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The Cruelty of the American Empire Makes Mother's Day Impossible for Countless Moms Across the Planet

As we celebrate Mothers' Day, more than a hundred mothers think of their children, never charged with crimes, who will be starving to death in Guantanamo cells.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Benjamin Haas

 
 
 
 

He disappeared more than a decade ago, just 18-years-old and teaching abroad, separated from  his family for the first time in life. His mother and father, sick with worry, heard nothing. For all they knew he was dead. Then, one day they opened a newspaper and learned their son was being held in a military prison run by the US of A, accused of – but never charged with – being an enemy of the state.

Were Abdurahman al-Shubati a US citizen, his case would be featured on CNN, his face plastered on television screens next to a graphic listing his days in prison without trial. Some go-getting entrepreneur would be selling yellow wristbands with his name and “#solidarity” printed on them. The president, affecting the right level of empathy for the family and strong but stately anger toward his captors, would be telling us: “Never forget” and “There will be justice.”

But Abdurahman was born in Yemen, which means he's not entitled to all those rights said to be endowed to us by our creator, at least in the eyes of the US government. And that means, despite being detained since 2001 and formally cleared of any wrongdoing in 2008, he remains trapped in a prison cell at Guantanamo Bay, slowly starving to death. A combination of racism, Islamophobia and simple guilt by association, have caused the U.S. government to keep him locked up.

Since Barack Obama became US president after pledging to close Guantanamo, which his administration is  now seeking to expand, conditions at the military prison  have only gotten worse. Prisoners there who were once promised their freedom are complaining of physical and mental torture. Though he has unilaterally waged war, Obama has decided that he can't – nay, won't – unilaterally free them. In fact, the opposite: he  issued an executive order creating “a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.” The Obama administration has unilaterally decided that dozens of men will never be tried so much as in a military tribunal because the evidence against them was obtained through torture, but that they can never be freed because they are nonetheless deemed “too dangerous.”

Not that the US government is too keen on freeing anyone else, either. A US military committee has  already determined that Abdurahman, like 57 other Yemenis imprisoned at Guantanamo, should be returned home; that he spent his 20s in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and with which he wasn't even charged, much less convicted. Obama, however, refuses to release the men, ostensibly out of fear they may seek revenge against their former captors once they return to Yemen.

Understandably, this has created a sense of hopelessness among the 166 people still imprisoned at Guantanamo.  More than 100 of them are now on a hunger strike. What other option is left for them at this point? Because of their symbolic act of defiance, however, they are being tortured even more – “how dare you embarrass us by dying” – with US personnel force-feeding them to avoid another public relations problem (the United Nations says the practice is simply “ unjustifiable”).

“Can you imagine what this is like for a mother?” asks Abdurahman's own mom in  an appeal for his freedom. “To imagine my son in such a loveless place, refusing nourishment to protest his detention; to think of him being painfully force fed – it breaks my heart every second of every day.  Don’t they realize we are human beings, not stones?”