6 Horrifying Facts Every American Should Know About Guantanamo Bay and the Ongoing Hunger Strike
The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay continues to grow. The U.S. recently forced many prisoners into solitary confinement. The military now admits that 100 prisoners at the camp are refusing to eat. But lawyers for Guantanamo detainees say that more than 130 detainees are on hunger strike.
While the claims and counter-claims bounce back and forth, the situation continues to deteriorate. Here’s 6 facts you should know about Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing act of protest most of the prisoners are participating in.
1. U.S. Medical Reinforcements Have Arrived to Force-Feed Prisoners
One of the latest news items is that “medical reinforcements” from the U.S. Navy have arrived at Guantanamo Bay to cope with the growing hunger strike. The Naval nurses and specialists are there to help facilitate the process of force-feeding the detainees.
“We will not allow a detainee to starve themselves to death, and we will continue to treat each person humanely,” Guantanamo prison spokesman Samuel House told the New York Times. But the practice of force-feeding has been criticized by human rights groups.
When detainees are force-fed, they are shackled to a “restraint chair.” Then, U.S. military officials force a tube into their nose to pump nutrients into their body. The American Medical Association has come out strongly against the practice. “Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” AMA President Jeremy Lazarus wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Miami Herald reports.
In a harrowing New York Times Op-Ed, Guantanamo prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel described the process of force-feeding. “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up,” he wrote. “I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”
2. Hunger Strike Sparked By Raids, Fueled By Indefinite Detention
Detainees began the hunger strike in early February after they said personnel at the camp raided cells, confiscated personal items and treated the Qu’ran disrespectfully. The military disputes this narrative. But what is clear is that, as the New York Times reported, the strike is being driven by “a growing sense among many prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 11 years, that they will never go home.”
“The men are not starving themselves so they can become martyrs...They’re doing this because they’re desperate. They’re desperate to be free from Guantanamo. They don’t see any alternative to leaving in a coffin. That’s the bottom line,” Wells Dixon, an attorney for five Guantamano detainees, told AlterNet earlier this month.
3. 86 Detainees Have Been Cleared for Release--But They’re Still There
There are currently 166 detainees at Guantanamo. And over half of them--86--have been cleared for release out of the hellish prison camp. But they’re still there, a fact that is helping to drive the hunger strike.
The U.S. government has effectively put release efforts on hold. The last time a prisoner left Guantanamo was September 2012. Part of the problem is that 56 of the cleared men are from Yemen, a strong U.S. ally that also has a problem with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that has plotted attacks against the U.S. After a 2009 terrorist plot that purportedly originated in Yemen was halted, the Obama administration decided to halt repatriation of detainees to Yemen.