rights:

On January 11, CCR and co-counsel filed the first major challenge to Trump’s Guantánamo policies, in federal court in Washington, DC. This collective filing is on behalf of nearly a dozen prisoners who are detained without charge, all for more than a decade. In this court filing, we argue that the petitioners’ perpetual detentions violate the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and ask the court to intervene on behalf of the men who have been deemed “forever prisoners.”

Media coverage
The following links give media coverage on the CCR legal challenge and the J11 anniversary:

Statement by Sen. Feinstein
Op-ed by Sharqawi Al Hajjj
Baher Azmy on Slate
Aziz Huq on Guardian
Steve Vladeck on CNN.com
Laura Pitter/HRW on HuffPo
AP
Buzzfeed
The Guardian
Washington Post
McClatchy
AlterNet
HuffPo (news article)


On Friday, WAT members traveled to Baltimore for the opening rally of the Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases, organized by the U.S. Coalition Against Foreign Military Bases.  Sr. Paulette Schroeder reports back:

Today A group of us had a real desire to travel from D.C. to Baltimore for a rally against the U.S now having close to 800 military bases around the world. The first people to congregate were three well-dressed men from Nepal who will be speakers in the conference to follow on Saturday and Sunday.  Folks representing Japan were there. Demonstrators from Code Pink and “No War,” Our Buddhist monk friends, NCNR and many more peace organizations were represented. Witness Against Torture also spoke up urging our country to finally close the base we’ve been fasting to close all week long.  A beautiful sense of solidarity pervaded the crowd of about 50 people. Longtime activists in the anti-war movement stood in hope and endurance beside young people entering activism.


This weekend we finish our week-long Fast for Justice with a WAT community retreat ending with a fast-breaking dinner celebration.  We offer our readers deep gratitude for accompanying us on this week’s journey.

We close with a poem by Towfiq Bihani, a Guantanamo detainee represented by Reprieve.

Go everywhere you would like my darling.
Don’t look behind.
Don’t fear the sight.
Live in happiness.
In gladness.
Sing as loud as you can,
Dance as much as you would like.
Enjoy all the fun you can.
My darling, forget your past.
And go ahead to start,
A new way, another way
Don’t look back on yesterday
Don’t feel sorry about me,
Or even worry about me
Don’t think who you left behind
Go everywhere you would like
Don’t look behind

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Press Release: Rally and Arrests at the White House to Close Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

January 11, 2018
For immediate release

Contact: Jeremy Varon, 732-979-3119; Josie Setzler, 419-559-3759

Rally and Arrests at the White House to Close Guantanamo
Attorneys Files Major New Guantanamo Lawsuits

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Human rights activists, attorneys, ex-military investigators, faith leaders, and torture survivors rallied today at the White House to mark the 16th year of the operation of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where “war on terror” detainees were first brought in 2002. Five people — Beth Adams, Ken Jones, Manijeh Saba, Helen Schietinger, and Brian Terrell — were arrested at the White House, representing the five men still held at Guantanamo despite being cleared for release by the US government years ago.

Thirty-six other men remain at the island prison, most of whom have never been charged with any crime. Earlier in the day the Center for Constitutional Rights filed in federal court a major new lawsuit — the first under the Trump administration — challenging the legality of arbitrary and indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

The rally speakers blasted the existence of Guantanamo as a terrible experiment in lawlessness and torture, driven by hateful suspicion of Muslims as agents of violence. In tones mournful and angry, they called for the prison to close immediately and for those who designed and executed torture policies to be held to account. Sharp words for reserved for Donald Trump, who has threatened to bring new men to Guantanamo and to bring back torture methods such as waterboarding.

Maha Hilal of Muslims for Justice and Witness Against Torture spoke out against the growing climate of Islamophobia, which has deprived Muslims of basic rights, in Guantanamo and in the United States.  Attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represents men currently held in Guantanamo, read a statement from one of her clients testifying to the importance of rallies like this in showing the world that the men at Guantanamo are not forgotten.

Mark Fallon, the former lead Navy investigator first responsible for building cases against the 9-11 perpetrators, recited at the rally his military oath to uphold the US Constitution.  Author of a new book detailing CIA torture, Fallon said that loyalty to the Constitution requires that he work to expose and end torture and to close Guantanamo. Terry Rockefeller from September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows test inveighed against the Military Commissions as a sham system of justice that has mangled the rule of law in its failed bid to provide closure for the families of 9-11 victims. The five activists were arrested for breaching a police line outside the White House.

At the National Press Club that morning, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights announced the filing of new litigation on behalf of eleven men held at Guantanamo. The lawsuit seeks relief from the courts, given the stated decision of the Trump administration not to release any men from Guantanamo, no matter the security determinations of the US government and the particulars of their cases. This policy, the lawsuit argues, makes the detentions at Guantanamo wholly arbitrary, based in President Trumps avowed hatred of Muslim and wish to deprive them of rights. The lawsuit also mounts a new challenge to the legality of indefinite wartime detention, arguing that the hostilities following September 11 are now over, removing legal rationale for continued imprisonment at Guantanamo. The filing has already  been reported on in major media, including The Washington Post and CNN.

All those at the rally pledged to continue to do their work to close Guantanamo and end US torture.

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