End 19 Years Of Injustice

Over 330,000 Concerned Citizens Sign a Petition Urging President Biden to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners outside the White House on Sept. 20, 2021, just before delivering a petition to the White House, signed by over 330,000 people, calling on President Biden to close Guantánamo.

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By Andy Worthington, September 22, 2021

On Monday, largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, campaigners delivered a petition to the White House, signed by over 330,000 people, urging President Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. They were joined online by former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, whose Guantánamo memoir, "Don’t Forget Us Here," was published last month.

This impressive achievement was coordinated by the progressive activist network Daily Kos, MPower Change, which describes itself as "the largest Muslim led social and racial justice organization in the United States," and other organizations familiar to those engaged in the long struggle to get Guantánamo closed — Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Justice for Muslims Collective — as well as the Juggernaut Project, NorCal Resist, Progress America, the Progressive Reform Network, and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

The date chosen was the 20th anniversary of George W. Bush’s declaration to Congress that the U.S. was launching a "war on terror" in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. As Bush said on that day, "Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

You can still sign the petition, if you haven’t done so already. The text of it is posted below.

Petition: President Biden must close Guantánamo prison

The U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is an enduring international symbol of injustice and torture, and it continues to cause profound harm to the 39 men who remain imprisoned. New reports show that President Biden is currently reviewing policies with the goal of closing the prison — we must make sure that he moves quickly to end indefinite detention without charge or trial and close Guantánamo once and for all.

The prison, designed to indefinitely detain Muslims, is a critical fixture of the post-9/11 "War on Terror" that has predominantly criminalized, surveilled, incarcerated, and tortured Muslims, U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike, with little legal recourse. While Guantánamo is part of the US’s carceral state, its existence in the "War on Terror" symbolizes a place beyond the law where the U.S. government has extended the boundaries of what is considered acceptable treatment of Muslims in addition to other marginalized communities. Moreover, Guantánamo has exported its harsh conditions to domestic prisons such as Communication Management Units, located in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois.

Since 2002, the U.S. has imprisoned nearly 800 Muslim men and boys. Today, 39 men remain. Most have never been charged with a crime, and none have had access to a fair trial. Many were tortured by the U.S., and all have suffered from the physical and psychological effects of indefinite detention for over a decade. A number of men have even been approved for transfer by the government, yet political delays have kept them languishing behind bars.

[On] the 20th anniversary of the global "War on Terror" […] ending indefinite detention and closing the prison is a necessary step towards justice, accountability, and reconciliation.

Guantánamo is just one the U.S. government’s more contemporary pursuits in egregious human rights violations in a long history of abuses against Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities within the U.S. and abroad. The prison is part of the decades-long legacy of mass incarceration and U.S. militarism, and more recently, the connections with the mass immigration detention and deportation apparatus have also become clear. Calls for its closure must be part of our collective demands to expose the U.S.’s racist history and contemporary practices in policing and mass incarceration, and demand investment instead in community healing and other needs.

President Biden has said he intends to close Guantánamo. Now he must take action towards that goal. The Biden administration should release the dozens of men who have never been charged with a crime to their home or third countries and resolve the remaining cases by bringing them to federal court for trial or negotiating their transfer to foreign countries to serve sentences. The U.S. must ensure that no one is transferred to countries where they are in danger of persecution and torture.

Add your name: Urge the Biden administration to close Guantánamo prison and end indefinite detention once and for all.

As the petition was delivered, the following spokespeople provided comments.

Sijal Nasralla, Campaign Director at MPower Change, said, "Nearly 800 Muslim men and boys have been imprisoned indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay, most never even charged with a crime, all without access to anything resembling a fair trial. President Biden has the authority and power to permanently close Guantánamo Bay, turning it from a living symbol of torture and injustice to a historical warning to future generations. President Biden should keep his promise. He should close Guantánamo. Twenty years of institutionalized Islamophobic violence is twenty years too long."

Alli Jarrar of Amnesty International USA said, "Closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay has been one of Amnesty International’s demands of the U.S. government since the notorious site was opened almost 20 years ago. Over a dozen Amnesty branches worldwide have contributed to this effort to call on President Biden to finish what Obama failed to do: shutter the facility once and for all, immediately. Its continued existence is a perpetuation of human rights abuses, a reminder of torture and indefinite detention, and it is an international embarrassment for the United States."

Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "Every day that Guantanamo remains open is another day added to the unprecedented and cruel, decades-long detention without charge or fair trial of Center for Constitutional Rights clients and the rest of the men who languish there. President Biden has the authority, roadmap, and public support necessary to close Guantánamo, and we join hundreds of thousands of activists from all over the world in urging him to take immediate action to fulfill that goal."

Carolyn Fiddler, Communications Director at Daily Kos, said, "It's long past time for the Biden administration to close Guantánamo prison and end indefinite detention once and for all. [On] the 20th anniversary of the global 'War on Terror' ... Guantánamo remains part of the nation's decades-long legacy of mass incarceration and U.S. militarism. Closing this facility is an essential step towards justice, accountability, and reconciliation."

Dr. Maha Hilal, Co-Director at the Justice for Muslims Collective, said, "In the post 9/11 'War on Terror,' Guantánamo has always been an emblematic example of how institutionalized Islamophobia has been manifested in the last two decades. It is outrageous that the prison remains open, that prisoners continue to be abused, and that those released are abandoned by the U.S. government. Biden must close Guantánamo immediately in addition to addressing the horrific aftermath of the prison and the lives that have been destroyed by it. The U.S. must be held accountable and this is one way to move forward towards this goal."