Guantanamo Bay captives are participating in a severe hunger strike, which has managed to gain attention from media throughout the United States. Although it is largely debated how long the hunger strike has been going on, it is clear that the prison's guard force is now confronted with one of the greatest challenges in years.
Yesterday, Navy Captain Robert Durand explained that one must skip nine consecutive meals before being deemed a hunger striker and declared that 41 of 166 captives are considered full-fledged hunger strikers, although lawyers of detainees insist that the number is actually much higher. Eleven are being force-fed nutritional shakes through a tube, and two captives have been hospitalized.
The last reporter to visit one of the facilities was Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. She discussed conditions in the camps and spoke with many of the detainees' lawyers.
Captives in camp six, once showcased for their "excellent behavior," are leading the hunger strike. Furthermore, detainees are covering cameras in their cells and refusing to attend classes. Camp Six generally allowed detainees to play sports, watch TV, play video games, eat, and pray; however, many of the activities are being withheld as more and more men are being moved to the maximum-security prison, where it’s easier to conduct tube feedings. Large quantities of food are discarded after sitting untouched for approximately an hour.
One camp official reported that the strikers are refusing to eat, but are still drinking water; however, as campers cover cameras, many guards fear that there are more hunger strikers than they are currently aware of. Needless to say, it is currently camp policy to prevent captives from starving themselves to death.
The detainees are assuredly using the hunger strikes as a political weapon to bring attention to their frustrations, hoping that a death will bring U.S. government attention to the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base.
Many attribute the hunger strikes to an aggressive search conducted by guards in February. According to the lawyers of detainees, many of the captives feel the treatment of their Qurans and other personal belongings was comparable to desecration. Furthermore, both the detainees and the guards reference resentment towards President Obama's unfulfilled promise to shut down the Guantanamo camp within the first year of his first term.
The plot thickens as the military denies reporters access to the prison camps, implying that conditions may be even worse than currently known. According to a rule created by the military last year, reporters aren't able to see the prisons during their visits. Officially, the military says there aren't enough guards to both run commissions and give reporters tours of the facilities; however, many reporters question this official reasoning, explaining that the rule came shortly after construction of a $750,000 soccer field.
As the strike elevates, the Obama administration may be forced to focus their attention on Guantanamo.