Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last
thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
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
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
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
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
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.