Detainees in Guantanamo Bay have started to fight back after being placed in separate cells by military security, in order to monitor the many inmates hunger striking more closely. NPR says that the prisoners' weapons included batons, broomsticks, and plastic water bottles. This report comes after the Miami Herald saw guards losing some control over those detained there, and after a month of widespread hunger strikes. That it has come to prisoners' disobedience in order to draw attention to the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay is a devastating indicator of the United States' continued disrespect for human rights.
Guantanamo Bay is an illegal prison that houses many detainees that are suspected of terrorist activity, but whom have never been tried or sentenced for their supposed crimes. In spite of the 2009 executive order made by President Barack Obama, the camp remains open, housing over a hundred prisoners. The camp's conditions have greatly deteriorated in the last several months, as many detainees have filed complaints that they have not received adequate drinking water while on hunger strike.
This recent clash is part of a larger pattern of dissent and resistance among the prisoners incarcerated there. Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, whose account of the hunger strikes was published in the New York Times, describes his experience refusing food in the prison since February: he has been incarcerated for over 11 years, as the United States will not send any detainees from Yemen back to the country. He has never been on trial for any of the acts of which he has been accused.
He discusses being force-fed while hunger striking: "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."
The Guardian reports that: "of the 166 detainees still at the base in Cuba, 43 have been classified as hunger strikers, but lawyers claim the true figure of those participating is far higher. Of those, it is believed around a dozen are being force-fed to keep them alive."
One official quoted that there are always small numbers of detainees on hunger strike at the base, perhaps as a way to quell media interest in this particular story. One wonders if such unending hunger strikes should instead be taken as indicative of the egregious political and human rights violations that characterize Guantanamo. The camp has been open for too long, and in spite of promises and bureaucratic measures that pay lip service to closing Guantanamo, there's no real traction in that regard until President Barack Obama takes real action that works to close the facility, rather than just placate activists. That it must come to hunger strikes and violent resistance on the part of those who have been imprisoned there is a disturbing reminder that Guantanamo Bay will stay open, to the detriment of those who remain there, whether the American people are not aware of it. If we truly believe that the United States is a government that cares about human rights, we must all pay close attention to the resistance taking place there, and hold our government accountable for following through on the most vital rule of protecting human rights there is.