Yesterday, it was hot and sunny in London. Yesterday, millions of US citizens celebrated Independence Day. Yesterday, Shaker Aamer endured another day held without charge in Guantanamo Bay, denied his most basic human rights, shackled, force-fed, kept in solitary confinement; trapped in a grim Kafkaesque legal no-man’s-land where he has been cleared for release for over seven years and yet he is still detained, where the UK’s “special relationship” with the US apparently holds no sway. Yesterday, Shaker’s children suffered another day without their father.
Yesterday, I joined a vigil for Shaker Aamer outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Speakers from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and Amnesty International demanded his immediate release back to his family in Battersea and called on President Obama to end the torture of force-feeding and solitary confinement and to finally make good on his promise to close Guantanamo. Activists mimed the force-feeding process, some acting as camp guards in combat fatigues and others as detainees, in orange boiler suits, black hoods and shackled at the ankles. One by one the detainees were dragged to a restraining chair where they were strapped in and held down while a doctor mimed thrusting a feeding pipe into one of the detainee’s nostrils. Other protestors read out testimony from former detainees of their experience of force-feeding – shockingly brutal and dehumanising. One of the activists who had taken on the role of a detainee described her short stint in the restraining chair as horrible and frightening – and this without a nasal pipe jammed down into her stomach and pumping in liquid ‘nourishment’ for up to two hours at a time.
After this powerful enactment, I read my poem for Shaker Aamer Letter from Battersea. I hope I never have to read this poem again. I fear though that I will. Cameron, Obama – Free Shaker Aamer. Bring him home.