An interesting few days
On Saturday 21st January, a group of us took part in a (not very
widely publicised and not very well attended) march in support of nine Guantanamo
detainees. These men were British residents before they were captured, lifted,
rendered, banged about and banged up in horrible GB. We enjoyed a pleasant
progression through some of the fatter areas of the West End, with lots of nice
police to talk to, fine weather, and loads of film or pixels being spent
capturing the images of us threatening individuals. Makes me feel almost
important being photographed, honest. A thoughtful person on the march handed
out a list of these detainees prepared by the Peace and Progress party, and
here it is:
Shaker Aamer who has a British wife and
four British children and whose application for British citizenship was in
process when he was captured in Afghanistan. Shaker has been
threatened with rendition to Egypt where torture is
Bisher AI-Rawi a refugee from Iraq, who came to the
UK twenty years ago
after his father was detained and tortured by Saddam Hussein and whose family
members have all taken British citizenship.
Jamil at-Banna a refugee from Jordan who has a
British wife and five British children, four of them born in the UK. Jamil and
Bisher were seized in the Gambia where they had
gone to set up a business. Their condition was movingly highlighted in the
reality play at the Tricycle Theatre, “Guantanamo – honour bound
to defend freedom.” Great title.
Omar Deghayes a refugee from Libya whose family has
lived in the UK for 20 years.
Omar is one of more than 200 detainees who have been on hunger strike for over
5 months asking for the enforcement of the Geneva Conventions In Guantanamo.
Omar was blinded in one eye when Guantanamo guards attacked
him with pepper dust.
Ahmed Errachidi who has lived in the UK for 18 years and
has two young sons here. Ahmed was captured by bounty hunters in Pakistan and sold to the US military. He has
been held in solitary confinement for two years, the longest for any detainee
Binyam Mohammed a refugee from Ethiopia who was seized
in Pakistan whilst trying to
return to the UK and taken to Morocco where he was
tortured. Binyam has been in Guantanamo since 2004 and
is now facing the prospect of being tried by a military commission where
evidence obtained under torture is admissible. Mind, if our
Kingston on the march
its way the same would probably be true over here.
Jarnal Kiyemba who grew up in Britain. His family came
here from Uganda.
Ahmed Ben Bacha a refugee from Algeria who lived in Bournemouth.
Abdulnour Sameur from Algeria who lived in South Harrow and was granted
refugee status in 2000.
Doesn’t this roll
call makes you proud to think of our great country, refuge for the oppressed
and ill treated?
I found the speakers from detainees’ families particularly moving.
I noticed in particular that many of them were not asking for release of
their loved ones just because they want them back. They were asking for
proper process. If these men have committed crimes, they said, produce the
evidence and prosecute them. Don’t make people moulder indefinitely.
And then, a few days later, another triumph for democracy and free
speech. Palestinian democracy which for some reason is viewed differently
from the ordinary sort as practised in – say – the UK. Not
because of a low turn out – 77% is a sight better than we manage in the UK. It
appeared from the reports that some of the winners’ support came about because
their representatives (not all of them, I suppose, but enough to notice) were
doing what politicians are supposed to do; look after the interests of the
electorate. But the wrong party won, and a torrent of abuse and rejection has
landed on Hamas.
Let’s see, one reason is that they have
weapons and use violence in pursuit of their political aims. Now
what other nearby democracy [religious and selective branch] shows no sign of
giving up its weapons or stopping their regular use in inhuman and oppressive
ways? Violence …. These comments come over as hypocrisy when made by
governments that are regular user of violent methods. US …. UK ….. Israel.
Of course, Palestine isn’t a real country so its citizens are lectured under different
Also, Hamas have to abandon their party
line of not recognising the right of Israel
to exist and there, frankly, I do think the critics have a most serious and
point. Hamas have to recognise the various UN Resolutions on this
matter. Hear, hear, UN Resolutions should be respected. All of them. As
always, the acid test is not what governments and politicians say. It is what
they do. The old adages of Alcoholics Anonymous come to mind. “We judged
ourselves by our intentions. Others judged us by our actions.” I’ve always
loved that one, and it is an excellent test in most areas of life.