From the Archive
Hunger Strike – Day 152
One hundred fifty-two days into the hunger strike — and now weeks past President Obama’s renewed promise to close the prison — Guantanamo remains in a state of moral, political, and medical emergency. More than 40 men are being force-fed, in a practice condemned by human rights organizations, medical professionals, and even the head of the US Senate Intelligence CommitteeDianne Feinstein (D-CA).
But the resolve of the detained men remains unbroken, as they endure hunger, illness, and new forms of torture in their bid for justice.
Inspired by their resistance, the world community continues to speak out.
This morning, the actor and rap artist Yasiin Bay (aka Mos Def), teaming up with the UK’s Reprieve, released a video showing Bay being force-fed according to the precise guidelines for force feeding at Guantanamo.
*It is a painful piece to view – but we think it important to both WATCH & SHARE ( and use circulating it as an opportunity to invite people to participate in WATs rolling fast )*
Timed for the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the video is already drawing international attention to the barbaric practice of force-feeding, especially during a time of fasting in Islam.
Here in the United States, inmates in the California prison system are undertaking a hunger strike protesting the pervasive use of extended solitary confinement in state prisons. Anti-GTMO activists are signing up for a “pledge of resistance” to such abuses andsigning a petition supporting the core demands of the US hunger strike.
Also, hundreds of people around the country continue to engage in solidarity fasts with the hunger strikers in Guantanamo, withseveral individuals weeks into open-ended fasts. Diane Wilson recently ended her 58 day solidarity fast after scaling the White House fence. At the end of this e-mail, we share a powerful reflection by a member of our extended community who has participated in the solidarity fast.
Finally, word of our actions is making it to the men at Guantanamo, and making an enormous difference to them.
An attorney for several men at Guantanamo recently wrote Witness Against Torture to say:
I was at GTMO all week meeting with clients. I wanted to share with you the following words from . . . Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody without fair process since 2002.
Moath was one of the very first prisoners to reach GTMO, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). He has been on hunger strike since February and the U.S. military is now force-feeding him. Moath shared the following during our meeting, translated as accurately as I could from the Arabic:
“I recently had an interesting conversation with one of the Navy officers in charge of my force-feeding here at Guantanamo. He told he was here to make sure I was treated humanely as I was being force-fed. So I answered through the interpreter, saying:
‘What I am enduring now is torture and the American people will tell you as much. Humanitarian organizations, various human rights bodies, as well as American groups such as Witness Against Torture and Doctors Without Borders have all declared that what is taking place at Guantanamo is a violation of human rights and that it amounts to torture.’
The officer’s face changed and he walked away.”
The men at GTMO are fully aware of your work and their eyes literally tear up when I describe the various protest actions you and your fellow activists have undertaken in solidarity with their plight. To say they are grateful would be an understatement.
Our eyes fill with tears as we contemplate the significance of what Moath shared: that our actions — however inadequate we feel them to be — help the men at Guantanamo resist assaults on their dignity and confront their persecutors, with added confidence in the justice of their position and the world’s concern for their plight. There can be no greater affirmation of the value of our efforts, nor greater motivation for us to work harder.
Jeremy Varon & Matt Daloisio
for Witness Against Torture
*upcoming events are in the planning stages, and we will be in touch soon with more information*
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE ROLLING FAST
Give up food for a day as part of Witness Against Torture’s ROLLING FAST. Over 200 people have participated by fasting for some period of time since the Guantanamo Hunger Strike began. Sign up for one day, or more. Sign up as a community or as an office! Download and send this letter to a man detained in Guantánamo. The men on Hunger Strike know of, and very much appreciate our collective efforts at solidarity.
HUNGER STRIKE SONG!
The Peace Poets, Witness Against Torture, and anti-mass incarceration activists have collaborated on The Hunger Strike Song. (PLEASE POST AND SHARE)
PHONE CALLS & LETTER WRITING
We have generated 100s of calls since the Hunger Strike began. We are particularly focusing on calls to the U.S. Southern Command (where you will be able to speak to a person), but ask folks to call all of the numbers here: Call the White House (202-456-1111, 202-456-1414), U.S. Southern Command (305-437-1213) and Department of Defense (703-571-3343) to express concern over the hunger strike and insist on Guantanamo’s closing.
WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE SOCIAL MEDIA
Our Facebook page has been getting more and more traffic, and some weeks has reached over 200,000 people. This is only possible when people like, share, and comment on posts. Please ‘like’ us on Facebook: https://www.
Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. If you are able, please donate here.
REFLECTIONS ON GUANTANAMO & PELICAN BAY
The men at Guantánamo have been hunger striking for 152 days. They are being force fed through tubes. They are being held without end. President Obama promised to shut down the detention center in 2008. Last month, President Obama stated that “we compromise our basic values” when the United States tortures people, and again promised to restart the process of closing Guantánamo. This has not happened.
On July 8, prisoners at Pelican Bay Prison resume a hunger strike that began in 2011if California and Governor Brown continue to refuse their demands to end indefinite solitary confinement, provide adequate food, end the practice of punishment of groups and based on supposed gang affiliation, and increase programing. The state of California has not answered theses requests to reduce violence towards prisoners at Pelican Bay.
I support the prisoners and detainees as the people who best know and understand how prisons are places of violence and control, and therefore best how to change that.
I support the prisoners and detainees as people who are at the head of our movements to change and abolish our prison system and close Guantánamo.
I support the prisoners and detainees in their right to be listened to and responded to by the state of California and the federal government.
I support prisoners in their call for racial justice.
I support the hunger strike both in California and in Guantánamo.
I am in awe of the dedication and resilience of the hunger strikers. This is a moment not just to realize the importance of listening to the voices of those inside for our movements, but finding ways to demand that the state be responsive to people in cages that does not require those inside to come close to death/ starve themselves to be listened to.
I detest the conditions and torture at Guantánamo that have pushed the detainees to go on hunger strike for 152 days. I support their needs and requests.
I detest the torturous policies under which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has fostered violence in prisons; the use of solitary confinement, severe restrictions to food and programming, and group punishments. I support the PBSP SHU D-Corridor’s 5 Core demands.
This moment also calls for us to push back against the rhetoric that mass incarceration is the main symptom of a broken prison system. The 166 men at GTMO force us to say that it is not merely the amount of people that the state incarcerates that make prisons bad for people, but call for us to see the ways that prisons steal humanity and breed racism and xenophobia. PBSP SHU D-Corridor’s 5 Core demands show us that the policies and systems within prisons foster, grow, and beget violence; not even one person should be held in solitary indefinitely. While the conditions and lives vary greatly from Pelican Bay to Guantanamo Bay, it is clear that being caged calls for a response.
I have so much to learn about how to support people inside, and there is so much work to do. But today, I fast in solidarity with those men in Guantanamo and California. In this fast, I call for closing Guantanamo. I call for the State of California to grant the requests of those in Pelican Bay. I stand behind the prisoners and detainees who lead the movement. We call for an end to torture.
Please, stand with me and so many others!