Protesting detentions in the War on Terror | Belfast and Beyond | 6 Jul 2008 | Amnesty International UK

Protesting detentions in the War on Terror

Where human subjectivity continues to be celebrated, and the potential of connection, solidarity or relationship, advocated through protest or letter-writing, a better future must surely soon materialize.

Committed readers of this blog will have read a previous post of mine, in which I expressed my personal discomfort with the idea of dressing up in orange jumpsuits to protest Guanatamo Bay.  I have now had to eat my words, having participated in the recent street-theatre protest on the eve of Bush's visit, where the orange jumpsuits powerfully drew the attention of both public and media.

Complementing Amnesty's dramatic replication of the facelessness and necessarily submissive lack of agency of the Guantanamo detainees, the Cageprisoners site uses almost opposite means for the similar ends of protesting the detentions  and 'disappearances' perpetrated by governments under the auspices of the so-called War on Terror.

This site includes names and photographs of detainees, extracts from their letters and testimonies or personal histories written by their family members or friends.  The insights offered into their subjective humanity – the things that made them unique and special – makes the denial of their liberty, or life, more painful to witness.  It is impossible, of course, to ignore that many of these individualising details are linked to their Muslim faith – their way of reciting the Qu'ran, for example.  As a non-Muslim, I might disagree with some of these beliefs and practices.  In fact, only today in reading the Observer newspaper, I found myself vigorously disagreeing with a statement by Muslim convert and Cageprisoners public supporter, Yvonne Ridley, who says she has no sympathy for Iranian women who refuse to wear the hijab and who seems, in her comments, to be close to attacking State secularism at a time when many, and not only many in Turkey, would say that it most requires an impassioned defence.  What I feel about some Muslim beliefs does not touch my absolute belief that no-one should be subject to arbitrary detention, that no-one should ever be tortured, that no-one should ever be deprived of their liberty and life by the State as is happening in Guantanamo Bay.  In saying this, of course, I speak with my Amnesty friends woldwide, Muslim and others.

It is also possible to write to the prisoners who are held in Belmarsh and various other prisons around the UK, and those in Guantanamo, although the site cautions:

"Individuals should note that while we have had it confirmed from one of the US lawyers who has visited Guantanamo, that the US government do allow mail from non-family members, all mail is subject to extreme delays as well as censors. There is a strong possibility that the JTF in Guantanamo will withhold letters for up to a year or longer, or that the detainees may never receive your letter. Only one released detainee we spoke to has received mail from non-relatives, in spite of many having been sent. The US is believed to be clamping down on mail particularly, of late. However, letter-writing can be considered a protest action, as it sends a strong message to the US administration that the world has not forgotten the prisoners in Guantanamo, but rather is immensely concerned about what is occuring in Cuba."

Living in a world where the removal of dignity, liberty and, even, life, has become a systematic pratice flaunted brazenly by the so-called leading democracies of the world is absolutely intolerable.

But, to say it again:  where human subjectivity continues to be celebrated, and the potential of connection, solidarity or relationship, advocated through protest or letter-writing, a better future must surely soon materialize.

 

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