The current plan seems to be to keep the hunger strikers far apart where possible, so that it is not possible to get an accurate number of the total. However, it is equally possible that this is because there are too many of them to keep in the hospital, or even in the isolation blocks.
Looking to the various unclassified information from all the counsel it would seem that as of the end of January there were at least 42 people on hunger strike. It seems that this number is on the rise. The information about these men that has been unclassified to date is:
The three long term strikers who have been without food (but being force fed in ‘The Chair’) for a year are:
1. Abdul Rahman Shalabi [042, Saudi Arabia].
2. Ahmed Saif al Malki [Zaid Salim Zuhair Ahmed, 669, Saudi Arabia].
3. Tarek Baada [178, Yemen]
There are at least two men on strike in Camp Echo, where the men are totally cut off from all other human beings except for silent contact with guards who deliver their food. These two men include Shaker Aamer [269, Saudi Arabia], whose wife and four children live in England. He has been on strike for several months. He has been seen by other prisoners on a visit to the hospital.
As of a letter from one prisoner (who does not wish to have his name used) written on February 14th and recently unclassified, there were 19 people on hungerstrike in Camp 6. According to other unclassified material from Sami al Haj, at least 11 were bring force fed as of February 1st, and these included:
1. Abdullah Muammar Souri [Syria, ?317] is on hunger strike in Camp 6, and came to the hospital for his first day of force feeding. He reported that many others in Camp 6 were on strike.
2. Ibrahim al Palestini [Zaidan? 761?].
3. Ayman al Adeni [Emad Abdullah Hassan, 680, Yemen], Camp 6, is on strike.
The unclassified letter states that many more are joining the strike: "We know with certainty that a hunger strike is harmful to one's health. However, we were compelled to undertake it. We have no available avenue except to continue with it until our just demands are met."
As of a letter from the same prisoner written on February 14th and recently unclassified, states that there were 3 people on hungerstrike in Camp 5. According to unclassified material from Sami al Haj, these include:
1. Abdulrahman al Amri [199, Saudi Arabia] is in Camp V.
With other strikers there is as yet no unclassified evidence concerning their whereabouts, but Sami al Haj has reported that:
1. Mortada [Murtadha al Said Makram, 187, Yemen, lives in Saudi Arabia] has tried to kill himself many times. He last tried to do this on May 18th, 2006. Now he is on a hunger strike to try to kill himself. He has been without food for three months, and is being force fed.
2. Mohammed Ashighedry [?Mohammed al Zahrani, ?713, Saudi Arabia] is on strike.
3. Lakhdar Boumedienne [10005, Bosnia], has been on hunger strike since December 25th . He was talking to one MP when another came along and said he spat at another prisoner. The first MP said this did not happen. But they took him and shaved him anyway. They force feed him. His problem is that his nose is broken, so the tube does not go up it, and it very, very painful. So he finally began to drink the can or Ensure rather than have it up his nose.
4. Mohammed Bawazir [440, Yemen] began his nasal force-feeding on February 21, 2007.
5. Majid Abdullah [al Joudi, 025] is a Saudi who started a hunger strike on January 7th in the afternoon. He is still being held on the block, as there are too many strikers. After 11 days they took him to the hospital. “Why strike?” they asked him. He replied that he had written to the Admiral explaining. “Why not drink?” He said that he could not drink the water from the taps. He had gone for five days without even drinking. They took him to his cell and gave him bottled water for three days. But they then stopped it, and gave him none for five days.
6. Abdul Khaliq [al Bedani, 553, Yemen/Saudi Arabia] began his strike on January 17th.
Adnan Farhan Latif [Yemen] reports in unclassified materials to his lawyer, Marc Falcoff :
The most important news here in Camp Six is that the majority of prisoners refuse to eat or walk in objection to the bad treatment and poor conditions in this prison, in several aspects. Walking and Sun exposure is not available and living conditions in that prison rooms is unsanitary, and there are other things too. However, the most important thing is the hunger-strikers’ conditions. If any humanitarian care or humanitarian work can be done by you, it should involve the hunger-strikers. Some of them have been on hunger-strike for a year and half and they receive very cruel treatment. They get kept in strict isolation, originally designed to be torture, and they get prevented from talking to each other. Some of their basic personal items, like cloths, get taken away from them. Some of them have become very ill with several illnesses under those very difficult circumstances in that place, which was meant to torture them so that they are forced to get off the hunger-strike. It should not be any new knowledge to you that among the most important reasons behind the three deaths is the torture and the abuse they were subjected to upon their hunger-strike, which caused harm to their health which ultimately took away their lives. Therefore, this is a call for help to rescue the hunger-strikers from their suffering and the cruel measures taken against them in that place. Some may be suffering from psychological and physical illnesses which subjects them, in that horrible place and atmosphere, to serious damage or life-impeding chronicle diseases. The hope is that you will rapidly come to their rescue as a human duty, for which you will be owed gratitude.”
The Prisoners' Requests
Sami began his hunger strike at 09.30am on January 7th, 2007, which was the fifth anniversary of his being taken into American custody. Those five years have passed without any due process.
Sami began by writing to the Admiral and to his interrogator to explain the reasons for his strike. His peaceful protest will continue until:
1. The U.S. military respects the religious rights of the prisoners. There continue to be routine violations of the prisoners’ right to practice their religion freely and without denigration.
2. The Geneva Conventions are properly applied to the prisoners. This was promised by then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld from the moment that the base was opened, and has never been respected.
3. Those held in total isolation are allowed to rejoin humanity. Sami particularly mentioned Shaker Aamer, the prisoner whose wife and four children live in Britain, who has been held in Camp Echo without access to other human beings since September 2005.
4. There is a full and fair investigation into the fate of the three prisoners who died in custody on June 10, 2006. Seven months had gone by without so much as a report by the military into the prisoners’ deaths, and Sami is unwilling to allow this to continue.
5. He is either set free or allowed a fair trial in a civilian court in the United States. This is a demand that has been echoed by virtually every foreign leader worldwide.
Sami asked for a response to these reasonable requests. He received none.
These complaints run generally parallel to the requests made by the other hunger strikers.
THE PRISONERS’ COMPLAINTS IN DETAIL
After eight days of his strike, Sami met with his interrogator and explained the prisoners’ requests in greater detail:
1. Religious discrimination.
In terms of respecting the prisoners’ religious beliefs, there are several sores that continue to plague the prison.
“The guards continue to insult the Qur’an. For example, the guards manhandle the Qur’an when they search it on the pretext that the prisoners might hide food in it, which is absurd. The guards searched the Qur’an of all 35 prisoners in Camp IV. In December, one guard gave the middle finger to a prisoner who was reading his Qur’an, and the soldier said he was doing it to the holy book. This goes on and on, and has been a running problem throughout the history of the camp.
“The guards do not respect prayer time. They talk loudly, and make noises as the prisoners try to pray, despite a rule that they are meant to be quiet for 15 minutes. When another prisoner was told that he had to come in from Rec during his prayer time, he was told that he would be ERF’d if he did not obey. One soldier has interrupted me many times during prayer time, despite the fact that I have politely reminded her of the rules.
“The guards also continue to humiliate the prisoners in violation of other religious rules. One particular female guard insults the prisoners who are in isolation. The prisoners continue to be forced to expose the private parts of our bodies. When we go to the shower, there is only one pair of shorts for each shower, and these are shared by all 48 prisoners, which is extremely unhealthy. This is the only option since the towels are too small to cover us. For a long time there had been a ban on women being present when the men were naked – up to the deaths of the prisoners on June 10, 2005 – but now female guards are present during our showers. Female guards control the water, and the time we get in showers, and watch us all the time. The officers say that there is now no rule against this.
“We are not allowed to cover ourselves while we use the toilet. The soldiers talk while the prisoners are on the toilet, and order the men to raise their heads. Women come by at the same time. This is all humiliating, and serves no legitimate purpose.
“They shave our beards off when we are punished. This is against our religion.
“I have been in Guantanamo for 12 EIDs now, and I have learned after each one that not once have I been told the correct day. This is particularly important for Eid-al-Adha, because we are obliged to fast on the day before. I have been in Guantanamo for five Ramadans as well, and I have not been told the correct start or end dates either.
It would be very easy to do, and we have requested one week’s notice of each holiday – without response.
“I have asked for an explanation as to why there is no Muslim spiritual advisor. Such a person could sort out the problems of the prisoners, but the current chaplain is a Christian.
“The books that are available to prisoners (when we are allowed them, and often we are not) include hardly any Sunni religious books. We want books about how to pray properly, about the history of the Prophet, and about the proper interpretation of the Qur’an -- not about jihad or the other subjects that worry the US military. Meanwhile, although only four or five of the 380 prisoners are Shia, half of such religious books as exist are Shia books. Many of the other books are silly ones about TinTin or Mickey Mouse.
“When people fast now they are punished for being on a hunger strike. One young prisoner, Said Al Zahrani from Saudi Arabia, is overweight, and refuses dinner to try to lose weight. He has been punished for this. Sometimes we eat and drink less, so we do not have to use the toilet in front of them so much. When prisoners fast, as is encouraged by their faith, they keep the breakfast fruit for later when the break their fast – but they are punished for this as well.
“Respect for our faith must be restored.”
2. The Geneva Conventions.
The US Supreme Court has said that at least Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to the prisoners. “But we are held in isolation, in the freezing cold, in shackles, they take everything but the clothes we stand up in and an isomat, and they refuse to give us medical attention. Recently, Asim [al Khaliki, 152] from Yemen had his foot swell up. All he was told was not to eat meat for two weeks. He said he had a broken bone.
“If they applied the Geneva Conventions, they would respect our religious faith. If they applied the Conventions, they would take people out of isolation. If they applied the Conventions, they would not send the ERF teams in to beat prisoners up.”
“We have the legal right to hear the news, but all we get is a few pages about America killing terrorists, about how Pakistan is turning more suspects over to the U.S., about how Blair is giving money to Pakistan, and about some beach in Australia -- all things that hold no interest for us. And it is all in English, when ninety percent of the men here do not even read the language. We want news of our countries – if not political, then at least economics.”
3. Isolation of prisoners
“Particularly, I speak of Camp Echo, where the isolation is total -- although now the majority of prisoners are in Camps Five and Six and live in solitary confinement also. Life in Echo is miserable. The brother is in a box, and rarely comes out. He never sees another friend. He cannot pray with anyone. Shaker Aamer has been alone in Camp Echo for one year and six months. This will drive a brother insane.
“Mohammed [Yusuf el Gharani, fifteen years old when he came to Guantanamo] recently spend two weeks in isolation. He is too young. They made many problems for him. They turned the A/C on full. They gave him blankets only on the day that the Red Cross came there, then took them away.
“They beat another prisoner until he bled.
“It takes only one bad guard – and unfortunately there are plenty of them – and his life is made even more awful, with no brother who can stand up for him. After five years here, I have seen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so many times – one moment a guard may be okay, and the next day he beats you.
“Sometimes I think it is not their fault. They are ordered to do this to us. And they are told during training that we are all terrorists from the battlefield, and will kill, kill, kill. An MP told me how they were shown a film of someone like Al Zarqawi beheading his captives, and told we would do the same thing to them. They are shown a film of a medic on the battlefield in Afghanistan trying to help a wounded Afghani, and being shot from behind has he did it. They are told that we are all uncivilized, with no feelings. But we are not responsible for the terrible acts of others, like this.”
4. The prisoners’ deaths (June 10th, 2006)
“What happened, exactly, to the three dead men? I do not want anyone else to go home in a box. We demand a public and independent investigation into the deaths of these men.
“It is false to say that the prison is ‘transparent.’ The media only get to see and hear what the military wants. The media should be allowed to talk to prisoners. They should be allowed to see the punishment and isolation blocks, not just the show cells.”
5. The Right to Fair Trial
“The Supreme Court said we had the right to go to a civilian court, but then the Congress took this right away. The ARB is not enough, it is worthless. Why would three military officers believe the prisoner? When I went to my ARB, I found that the prosecutor there was the same man who had been my defense representative the year before. I looked at him, shocked, and he looked down in shame.
“They held an ARB on September 11th, 2006, without me there, and said I was a threat. What evidence of this is there? They do not even bother to interrogate me any more. They stopped asking questions two years ago, when I finally got a lawyer, and told them I would no longer speak with them.
“Nobody here believes the decision is made anywhere other than Washington. Why else would they change their decision from one week to the next. Abu Anas [Jamil el Banna, 905] was told one week that he was going home to his wife and five children in Britain, and the next week he was told that they had changed their minds and he was still a threat. How can he suddenly have become so dangerous, alone in his cell? Our interrogators say to us – and perhaps it is the only truth they tell – that if we do not cooperate with them, we will lose our ARB.
“If we follow their foolish rules, then we are not dangerous. After June 10th [2006, when the three prisoners died], there were new rules. And the MPs taunt us – ‘You want to eat? You want to eat?’ Under the new rules, the MP makes the prisoner keep backing up until he is at the far end of the cell. Then he only puts in the bread, and waves his finger, telling the man to come and get it. He repeats this four or five times, item by item. They almost make us beg for food. If you do not do this, you are written down as refusing food, and you will be on the clock towards punishment. The food is rarely even warm. On November 17th , the breakfast arrived at six a.m., but the sergeant would not allow the men to have it for two hours – he said he was punishing the whole block for something, I do not know what.
“Waleed from Sudan was ERF’d because he did not stand to turn in his sheet for laundry. He had toilet paper in his ears so he could sleep. I said, ‘He is sleeping,’ but the guard told me to shut up. They attacked him, took his sheet and did not give him a new one. One of the guards asked me whether I enjoyed the ‘show.’ They are much harsher on the black men among the prisoners.
“We must actually get up at night and stand, whenever they come along to check we are alive – it is not enough to answer their questions, although how a dead man could talk I cannot tell. If our cell is untidy, or if we talk back to the guards, then we are a threat and we lose the ARB. I feel like a child in a very bad school.”