While Syria dominates the news now, let's not forget about the prisoners in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Prison. Two prisoners were released from the military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, without fanfare on August 28, the first releases since the Obama administration freed two Muslims of Uighur ethnicity and sent them to live in El Salvador on April 2012. On Sept 29, 2012, Canadian Omar Khadr was sent to his home nation of Canada to complete a seven-year prison sentence after his conviction by the military commission of while as a 15 year old, shooting at American soldiers as they attacked the compound of family members in Afghanistan.
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On August 28, Nabil Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab, both Algerian citizens, were released from Guantanamo and transported to Algeria. Hadjarab, now 34, was captured in Afghanistan on suspicion of being a low-level al-Qaida fighter. He was sent to Guantanamo in February 2002. He had been eligible for release since 2006 and took part in hunger strikes at Guantanamo because of his continued imprisonment.
Sayyab, now 37, who had worked as a chef in France and Syria, was arrested in Pakistan as a part of the U.S. bounty program in which hundreds of foreigners were sold to the U.S. after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Sayyab also was cleared for release years earlier but, due to congressional restrictions on transfers, had to remain at Guantanamo. Sayyab also had joined in hunger strikes at the prison to call attention to the prisoners' indefinite detention.
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There are 164 prisoners who still remain at Guantanamo; 84 have been cleared for release but still remain locked up.
September 5, 2013, marked day 209 of the hunger strike by prisoners at Guantanamo. 34 prisoners continue on the hunger strike and 31 are being force-fed through tubes in the nose to the stomach. Two months ago, 106 prisoners were on a hunger strike, 46 were being force fed and 3 prisoners were hospitalized.
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Solidarity actions for the prisoners have taken place around the world citing indefinite detention without trial, no release for years after prisoners are cleared for release and painful forced nasal-gastric feeding tubes shoved up the nose of prisoners on long-term hunger strikers and dangerously pushed down into their stomachs.
Weekly vigils take place around the United States. In Washington, DC, each Friday Witness Against Torture holds a vigil in front of the White House.
On June 26, a large national mobilization at the White House ended with 21 people arrested for refusing to move from in front of the President's residence. One protester, Diane Wilson, climbed the White House fence and attempted to sit on the fence, but fell into the White House grounds.
Wilson had been on a water-only hunger strike for 58 days. She was arrested and tried on September 6 for unlawful entry. She was found guilty of unlawful entry on September 6 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, but the sentence was suspended.
Several other international activists have been on long term solidarity hunger strikes. Cynthia Papermeister of Berkeley, California ended her 82-day, 300-calorie-per-day liquid hunger strike, on September 6 with the release of the Algerian prisoners. Elliot Adams of Sharon, New York, was on a 300-calorie hunger fast for 80 days from May 18 to August 4, 2013.
Tarak Kauff of Woodstock, New York, was on a 300-calorie hunger fast for 58 days from June 7 through August 4, 2013. Brian Willson of Portland, Oregon, suspended his hunger strike on June 10 after 31 days on a 300-calorie-per-day strike due to being accidentally hit by a car.
Activist undergoes Nasal-Gastric tube Feeding in Solidarity with Guantanamo Hunger Strikers
On September 6, Andres Conteris, who has been on a water-only hunger strike for 60 days, was voluntarily force fed with a nasal-gastric tube in front of the White House to demonstrate the painfulness of what 32 prisoners at Guantanamo are subjected to on a daily basis by US military medical personnel. Conteris said the forced feeding was "excruciatingly painful." He said that he could not imagine how the Guantanamo prisoners who have been force fed for months can possibly stand the procedures as their nostrils and throats are swollen from constant pushing of the tubes down through the nose, throat and stomach.
Hundreds of others throughout the world are on shorter solidarity hunger strikes.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)