Whether you are celebrating Valentine's Day or not this year, it's certainly difficult to ignore. Of all the articles that have been written about the event, and we have certainly run our fair share on HuffPost UK, I don't believe there are any as poignant or heart wrenching as our blog from Guantanamo Bay resident Shaker Aamer.
It's 14 February. In Britain it will be Valentine's Day. In 2002, it was the day I arrived in Guantánamo Bay, and the day my youngest child was born - Faris, whom I have never been allowed to touch... I have no doubt justice will prevail and the light of the truth will shine all over the world. What is happening to us and others is a small price for justice, peace, and happiness which will cover the whole world soon. Always, after total darkness, the sun rises again. I hope to see the sun of justice, peace, and happiness with my own eyes. It will be a great day. If I don't get to see that sun, please remember that I have endured all this in the name of Justice.
Well, not exactly a slave, but a slave of the Guantánamo system. I'm talking about Shaker Aamer, the former UK resident who is still - still - marooned at the notorious US detention centre in the Caribbean almost exactly 12 years after being taken there during the height of George W Bush's frenzied and law-breaking "war on terror".
One of the books that detainees at Guantánamo Bay are 50 Shades of Grey, the international bestseller from the US writer EL James. Could it be that the US military authorities have decided that James' erotic thriller is actually pornographic (so-called "mummy porn") and therefore unsuitable for the camp's 155 detainees?
They know what they are doing to me is wrong and that's why they are scared. It is not me they are worried about, but they have some metaphorical sense that their mother or father is going to see what they are up to, and wonder what has become of them. Instead of being a brave soldier, they have been reduced to the rank of 'Scrotum Searcher Third Class', and they are told to beat up a defenceless and shackled prisoner with the help of five of their tough buddies.
I sent Shaker Aamer the sermon Reverend Nicholas Mercer delivered in October which denounces the UK's involvement in the tortuous and horrifying tactics used in the 'war on terror' and its continued denial of justice to those still subjected to those same practices. Shaker, clearly touched, wrote back almost immediately.
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held by the United States in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, for over 11 years, is still yet to be released by the US government. One has to question why the US is taking so long to release Aamer despite the fact that he has been cleared for release over six years ago?
I know I will leave here one day, perhaps soon. I have long been cleared, for six years now. But what of the other men here? Again, I worry about the 80 people who have not been cleared more than I do about myself and the other 83 who have. Some might get a trial of sorts, but scores never will. They say it's because they can't use the evidence against them in court. Even if we believe this excuse, we might well ask why the evidence is inadmissible - is it because they tortured the men? If so, then a thousand years of experience tells us that the statements are certainly unreliable, and probably false.
My name is Shaker. I am also known as Sawad Al-Madany because I was born in the Holy City of Medina. Please can you remember these names for me, because I hardly can anymore. Here, they call me 239. In fact, I call myself 239. It feels so strange to witness my name slipping away from me. I can't do anything about it. I wonder how long it is going to take for all of us here in Guantánamo to slip away from the world's memory?
"A symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law." These are President Obama's recent words on Guantanamo Bay, the military prison he rules as commander-in-chief. But as Gitmo's infamous hunger strike enters its sixth month, it is increasingly plain that we have not one, but two administrations on Guantánamo Bay. The first - the administration of President Obama's speeches - regrets the prison... The second administration offers a retort.
So for me, the strike is over: not for any particularly good reason, just because it has gone on a week, and it is time to pass the baton over to Frankie Boyle. I was not sure when I began how long I would go for, since I had never foregone food for 48 hours before. I am satisfied with a week - it is longer than I expected to last, though less time than I could have.
It's hardly the same, but three days ago, my wife announced that ketosis had begun with me. Two evenings ago, she took away my car keys. Last night, I was short of breath when it came to blowing up balloons (so too, it seemed, was my mother, but then she is 86). Finally, the force feeders came for me.
The combination of lack of sleep with lack of food does seem to be the worst part of going on hunger strike... The notion of being coerced into feeding does make me think of the procedures described by Shaker Aamer in my call with him two days ago. Things in Guantánamo have gone from worse to terrible.
The more I do this, the more I set my own petty experience is contrast to Guantánamo. I supposed I had a good sense all along about the suffering that Shaker and the other 165 prisoners were going through, because I have been there so many times (28 to date) and witnessed what is happening first hand. But it is a message we need to get to the world, and every word that people read is a small step in the right direction.
Day three of my hunger strike did not start off well. I was awake by 4am, and gave up trying to rest half an hour later, my mind swirling with work to be done. At least I was productive in the early hours. Meanwhile, though, I have been pondering anew, rather tiredly, how trivial my concerns truly are...
I was warned that I would get grumpy, but I hope that did not happen. I did get the sensation of being light headed - I almost felt drunk - in the mid-afternoon. For half an hour, I found concentration more difficult. But overall I did not feel hungry until about eight-thirty in the evening. Shaker Aamer told me the second day would be one of the hardest - that after day four things would get easier. We'll see...
Today is the first day of my hungerstrike. While we have agreed that it can be done in simple solidarity with all the detainees - currently more than 100 are on strike, and at least 48 are being force fed - the alternative is to 'Adopt a Hunger Strike', where you choose to do it in sympathy with a particular prisoner. I was in Guantánamo visiting my clients last week, and I promised Shaker Aamer that I would do the next few days (as long as I can last) adopting his strike.