Margaret Owen is among the protesters entering a solidarity hunger strike for British Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer. The campaign aims to put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure Mr Aamer’s release from the illegal US prison camp. Mr Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, has been held in Guantanamo Prison without charge since 2002 when Afghan soldiers in Jalalabad abducted and delivered him to the US Bagram airbase.
Mr Aamer’s lawyers maintain that he was working in Afghanistan for a Saudi charity and say his jailers extracted false confessions under torture. He has long been cleared for release by the US.
The hunger strike is part of Reprieve’s Stand Fast for Justice campaign, which began with a weeklong hunger strike by Reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith, who is also Mr Aamer’s lawyer. He was later joined by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, and actress Julie Christie.
Margaret Owen OBE is a long time friend of Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and patron of Peace in Kurdistan campaign. She is a barrister and international human rights lawyer with a focus on women’s rights and access to the justice system. She is the founder and Director of the international NGO Widows for Peace through Democracy, and for more than a decade has been engaged in work to bring about a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issues in Turkey and elsewhere in the region.
PiK and CAMPACC wish her well and stand in solidarity with Shaker Aamer and all the Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Why I, a 81 year old grandmother, am starting a hunger strike for Guantanamo prisoner, Shaker Aamer, tomorrow, 28th July
Tomorrow I start my hunger strike for Shaker, this is why.
Shaker Aamer, a British resident with a British citizen wife living
in London, has been incarcerated in Guantanamo, subjected to extreme
torture, often kept in solitary confinement, for the last eleven
years. Yet he is, according not only to his lawyers, but even finally
acknowledged by the US, totally innocent of any acts of terrorism.
He has never been charged or brought before a US court. Bounty
hunters picked him up, when he was running an Islamic charity in
Afghanistan, and sold him to the Americans, who, in 2001, were offering
huge sums for the capture off suspected Al Qaida operatives. It is now
well accepted that all the documentation proffered in his case to the
Americans was false.
The UK government, under Labour and the Coalition, have requested both
Bush and Obama to release Shaker, who is the last British resident
still in Guantanamo. They have refused. Shaker, educated,
intelligent, a loving husband and father, has never even seen his
youngest daughter, now 11 years old. Everyone now released, who knew
him in this infamous prison, speak of the terrible tortures inflicted
on him, of his bravery in speaking up for other detainees, and of his
rational reasonable demands that his captors at least abide by the
Geneva Conventions and humanitarian and human rights international
law. He was the spokesman for the detainees, trying to protect them,
even when his protests on their behalf endangered his own life.
We must all do everything possible to get Shaker released, and this
hunger strike is something I can and want to do.
We all, in the human rights community, now know that MI5 have been
energetic participants in these tortures, which included
beatings, pretended assassination, cruel deliberately painful force
feeding when Shaker was on hunger strike, and worse.
It seems clear that the main reason the US will not release Shaker is
that he will thereafter speak out not only about the torture – such
torture that in one day a few years ago three brothers died when with
Shaker they were taken to the notorious “No Camp” outside the main
facility where unspeakable horrors were perpetrated – but he will also
be able to provide evidence of MI5 collaboration with the US torture
machine and destroy the myth that the US does not “do torture”.
(Ironically, a claim just made today to the Russians in the US
request for the extradition of Edward Snowdon!)
I am, yes, in my 82nd year, but should my health deteriorate, it is a
small thing to risk compared to the present life of 45 year old
Shaker, younger than my youngest son.
I am a human rights lawyer, with my main focus on the rights of widows
and wives of the disappeared in conflict and post conflict scenarios,
But Shaker’s wife has been a “half-widow” for eleven long years, and
she is in my thoughts and my prayers every day. Mother of four
children, her own physical and mental health is seriously impaired.
Whilst in that horrendous infernal Guantanamo, the shame of the US,
Shaker, who has lost nearly half his original body-weight, is,
according to his lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, now dying.
My friends and relations tell me I am wasting my time. My hunger
strike will have no effect. I will ruin my health. Well. If Julie
Christie, aged 72, has not eaten for a week, then I can do the same.
She is a celebrity, I am not in that class but I hope that others will
join me and our actions will force William Hague to redouble his
efforts to secure Shaker’s release.
Day 1 of Hunger Strike for the release of Shaker Aamer
It is odd. I had not realised before how mealtimes, their spacing,
preparation of food, is basic to the organisation of the day. Meals,
even if snacks at lunch time, somehow provide the framework in which
we work and relax, meet deadlines, socialise and relax. For the next
seven days this pattern won’t be there. But then immediately I think
of Shaker, years and years of nothingness except beatings, torture,
and solitary confinement. I am not in solitary, am not living in fear
and in pain. Am not separated from my family.
Ever since I announced this action, I am receiving many messages,
which are of two kinds: those that berate me for risking my health ( I
will not for I will drink lots of water daily) and tell me my strike
will have no effect and that I should confine my campaigning work to
what they think I know most about – women’s rights. And the others,
many, the most, from all sorts of people, wishing me well, wanting
also to join, promising to lobby their MPs, Congressmen, etc.
I am thinking of Shaker Aamer and I hope fervently that somehow he
will hear that we in the UK are battling for his release; that our
efforts will give him courage to survive so that one day, a soon as
can be, he is united with his mourning family. In Sh”Allah
Margaret Owen. www.widowsforpeace.org <http://www.widowsforpeace.org>