Shaker Aamer and the hypocritical treatment of CAGE

Shaker Aamer

Political blogger Imran Shah discusses in his personal capacity the case of Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer, who the British government are trying to get released, and compares it to the Islamophobic campaign against CAGE.

On Tuesday Parliament held debate on the 13 year detention of Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British detainee in Guantanamo Bay.

John McDonnell MP reported that Shaker was “forced to stay awake for nine days straight and denied food. Doused in freezing water, he was made to stand in the Afghan winter on concrete for 16 hours. His feet were beaten and he was bound in torturous positions.”

Sir Gerald Kaufman MP said: “Guantanamo Bay is illegal and its maintenance is a war crime—it is as great a war crime as any other being committed anywhere in the world.”

Caroline Lucas MP reported: “In 2005, he was placed in isolation for 360 days for his role in organising a hunger strike after military police beat up a prisoner while he was praying. Prison rules permit isolation for only 30 days.”

And Gareth Thomas MP stated: “It is alleged that Mr Aamer has been beaten more than 300 times while in detention and has suffered regularly from sleep deprivation. Reports that Mr Aamer has on occasion been deprived of water and has arthritis, asthma, prostate and kidney problems and severe backache are very worrying.”

Eventually the motion, “This House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK”, was passed with no opposition.

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A success for the Shaker Aamer campaign, no doubt. However, this success raises a much more bigger and worrisome problem.


It was only a couple of weeks ago, we saw politicians and the media gunning CAGE down for simply suggesting the exact same thing about UK security services.

How is it, on one hand, we have the UK establishment, able to discuss an individual case of Shaker Aamer, but unable to digest the CAGE’s point of the necessity to increase accountability for UK spy agencies?

The media continuously slammed CAGE for trying to humanise “Jihadi John.” Saying he was known as a “beautiful young man” was a stretch too far for a cold-blooded “Muslim killer” who was meant to be motivated by radical ideas of “Islamism”.

CAGE only tried to offer a rationale of why decent people would take such a nasty turn, but they paid the price.

CAGE have been demonised over their Jihadi John narrative
CAGE have been labelled “apologists for terror”

If we look at cases outside of the “Muslims are terrorists” narrative, we know that children that were abused may end up abusing their children or their partner.

Whilst it does not dismiss responsibility from them, it does not dismiss their humanity in the same breath either. This is the polar opposite to the highly racist and Islamophobic approach taken by the British media as a whole, when dealing with CAGE’s well-evidenced assertions.

The complete refusal to see a Muslims as human in any regard is what drove the media narrative, to the point of harassing human rights organisations and character assassination based on lies, as we have seen with Muslims like Moazzam Begg and Cerie Bullivant.

It wasn’t just the media pushing this. Politicians were doing it too. Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond underlined the sentiment by saying” “We are absolutely clear: the responsibility for acts of terror rests with those who commit them. But a huge burden of responsibility also lies with those who act as apologists for them.”

Yet, the best we heard from an over-zealous defence of Briton’s spy agencies, is that they work hard to protect the lives of the UK. As if, doctors, social workers and other public servants that work tirelessly to save people lives are not subject to accountability processes.

What is so special about British spy services that they deserve such special treatment?

Separation of Causes

The UK establishment is happy to address the individual moral case of Shaker Aamer, so long as it is not discussing the root cause and the wider picture of such a case.

It makes sense for them to speak about all the moral superior values that they love and cherish when it comes to Shaker’s case, but not when it comes to accusations of the UK’s own spy agencies violating the exact same values, especially when Muslims are lecturing them.

The implication of the inhumanity that was described in the Shaker Aamer debate was, not only a snapshot of the US treatment in “legal voids” like Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, it was also an insight the level of degradation, dehumanisation and injustice that was imposed upon Muslims in the rendition programme.

MI5 headquarters in London
MI5 headquarters in London

Only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, raised the point about that the UK being complicit or supporting this very rendition programme and the overall “War on Terror” that carried the narratives of the Muslim people’s de-humanisation.

Yet when we listen to the debate, we should listen to it as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the “War on Terror”, and like many of the West’s wars in the world, it is inherently racist, Islamophobic and ironically morally savage. The separation of causes cannot be made when they inextricably linked.

As a result, Shaker Aamer’s case must not be framed as an isolated case for freedom. This will only allow an establishment to hold the high moral ground whilst pushing their Islamophobic agenda. It must be framed for what it actually is.

Our hero, Shaker Aamer, and his struggle must be seen in light of the racist home and foreign policy that has led mass suspicion of Muslims. It must be seen in light of the mass brutalisation, subjugation and exploitation of the world in the continuation of interests of nations that have pillaged the world for centuries.

Until then people like Shaker and organisations like CAGE will continue to be persecuted and it will be justified by an Islamophobic narrative of “Muslims are the savages.” Even more so, when the opposite is true.

Imran Shah is a political blogger who is writing here in a personal capacity.

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