Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The words of a tortured hunger striker 11 years in Guantanamo


It took 11 years for words to break through the walls of Guantanamo secret prison camp and be heard in the United States...

***

Guantanamo comes from American colonial take-over of former Spanish colonies in the War of 1898. There is no reason for the United States, as a supposedly civilized country, to have this base on Cuban territory today. Decent people would not want it.

***

The acronym Gitmo in the title "Gitmo is killing me" is a way of deflecting what the camp is. Perhaps embarrassed Germans once spoke of Dach or Buch....

***

Bush and Cheney treated Guantanamo as a no-man's land in which they could "go to the dark side," throw people away for years, torture them, flout the rule of law and decency...

***

Bagram and Abu Ghraib are similar places, along with extraordinary renditions to the secret prisons in countries we denounce, like Syria, for pracicing torture. Bush and Cheney are big time war criminals. They - and their former appointees/minions - cannot go abroad.

The day Bush left office, the UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak (the leading constitutional lawyer in Germany) called for Bush's arrest.

Through "bipartisanship" (sn odd name for the collaboration of Mafiosi...) and bad judgment, President Obama has lent himself to some of these things. See here.

***

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel speaks Arabic. For much of his 11 years in the concentration camp, he was allowed little contact with lawyers, indefinitely detained and tortured (what he describes, for instance, about forced feeding is torture and those who did it and ordered it should be locked away in prison as surely as Lynndie England and Charles Graner were (and Rumsfeld and Cheneu and Bush should have been) for Abu Ghraib.

***

Samir was recently allowed a phone call, speaking Arabic with his lawyers. They were able to record what he said and have it translated.

***

The New York Times has been against Guantanamo, with Obama who tried to shut it down but was stopped by political cowards, Democrats, Republians and even Michael Bloomberg who has, about the Islamic Center and speeches by Omar Barghouti and Judy Butler at Brooklyn College, stood up for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech against anti-Arab bigotry.

***

The Times has finally printed the words of someone at Guantanamo.

***

Samir risks his life on a hunger strike and suffers torture with a forced feeding tube. He does so because there is no life for him being indefinitely detained - 11 years now - at Guantanamo for the "crime" of breathing while brown.

***

Many of the prisoners in Guantamao are like this. Many are on hunger strike now and being tortured with forced feeding. Abstract from the characters and try, as John Rawls' original position suggests, to name those who do this - the Gestapo or the Soviet secret police come easily to mind.

***

The prisoners were not enemies of America when they were thrown away (some 650 out of 800 were released by the Bush administration and early in the Obama administration because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing, no basis for their being indefinitely detained and tortured by the United States government, except someone who didn't like them fingered them (our soldiers and "agents" did not speak Arabic for the most part and had to rely on "allies" and informers) or they were just, as Samir was, in the wrong place - Pakistan - at the wrong time.

***

Look in the mirror. This is the America we have allowed during the so-called "Global War on Terror." Obama tried to defeat the worst of this - would have transferred the "high value suspects" - perhaps 14 of them a Weekly Standard apology once suggested - to high security American prisons. He failed and has now became an agent of torture and despair.

***

The rule of law, a frail matter often violated by power in the best of times, will not survive unless we fight for it. Is what Samir has suffered what America is?

***


OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Gitmo Is Killing Me
By SAMIR NAJI al HASAN MOQBEL
Published: April 14, 2013 363 Comments

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba
Enlarge This Image (see here)

Matt Rota

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.

When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.

I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.

Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.

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. 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.

I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.

There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.

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. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.

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.

When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the E.R.F. team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.

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.

I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day.

Where is my government? I will submit to any “security measures” they want in order to go home, even though they are totally unnecessary.

I will agree to whatever it takes in order to be free. I am now 35. All I want is to see my family again and to start a family of my own.

The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.

And there 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.


Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, told this story, through an Arabic interpreter, to his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call.

No comments:

Post a Comment