2066 Days, 3 Hours
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Since February this year, men detained at Guantanamo Bay have been on hunger-strike to protest against their detention without charge or trial. More than half of the men currently held have been cleared for release by the US Government. Yet — due to a lack of political courage — their imprisonment stretches on into its second decade. They are held beyond the rule of law and without the basic freedoms we take for granted. In desparation, they have turned to the only form of protest they have left.
Well over 100 prisoners are now engaged in a hunger-strike by refusing to eat. The response to their peaceful action has been brutal. Over 40 men are being subjected to force-feedings: violently strapped into a chair while a tube is pushed up their nose, down their throat and into their stomach. Against their wishes, food is pumped into their bodies. Often men are left strapped in the chairs, the tubes still inside them, for hours on end.
On 8 July, Ramadan begins. This is a period of holy fasting during daylight hours for the Islamic faith. But even during this time Guantanamo authorities have refused to stop the force-feeding.
Guantanamo authorities are taking every step they can in an attempt to crush the hunger-strike, and that is why the men need your support...
I have been in this prison since 2002, when Pakistanis sold me to the US for a bounty. I was first cleared under George Bush, and again under Barack Obama, and would like to go home to Tunisia. My daughter was born while I was in Guantánamo. She and I have never met. I joined the hunger strike, but my health was so poor and the guards so brutal I had to stop in June. The day after Obama made his speech, a soldier came to us and said, “what Obama says does not apply in Guantánamo Bay.”
I used to care a lot about my health – I tried to eat right and look after myself in this place, to prepare myself for when I was released. After all, I have been cleared for most of my time here, and people used to say I would go home to my French family ‘any day now’. But that day never came. So I decided to hunger strike. The guards strap me in the chair twice a day, and the nurses come with the tubes. It’s unbelievably unnatural. One of the doctors tried to get me to eat by asking what foods I missed. I told her: ‘I miss a nice plate of freedom, with some spices.’
Greetings to everyone out there. I want you to know we are nothing like the bogeymen some have made us out to be. I left Tunisia for Italy because there was no work, but would gladly go home there again. My parents are there but getting very elderly. I was told I was cleared, but people have not left this place in years. So I joined the hunger strike. They punish us for striking in ways you would not believe. They are trying to break us. For some it may work, but it will just make others stronger.
For years I have been hearing that I could go home to my British wife and children in London, but so far it has not happened. Why not, when I am cleared? Perhaps because of the torture I witnessed years ago, which the British police are investigating. Or maybe because I tried to stand up for the rights of weaker prisoners when I saw abuses, and the military hate to be criticized. But I will continue to speak out until I leave this place. I am striking, and have lost over 50 pounds, but my body is broken from old force-feedings. So I take a small amount of nutrition to keep out of the chair.
I originally come from Morocco. President Obama cleared me, and like a few others, I am waiting for somewhere safe to go. My German family said they would help me back on my feet should I be sent there. These days are the darkest we have experienced under President Obama. I said to my lawyer the other day, we are living the Gitmo Hunger Games – when I starve myself I feel I am fighting for my life, but to the camp authorities it seems like a game. I don’t like conflict and dislike striking; if you try it, you will see why. But what choice do I have?
The funny thing about my situation is that I ran away from terrorists in Algeria, and now cannot go back because the Bush administration falsely said all of us in Gitmo were terrorists. I have been cleared for most of my time here and need somewhere safe to go. I joined the strike early, and have been force-fed for weeks. This isn’t just hard on me – it’s hard on the medical staff. One of the new nurses was about to force-feed me and I noticed her hands shaking. I asked her, ‘Is this your first time to force-feed someone?’ She looked down at me and told the truth: ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It is.’
I am a father of four. I was cleared for release in 2009, but my homeland Syria is so torn by conflict I cannot go there. US officials and my lawyers have said they are looking for somewhere safe to send me, but still I am here. I joined the hunger strike in February and was among the first to be force-fed. For weeks, teams of soldiers in riot gear forced me into the chair so roughly that they re-injured my back, which is weak from old beatings. Now when the soldiers come, they say: ‘will you drink Ensure, or do we have to put you in the chair?’ I drink it, but not by choice.
I am 43. I have been held in Guantanamo since I was 32. I have two children—one of whom I have never even met. Its difficult for me to imagine how much they will have grown while I have been sitting here. My country, Mauritania, must also be much changed. I fled there because of government persecution, but now that government has been overthrown and all the political prisoners of the old regime released. Meanwhile, I am still held by the US government in this grave years after they cleared me for release.
The US government has never charged me with anything—I am being held because of my nationality. In January 2010, President Obama put a moratorium on the transfer of any Yemenis from Guantanamo because he believed the Yemen was too unstable for us to return. I heard that he recently lifted that moratorium, but we are still here. In fact, more than half of us still in Guantanamo are from Yemen. We’ve been promised many times that we would leave this place, but each time the words were empty. What choice do we have but to hunger strike?
I’m from Pakistan and have been in Guantanamo for more than ten years. I am on hunger strike because the treatment here has no shred of justice or fairness. The solders and doctors make us suffer as much as possible. I was vomiting blood and my weight reached 106 lbs. I fainted a lot. At this point, they started to feed me by force. They took me to the hospital and strapped in my four limbs and did everything by force: taking a blood sample and inserting the tubes in my nose. I was in hospital for five days.
I loved to paint and read in order to pass the time until I am released from Guantanamo. Now everything has been taken away from me, including my legal papers, and so I sit in my cell alone for 22- to 24-hours a day and stare at the walls. I tried to speak with Senator John McCain about the harsh conditions here when he visited in early June, and he walked over to see me but the guards prevented him from talking to me. I have lost sixty pounds and fear that I may die in Guantanamo, even though I am cleared for transfer and there are current, viable opportunities for my resettlement. I have only ever wanted one thing – to live quietly and peacefully in a country where I would not suffer persecution.
My name is Sanad al-Kazimi. I am a Yemeni, husband and father of four children. I was disappeared by the United States in 2003 and sent to secret sites and tortured. I have been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2004. I am in solitary. Outside time is only offered in the middle of the night. I have only one mat, one blanket and one set of clothes, and the guard provocations are continuous especially at night and during prayer. It is always cold; I can’t keep warm. A full meal is offered three times a day, but I am committed to the strike. Americans should be opposed to the waste of food and money. I refuse to see the military’s doctors because they sanctify their uniforms more than their profession. I am deteriorating. We need a humanitarian health organization to send doctors to examine all the men. The resolution of the strike is not complicated. The first step is that men who have their release papers, should be released. The second step is that the others should be scheduled for trials—it is a necessity for people here to stand in front of military or civilian courts.
I am 35 years old and from Yemen. Since I was 24, I have been held here without charge. To protest my ongoing indefinite imprisonment, I am on hunger strike. My weight has plunged 60 pounds from what you see in this picture. As a result, I am violently force fed twice a day. I do not want to kill myself. My religion prohibits suicide. But I will not eat or drink until I die, if necessary, to protest the injustice of this place. We want to get out of this place. It is as though this government wishes to smother us in this injustice, to kill us slowly here, indirectly, without trying us or executing us. But sometimes the violence we suffer here is direct and immediate. In April, guards shot me without warning, repeatedly and at close range, with rubber-coated steel bullets. This place is not fitting for a living, breathing human being. But I have not lost hope. My protest is not driven by despair. I will maintain my protest until I regain my dignity and freedom.
I was cleared for release from Guantánamo years ago by the Obama administration. But the United States will not return me to Syria, where I am from. I pray that my loved ones there are safe and wait to be resettled in another country. I have been held here without charge since I was 21. I am 32 now and protesting my indefinite imprisonment through a peaceful hunger strike. Every day I am brutally force fed. Force feeding is not the only brutality suffered by the hunger strikers. The military here has beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, including our privileged legal correspondence. Before we can even meet or have a call with a lawyer, we are subjected to multiple, degrading genital and rectal searches. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells, beyond the reach of the sun's rays or a fresh breeze. Sometimes, we don't know if it's day or night out. But we will continue our peaceful protest until our demands for justice are met.
I am from Saudi Arabia and have been held here without trial since I was 22. I am 33 now and on hunger strike to demand respect for the Qur’an, as well as my freedom. I am being fed against my will with a tube pushed into my stomach through my nose. First, I am forced into a restraint chair, positioned very painfully, and shackled. The whole process can be described as torture. Military medical personnel members at Guantánamo are a primary partner in the torture. I’ve been horrified to see the medical profession, a humanitarian profession, assisting with torture and abuse. I am skin on bones. My ribs are showing. These are among the worst of my days at Guantánamo. This is only the second time I’ve experienced anything like this. The last time was during the worst period spent in interrogation, when I was totally isolated and continuously tortured. What I endured during that period caused the U.S. government official in charge of the military commissions to come out and state publicly in 2009 that I was tortured and could not be prosecuted. I am the only prisoner that any sitting U.S. official has admitted was tortured at Guantánamo. Eleven years is enough. I want to go home.
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