A Prisoner Calls President Obama Out on Guantanamo Bay

A man held prisoner for more than a decade describes the abuse he's suffered at the hands of the present administration.
gitmo protesters reuters.jpg
Reuters

There is a 35-year-old man who has been held prisoner by the United States for 11 years. His defense at trial? He was never tried. The charge filed against him? None. He has never been charged, either. The threat he poses to the United States? He isn't thought to pose any. His scheduled date of release? There isn't one. Despite all the rest, he is to be held indefinitely.

This despite the fact that he has been cleared for release!

He is attempting a hunger strike to protest his detention. It began when he was sick in the prison hospital and refused food. "A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in," he stated. "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." Here's how life has been going for him since: "Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding."

What's it like to be force fed?

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 description is uncomfortably reminiscent of how people describe waterboarding*. He continued:

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... 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.

All that is from "Hunger Striking at Guantanamo Bay," one of the most bracing op-eds ever published in the New York Times. It must've been an especially bracing read for one man in particular. Said the prisoner, "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." Samir Naji al-Hasan Moqbel (read about the initial allegations against him, which he denies, here) is just the latest observer to point out that, along with the Bush Administration officials who opened Gitmo, the members of Congress hellbent on keeping it open, and the many Americans who concur, Obama bears responsibility for this injustice.

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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