As part of my US tour to promote my new documentary about Guantánamo, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash), I traveled on Sunday (after events in New York, discussed here) to Fairfax, Virginia, for a screening of the film at an event organized by the Future of Freedom Foundation, who sponsored my visit, along with The World Can’t Wait.
Before the screening, I introduced my work to the audience, and am delighted that the Future of Freedom Foundation has made it available as a 38-minute video entitled “An Evening with Andy Worthington” (see below, via Vimeo).
The talk before the screening provided me with an opportunity to explain how I had undertaken the research that led me to write my book The Guantánamo Files, how this developed into the stories told in the film “Outside the Law,” and also to discuss other issues: how I began blogging regularly about Guantánamo, because of a general lack of interest in detailed accounts of the prisoners and their stories in the mainstream media, for example.
I also took the opportunity to discuss the problems with Guantánamo now, with just two months to go until President Obama’s deadline for closing the prison. This involved me recapping the stories of the Uighurs (Guantánamo’s prisoners from China), explaining how a judge ordered their release into the United States last October, how the Bush administration appealed this ruling, and how the Obama administration maintained this same position, missing the opportunity to bring these men to the United States, to demonstrate to the American people that they were not, and never were terrorists.
I also explained how there are many dozens of men from other countries, including Algeria, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, who are in a similar predicament, and that, although a few European countries have taken a handful of these men — and the administration has managed to dispose of ten of the remaining Uighurs in Bermuda and on the Pacific island of Palau — the position taken by the Court of Appeals and by the administration itself in the case of the Uighurs has been reinforced by Congress, which has passed laws preventing the release of cleared prisoners onto the US mainland (and, until recently, was intent on preventing the release of any prisoner whatsoever, even to face the trials that the administration announced on Friday).
As I also explained, without a concerted effort to overturn this ban, cleared prisoners will remain in Guantánamo, not just for months, but very possibly for the rest of their lives, and for this reason it is important that the momentous decision that was recently taken by the town of Amherst in Massachusetts — to ask Congress to overturn its ban, so that the people of Amherst can welcome two prisoners from Guantánamo into their community – needs to be replicated elsewhere in the United States.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.