At 5.15pm, 25 September 2015, I was driving home after a long day’s work at a school in South London where I am a deputy head, when Radio 4 announced that Shaker Aamer was to be released. I will never forget that moment – the joy and utter humility.
British Resident Shaker Aamer, an ordinary man, was unlawfully imprisoned in Guantanamo on 13 February 2002. Held in a steel cell in solitary confinement, abused and tortured daily, his suffering is unimaginable. Despite having his human rights denied, Shaker (detainee 239) organised the Guantanamo hunger strike and his voice was heard on CBS News. So for many years, there have been two campaigns, inside and outside the torture camp, one led by Shaker and the other for Shaker.
Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, alongside many others, have worked relentlessly for Shaker’s freedom. SSAC will not rest until Shaker is safely home in the UK and reunited with his family in Battersea. This is an extremely tense time, Shaker is still not free. Clive Stafford Smith (of Reprieve and Shaker’s representative) warned of the many smears, slurs and misinformation about Shaker that will surface to prevent his release or influence the treatment he receives when back in the UK. In the Mail on Sunday it was reported (4 October 2015) that Shaker is on hunger strike because he is still being tortured. He believes he may still not leave Guantanamo alive.
So now more than ever, extreme pressure needs to put on the US and UK governments to ensure Shaker’s return. A letter from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign sent to David Cameron urges him to demand Shaker’s immediate release, as the 30 day period is not always required; ‘We (SSAC) know this delay is causing anxiety and concern to Shaker’s family. It has created the fear that more set-backs may follow to impede Shaker’s return’.
I have just returned from a campaign meeting, a small band of ordinary people, continuing to plan actions for Shaker’s release:
We also continue to write letters to David Cameron, President Obama, the US Ambassador and others. These actions may not appear to be ‘game-changing’, but eventually they become so. Knocking on the same door, with the same message, day after day, year after year, not willing to give up until these voices are heard. The voices are ringing in the corridors of power, and within the steel cells of Guantanamo.
And it is Shaker’s most recent actions and words that bring together the two campaigns inside and outside the torture camp. He is on hunger strike and says ‘I have so many people to thank for my freedom. First there are all the people who names begin with the letter J – which also stands for justice. So there is Johina, my beloved daughter. There is Joy Hurcombe, of the Save Aamer Shaker Campaign: for all these years she has stood up for me, and I am overwhelmed’.
Ordinary people make a difference. Let’s make sure we bring Shaker home.
Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07756493877 and please watch and share our film ’14 hours for 14 days’: