Inauguration Bleachers

From the Archive

Thank you for Fasting

Dear Friends—

Thank you all for the compassion and conviction you put into making phone calls and fasting last Friday, September 18th in solidarity with Tariq Ba Odah and all our brothers in the prison at Guantánamo.

Jerica Arents, a long-time member of the WAT community reminds us:

Over the years we have done a lot of fasting. This is intentional – for many of us, it’s a spiritual practice. It reminds us that we are embodied: that we have bodies that we live in every day. Our bodies need shelter, nourishment, rest, warmth. Our bodies can become sick; they can be in pain, imprisoned, locked away, and forgotten.

It strikes me that at its very core, seeing the world with an abolitionist framework is acknowledging that we share this common and profound reality of embodiment. This system of punishment that locks bodies in cages, that tortures bodies into false confessions and leaves bodies to rot in solitary confinement is fundamentally dehumanizing and deeply disturbing. These bodies, captured and detained in the U.S., happen to be disproportionally black and brown.

We also fast because we believe it’s a powerful political act. For millennia, human beings have used hunger strikes as a way to resist unjust systems. When all other forms of protest have failed – when you’ve done everything in your power to change the situation and still you’re ignored – your last-ditch effort, the only thing left in your sphere of influence, is your body. The stakes are high. One’s body becomes a bargaining chip – your life, your body, is now solely in the hands of those responsible for changing the situation.

This is the case for Tariq Ba Odah. A young man from Yemen who has been indefinitely detained in Guantanamo since 2002, Ba Odah has never been charged with a crime. In 2007 he began his hunger strike as a last-ditch effort to protest his illegal confinement by the U.S. military. Since then, he’s been force-fed two times a day – a form of torture itself – to keep his body alive. Ba Odah is now 74 pounds and gravely, dangerously sick. His lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights have fought for years for his release.

Nearly 100 people from the United States, Canada, and Germany joined the solidarity fast and made phone calls to the Department of Justice, the White House, and Southern Command last week. Thirty of those fasting wrote personal statements.  You can read some of their powerful statements below.

If you are interested in keeping up with Tariq’s case, the Center for Constitutional Rights has the most up to date information here. For those of you who are interested in continuing to  participate in this way, please check out our weekly Fast for Justice . Finally, we are encouraging people to continue to make phone calls urging the end the inhumane practice of force-feeding, and the immediate release of the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo, especially those cleared for release. The call-in Information is located at the end of this page.

Thank you again for your participation in WAT’s emergency call to action and solidarity fast.  It is inspiring to know that we are joined with you and others in a worldwide community hungering for justice.

With much gratitude,

Witness Against Torture

Personal Statements:

I am fasting for Tariq Ba Obah on Friday in solidarity with him and his continuing torture and illegal detention at the hands of my government. I hope my tiny contribution to the list of fasting and concerned people he will receive will be of some small comfort to him.

My nephew died on 9/11 in the WTC. I want only peace and justice for him – not revenge on anyone, least of all the many innocents in Guantanamo.  And it is time for those who can be charged to have a fair trial in US federal court. And for the rest to be released.

To ignore Tariq Ba Obah’s suffering and physical and mental condition is to deny humanity and the rule of law. I am frustrated by and horribly ashamed of my government.

New York, NY

I will be fasting tomorrow in solidarity with Tariq Ba Odah and all of the men who are being held at Guantánamo. I fast as a simple reminder of the deprivations they have been subjected to on a daily basis for years, indefinitely. I fast to join Tariq Ba Odah in protesting the egregious injustices which he and others at Guantánamo endure — injustices which he has been moved to protest against with his body, one of the few tools afforded him. I fast so that when I make calls on his behalf, my voice might carry even just a little more weight because I am among those willing to forgo food in protest of another’s suffering.

Brooklyn, NY

I plan to participate in the day of fasting on behalf of Tariq Ba Odah because it is the least I can do to be in solidarity with him and the remaining prisoners in Guantánamo. I act from a heart filled with outrage and sadness that my government continues to be obsessed with waging torture on individuals and war on humanity despite the howling outcry from people around the world.

I have faith that the day will come when Americans look back in horror and shame at what has been executed on this planet in our name and will successfully bring the perpetrators to justice.

Meanwhile, blessings on Tariq and those who suffer from American policies throughout the world…

Belfast and Vienna, ME

I am fasting during the time of the Jewish New Year but not on Yom Kippur, instead on a day that allows me to support Tariq and the other prisoners who thirst and hunger for justice and freedom.  This is a time of reflection and spiritual renewal and also a time when we look back on what has been accomplished or left unfinished during the past year, in preparation to taking up the tasks again in the New Year.  So it’s the perfect time to recommit to the job of closing Guantánamo and freeing all of those imprisoned there.

Albany, NY

I will fast on Friday.
My fast is a small prayer,
a small way of putting my two feet on the ground
to stand with Tariq.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,

Please continue to make three phone calls to:

  1. Department of Justice (202-353-1555) to urge the DOJ not to stand in the way of Tariq’s rquest to the court for release on humanitarian grounds and effors by other low-risk inmates at Guantánamo who are actively seeking their release through habeas corpus petitions.
  2. U.S. Southern Command (305-437-1213) to decry the conditions at Guantánamo, especially the force feeding of Tariq Ba Odah, and others.
  3. President Obama at the White House (202-456-1111) or tweeting @BarackObama to urge him to advise the Department of Justice to stand down in Tariq Ba Odah’s case and pave the way for his immediate release. Additionally, President Obama and his administration the need to use its existing authority to work more quickly to shut the doors and empty the cells of the prison

Example script: I am fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantánamo, especially for those who are on hunger strike and being force-fed. I am particularly mindful today of Tariq Ba Odah, a prisoner who is being represented by attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He has been held without charge since 2002, and cleared for release since 2009. His attorneys are asking for his immediate release as he, at 74 pounds, is gravely ill according to at least three medical experts. I am calling today out of concern for him and for the rest of the prisoners, who remain unjustly detained. I am asking that your office help facilitate the release of Tariq Ba Odah, to end the inhumane practice of force feeding, and the immediate release of the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo, especially those cleared for release.

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