Statistics can be misleading and boring, but they convey a message. There have been a maximum of 779 Muslim men in Guantanamo since its opening 14 years ago. Now there are 121. Those who have gotten out were released after being cleared by our military, which could find no evidence against them. Some of them were brutally tortured, as proven by the Senate “Torture Report” made public last year. All have been psychologically tortured by being held in a remote prison, not charged with any crime, and isolated from their families for up to 13 years.
These statistics have translated into anti-American sentiment on a massive scale in majority Muslim countries. This is one reason Obama wants to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; besides the present cost per detainee of $2.8 million a year.
When police shot Michael Brown and his community in Ferguson erupted, some men in Guantanamo sent messages of solidarity. They saw the connection. We who gathered in Washington, D.C. on January 11 to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo saw the connection also. The same state violence that created the disgrace of the island prison created the militarized police force that has targeted Black men, youth and children in our United States. It is not safe to be Black in America. It may also be true that it is unsafe to be Muslim in America.
The men in Guantanamo prison are human beings who are suffering. Almost all of them were handed over to the U.S. military for bounty. Thus their only crime was being Muslim at the wrong time in the wrong place. We must close Guantanamo and hold its architects accountable.
Michael Brown was a human being too– stopped by a White policeman and gunned down for being Black, his humanity denied as his body lay in the street for over four hours. A Black person is killed by police every 28 hours in this country. We must stop police murder and hold murderers accountable.
From January 5 to 12, 2015 Witness Against Torture (WAT) was present in D.C. fasting, praying and demonstrating to demand that the prison in Guantanamo be shuttered, and to bring justice to the men there (charge them, try them or release them). And we joined Hands Up DC at their invitation to add our voices against the injustices in the U.S. prison system, against police brutality and racial profiling. As a mostly White movement, WAT has used our White privilege to speak for the voiceless in Guantanamo. Now we chose to expand our message. The same state that created Guantanamo has created the mass incarceration of Blacks and the impunity of those White policemen who carry out state violence. On the streets of Washington, WAT carried a banner to sum up our grievance: “White Silence = State Violence. (Photos at www.witnesstorture.org )
We who are White can speak up because we are White. We can listen to our Black brothers and sisters, and ask them how they want us to show our solidarity. But it is up to us to speak. We can break our own silence.