An inmate detained at Guantanamo for over a decade without charge on Monday gave a graphic account of his participation in a two-month-old hunger strike at the US-run military prison.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times entitled “Gitmo Is Killing Me,” Samir Naji al-Hasan Moqbel said he had lost over 30 pounds since going on hunger strike February 10 and that a fellow inmate weighed just 77 pounds.
“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,” Moqbel, 35, wrote.
“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 pm, 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… They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.”
Moqbel said he had traveled from Yemen to Afghanistan in 2000 seeking work and fled to Pakistan during the US-led invasion the following year, where he was detained and eventually spirited off to Guantanamo.
Like most of the striking inmates, he has never been charged with a crime or put on trial, and is not viewed as a threat to US national security.
But he cannot be released because of a moratorium on repatriating Yemenis enacted by President Barack Obama in 2009 after a plot to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day was traced back to Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni franchise.
The strike began when the men claimed prison officials searched their Korans for contraband. Officials have denied any mishandling of Islam’s holy book.
Attorneys representing inmates at the prison have said that most of the estimated 130 detainees at Guantanamo’s Camp Six wing, which houses “low-value” prisoners, are on hunger strike.
US authorities, however, put the number of hunger strikers at about three dozen. Moqbel said at least 40 people were taking part in the protest.
“The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply… People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood,” Moqbel wrote.
“I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantanamo before it is too late.”