Natalia Rivera Scott, from Mexico4Julian, holding a sign, “In solidarity from Mexico, Close Guantánamo,” outside the US embassy in Mexico City as part of the global vigils.
Global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo and the release of the Guantánamo 18, those men who have been approved for release
Today coordinated vigils took place: in London (the UK Guantánamo Network), Washington DC (Close Guantánamo), New York (World Can’t Wait) and Mexico City (Mexico4Julian and Amnesty International) with a beautiful surprise solidarity vigil by the Free Assange Belgium Committee.
Here in Mexico City, we stood in front of the U.S. embassy, Alli and Mary (Amnesty International activists living in this city) and me, a longtime activist and supporter of the closure of the torture facility in Guantánamo Bay.
I think most people here don’t understand my passion for this cause or how important and close to my heart it is, mainly because they don’t think it’s relevant to Mexicans or because this is happening very far away, or, as I’ve been told, “There are more important things to worry about.” But I can’t close my eyes to this. I can’t pretend the prison and the men don’t exist. I want the world to see that Mexico is present in this difficult, long and slow path towards justice and freedom. I want the men inside and outside of Guantánamo to know we won’t quit and won’t stop until that place is closed and empty.
I translate articles about Guantánamo, Assange and other related subjects when I’m not restoring art and I have a great editor. I asked him if I could write a mini-article on the vigil and I thought of asking my friend and fellow activist Alli (to whom I was introduced by the talented author and former detainee Mansoor Adayfi, whom we both call friend) why she is involved in this cause, and more importantly, now that she lives here, why does she think people in Mexico should care about closing Guantánamo and about the lives of the 32 men still held in there.
This is what she said: “Every year I take to the streets to protest the ongoing operations at Guantánamo Bay because it is an abomination that the facility is still open. It should have never been opened in the first place. It is a global symbol of Islamophobia, indefinite detention and torture. I hope people in Mexico will join the cause to close Guantánamo because we need global pressure on the United States government to ensure that not only is the prison shut down, but that this sort of facility is never opened again. We need to show the U.S. government that people around the world care about this issue and that Guantánamo continues to be a massive stain on the already deeply-damaged international reputation of the U.S.”
Ridah bin Saleh al Yazidi is one of the 18 men who have been approved for release. He has been cleared since 2010. As far as I know, he gave up years ago. He won’t talk to his lawyers. I wrote letters to him for years, as part of the beautiful campaign by Andy Worthington to write to the forgotten prisoners. I hope he is released soon.
Alli and Mary in Paseo de la Reforma outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.
As for me, in case you’d like to know, I first read about Guantánamo more than 10 years ago. I couldn’t (and still can’t today) understood how this was possible, how thiese men were tortured, how this place could exist and how it seemed so irrelevant to the world. I think people here in Mexico should care because we live in a country where torture is a common practice, where we don’t see justice very often, where innocent people disappear every day; we should care because men in Guantánamo are human beings tortured in ways that are unimaginable and unbelievable, because being silent about this is complicity, because we need to be the voices of the men that the world is trying to forget but some of us refuse to… but most of all, because how can we live in a world where this happens? We need stand up for justice, for human rights, with compassion in our hearts, and we need to demand accountability for the ones that ordered, planned, legalized, overviewed, covered, facilitated and executed torture in Guantánamo.
The next global vigil will take place Wednesday April 5th in a different place in Mexico City, as we’d like you to see more of this beautiful city. I hope you can join us.
Alli, Mary and me, Natalia, holding the #FreeTheGuantánamo18 posters by Andy Worthington’s campaign Close Guantánamo outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.