"I Do Not Want to Die Here": Gitmo Detainee Describes Horrific Hunger Strike, Violent Force Feedings

Human Rights

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel has never been charged with a crime, yet he has languished in Guantanamo Bay for over 11 years. Now, he’s on hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention and how military guards have searched the Qu’rans of the Muslim prisoners locked up there. He says he will not eat “until they restore my dignity.”

Moqbel’s story was published today in the New York Times, and is based on a telephone call he had with his British lawyers from the organization Reprieve. It is a harrowing account of the current conditions at Guantanamo as a mass hunger strike continues. Over the weekend, reports emerged that clashes had broken out between military guards and prisoners at the camp over the decision to close a communal camp in Guantanamo and isolate prisoners in individual cells. One detainee was reportedly injured by a rubber bullet.

Moqbel, the 35-year-old hunger-striking prisoner, isn’t sure how much weight he’s lost. But he’s sure of other things: that he’s been vomiting blood; that he’s been brutalized by what’s known as a Extreme Reaction Force; and that being force-fed is extremely painful.

“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,” Moqbel writes. “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.”

Moqbel also relays the story of one specific instance where he was force-fed: “During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily...It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me. As they were finishing, some of the ‘food’ spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of my dignity.”

Moqbel is a Yemeni prisoner who insists he’s done nothing wrong. He was picked up in Pakistan, put on a plane and then sent to Gitmo after he asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. “The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one,” he writes.

Moqbel makes clear that a potential consequence of the hunger-strike is death. “I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day...here is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.

I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late."

Human rights groups have decried the practice of force-feeding prisoners like Moqbel. As the Empywheel blog notes, Physicians for Human Rights has come out against the practice. "If someone who is mentally competent expresses the wish not to be fed or hydrated, medical personnel are ethically obligated to accede to that person’s wishes," an expert with the group told McClatchy.  "Under those circumstances, to go ahead and force-feed a person is not only an ethical violation but may rise to the level of torture or ill-treatment."

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