From the Archive
Day 2 Update : An Invitation to Witness
At our morning gathering, we reflected on terrors experienced by people bearing the brunt of militarism, racism, and materialism. We reminded ourselves of Dr. Martin Luther King’s warning of these three giant triplets of evil. Kathy Kelly shared the moving story of a young man who escaped the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan, which helped illustrate these words of caution made by Dr. King so many years ago.
We did our first public witness at Union Station inviting people to hear directly from Guantanamo detainees. This year, we had more positive feedback from our action than in previous years and people applauded and thanked us for our witness. We started by counting out the numbers of each of the men still imprisoned. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 human beings 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 human beings and so on until we reached 59 human beings. Again, like years past, we brought the words of the detainees into the space. People formed a line, dressed in jumpsuits and hoods and one at a time, a person would step forward, identify the detainee being represented, and deliver a quote from them.
“My name is Tariq Ba Odah. I was detained at Guantanamo for 14 years. “I tell them again and again that I don’t want any food from them….I just don’t want it. All I want is for them leave us alone, lingering in these cells. They want me to eat, but first I have to be subjected to humiliation.” I was force fed but my hunger strike will never end. “My method of delivering my message is through hunger strike. I weighed 121 upon my arrival to Guantanamo, and when I left, I weighed 94 pounds.”
The words reminded the audience not only of the torture of imprisonment in Guantanamo, such as waterboarding, solitary confinement, indefinite detention and death but also the men’s deep hope for freedom. The Peace Poets tied it together by leading the group in song:
If you want freedom, if you want justice, if you believe in the common good. Now is the time for you to witness, to the face under that hood.
In the evening, we gathered to reflect on our fast. Matt Daloisio told the story of Witness Against Torture’s beginning. He reminded us that we started fasting 10 years ago when the men in Guantanamo first began hunger striking. We understand that fasting is not a hunger strike, but it connects us in a powerful way to the men. When we fast our senses are challenged. It takes more energy to listen to one another. We see and hear differently. We believe that when we fast together a spirit arises in this community that connects us and keeps us moving forward in order to bring the message of the men in Guantanamo to the world.
Today we don’t know how many men are on a hunger strike but we DO know that our spirit is with them as long as they remain stuck in a cage.
At the end of the day, we learned that four men were released to Saudi Arabia. One of those men, Mohammad Bwazir, was supposed to leave the prison a year ago to be resettled in Montenegro which is not his home country. When the guards came to retrieve him and take him to the plane, he chose not to leave, saying he did not want to return to a place where he could not see his family. He was released today and 21 members of his family greeted his return in Saudi Arabia. His successful resistance inspires us all to remain steadfast in our work.
Tomorrow, we will count off 55 numbers. There are 55 men still waiting to see their families and gain their freedom. We will keep counting until all the men are resettled and Guantanamo is closed.
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