Thursday, June 13, 2013

What you can do to end torture at Gitmo and elsewhere

Gitmo Is Killing Me
Published: April 14, 2013


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 anyone.

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 painful force-feeding.

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 unnecessary.

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 own.

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.

Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, told this story, through an Arabic interpreter, to his lawyers at the Legal Charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call. A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 15, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Gitmo Is Killing Me

I have included Samir Moqbel's moving testimony so that you can have a feeling sense of what it's like to be a prisoner at Gitmo, one of numerous sites supported by the US where cruel and inhumane detention takes place. Over 5,000 inmates here in California are being held in solitary confinement in conditions tantamount to torture under the UN Convention Against Torture.

June is "torture awareness month" because the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT for short) entered into force on June 26, 1987. The US is a signatory of this treaty but as you know, has committed or supported torture on numerous occasions. This has been proven in a 600-page, bipartisan report recently released by the Constitution Project. See You can order a free copy of this report from its website.
Here are three things we can do to end torture:

1) Contact Senator Dianne Feinstein and let her know that you support the release of the Senate Investigative Committee report on torture (see sample letter below). Also thank her for going to Guantanamo and calling for its closure. See

2) Send a letter to a prisoner at Guantanamo. This is a way to let them know they are not forgotten, and that you care. I am grateful to Friend Janet Riley for informing about this campaign. See

3) Show a video on torture and/or indefinite detention by the National Religious Campaign against Torture.

Here's a letter that I personally delivered to Senator Feinstein's office, signed by Friends from Santa Monica and Orange Grove Meeting. I was part of a delegation of ten LA religious leaders organized by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.

Dear Senator Feinstein,
We want to commend you for conducting the Intelligence Committee investigation into the use of torture, and for your leadership in efforts to end torture. We are writing on behalf of Quakers who have taken a strong stand against torture, such as the “Quaker Initiative to End Torture” ( and Pacific Yearly Meeting, which issued a statement calling for an end to torture and to bring to justice those who have authorized torture in violation of international law (see below). Quaker organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Committee on National Legislation have taken part in national religious campaigns to end torture.
We urge the Senate Committee to release the results of its investigation to the public. Americans have a right to know the facts. Public officials who authorized torture need to be held accountable.
Our nation loses its moral credibility as a defender of human rights if it refuses to acknowledge its role in practicing torture. As the bipartisan study by the Constitution Project makes clear, the US “engaged in the practice of torture” and “the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contribution to the spread of torture.”
There is no justification for torture—either legal, practical, or moral. We need to dispel the myth that torture provides critical information that helps keep Americans safe. Most experts agree that information gained through torture is unreliable. Furthermore, the use of torture incites hatred against Americans and is a recruiting tool for terrorists.
As people of faith, we affirm that torture is morally wrong and never justified. It is also a violation of international law.
Bringing the facts about US-sponsored torture to light could help ensure that it does not happen again, either abroad or in the United States, where inmates are being held in conditions of solitary confinement tantamount to torture.
As Pacific Yearly Meeting affirmed in a minute approved in 2011: “As Friends [Quakers], we stand firmly opposed to torture committed by anyone in any setting. We support the work of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture ( as well as of Quakers’ Initiative to End Torture ( We urge elected officials to bring to justice those who have authorized torture in violation of international law. We urge our governments to stop preventing the victims of torture from seeking redress and just compensation in our courts. We are also deeply concerned that cruel and inhumane punishment such as involuntary long-term solitary confinement are taking place in prisons in California and throughout the USA and the world. Finally, we support the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which can help prevent torture and abuse by requiring a ratifying country to establish National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) to monitor the treatment of prisoners. In addition to the NPMs, OPCAT allows for international oversight of places of confinement to ensure that torture and other abuses are not occurring.”
Please continue your leadership against torture and vote to release the results of the Intelligence Committee investigation.

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