At a rally on the morning of January 11, 2008, Anna Brown of Witness Against Torture spoke to a protest rally on the sixth anniversary of the opening of the American indefinite detention center at Guantanamo Bay. You can listen to Brownâ€™s remarks yourself by clicking here, or read the transcript below:
“Thank you for your presence and your commitment and your dedication today. Let us work with the coldness of this day by keeping each of the men held in Guantanamo alive and warm within our hearts.
“I represent Witness Against Torture. We began as a small group of friends who embarked on an improbable journey more than two years ago marching to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners there. We felt commanded by the Gospel’s call to perform the works of mercy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners. We were called and we went. We walked from Santiago de Cuba to Guantanamo. We pitched our tents in the front yards of families along the way. We walked until we could go no further. The remaining five miles that separated us from the men, to Guantanamo, were closed to us. So we camped there by the side of the road. We fasted and vigiled around the clock, fervently hoping that our prayers and our intentions would cover the distance between us, that they would know we were there.
“Later we found out these men, our brothers, they did know we were there. One of the men we held close to our hearts as we walked two years ago is named Omar Deghayes. Omar is a lawyer by training. He was born in Libya but his family sought asylum in Britain as his father was a political opponent of Muammar Gaddafi. His father was arrested and executed. In 2001, Omar decided to travel with his friend to look for work. He ended up in Afghanistan, he married, and he had a son. When the U.S. invaded that country in October of 2001, Omar fled to Pakistan with his wife and son. There they were planning to return to the UK when they were arrested in Lahore in April of 2002 for a bounty of $5,000. Omar entered the black hole of Guantanamo. The abuses he endured sicken and shock us.
“One year ago today, his mother and brother traveled to Guantanamo to stand where Witness Against Torture stood the year before, at the boundary between Cuba and the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo. Five miles from the cage her son sat within, Omar’s mother said, ‘This is the closest I have been to my son in almost five years. On the one hand, I feel incredibly sad that I am so close and can’t see or hold him. On the other hand, I am happy to focus the world’s attention on this shameful place. It might help get my son out of prison.’
“It did help. Omar was released from Guantanamo less than a month ago. His ordeal is far from over but he is free of Guantanamo. In a recent statement Omar said, ‘I do not have hatred toward Americans. I know that many Americans worked hard for my rights and for the rights of all other prisoners. I ask that you continue to work hard to assure that due process is provided for all prisoners, and force the closing of the prison in Guantanamo.’
“That is what we are here to do today. At the end of today’s rally friends with Witness Against Torture are going to continue the action. We will walk from the National Mall, where we stand now, through the streets of Washington as Guantanamo prisoners, haunting the seats of power that we have erected, condoned or been complicit in all that Omar and more than 700 men who have been imprisoned in Guantanamo during these last six years have suffered. Our walk will be solemn and slow, and will eventually end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. We go there to appeal to the Supreme Court justices to stand up now, to assert decisively an end to torture, to assert decisively the abolition of secret prisons supposedly outside the realm of law, and above all to assert decisively the right of habeas corpus, the most crucial protection of any democratic society. We invite you to join us. Thank you for your work. Thank you for your commitment. Please join us in the prison march and action.”