Second Published Letter to Reprieve

Dear Reprieve team,

A cold greeting from me from the freezing weather in Camp V! By the time this letter reaches you it should be warmer; at least I am wishing it to be!

It has ended before it begun. We were hoping that the new wave SMO and his staff would differ from the last group. Unfortunately our hopes have not been answered as yet. In the last phone call, Clive asked me to describe the procedures that apply to the hunger strikers here.

Well, we have been divided into two groups. First there is “the long term group” which consists of those who have spent a long time on hunger strike. We are six members: Abdul al Rahman (042), Gussan (682), Abu Bakr (171), Sanand (249), Tariq (178) and I. We are treated completely differently to those in the second group.

The second group are the other hunger strikers, who are treated awfully. Even within this group, there are two kinds of treatment. For those who take their feed compliantly, the procedure will be facilitated to be somewhat easier from the beginning to the end. The guards will smile as they take him to the class room (a building which was previously a small school but is now used as the feeding room). The nurse will make sure to greet him when he gets there. The nurse or corpsman will ask if he is comfortable in the feeding chair. The nurse will ask what tube size he prefers (although not all nurses do this). “Which side do you prefer, sir?”, the nurse will ask gently, and will keep asking “is it ok?” as the tube is inserted in.

However, the same nurse will act completely differently with those who are deemed “uncompliant”. No smiling, no greeting, no asking about tube size or which side the poor detainee would like … nothing. It doesn’t end there. They will use any and every thing to make it as excruciating as they can, as much as they can. The doctor, especially, will open the door to hell for those who they see as “uncompliant”.

As I write now, brother 171 is vomiting on the torture chair, having been brought there by the Forced Cell Extraction (FCE) team. The nurse and corpsman have refused to stop the feed, or to slow the acceleration of the liquids.

Brother Khalid (ISN 242) is one of the detainees who has been stopped from feeding. He told me that the reason for this was because he chose to be taken by the FCE team to feed instead of walking. And he proceeded to tell me this story: before he started with the FCE team he spoke with the nurse and asked that she refrain from adding water with the Ensure, because the mixtures made him feel sick. The nurse told the doctor about it, and she was given permission to not add water. After that day, they carried on his feedings without adding water. When Khaled began being FCE’d, the water once again found its way to his feeding bags. Khaled waited until the same nurse came and asked her about the reappearance of water with the feeding formula. She said softly, “it’s the doctors’ orders.” He said he smiled at her and asked: “is this because of the FCE team?” The nurse simply nodded.

I am sick of this hypocrisy. The odd thing is that there are members of staff here (nurses, corpsmen etc.) who are convinced, or at least appear to be convinced, that they are here protecting us (as safety officers). Who is going to protect us from these protectors?

While I was being fed, I showed the nurse the papers of Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the “War on Terror”. She was surprised: “Wow, who gave you this?” she said, as if they were papers from a prohibited book.  Once I told her they were from my lawyer, she just kept quiet. Another nurse refused to touch it, as if it could burn her. They know the truth, but refuse to question anything.

Since the beginning of the hunger strike in 2005, Abubakr (171) and I have had no problem with tolerating the feeding. Now, we are known to have small stomachs. The culmination of six or seven years of force-feeding is now taking its toll. A couple of months ago I had been given a kind of feeding formula (Pulmocare, a similar mixture to TwoCal) by mistake. Or so the nurse said — but I don’t believe it. The formula made me vomit from 10 pm to 7 am — pieces of fat kept coming out whenever I vomited. They have not repeated that mistake with me. But they have begun this cruel process with Abubakr — at 6 am he was holding a cup with vomit in it after six brutal hours of feeding. Every day is like that. If this isn’t torture … surely this is what normal people call it? By normal, I mean the normal people outside the prison, because there is no normality here.

I keep asking myself if I could honestly say what Anne Frank said all those years ago in Nazi Germany: “It’s really a wonder I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” If I could say this … do I dare to say it loudly? This is something few people can do over here.

I asked myself: if she lived through what we are currently living, she would keep her ideals … not that our life is any harder or more dangerous than what she went through. I am sure what she faced was incomparable, but the Nazis were war criminals. They killed, tortured and starved thousands of Jews; because they are criminals they didn’t have any legitimacy for their actions. They have been cursed for it — with anguish that cannot be described. What makes it worse is that the Americans have killed, tortured and starved thousands too: but with a veil of legitimacy. The fact that these actions are somehow accepted is an unforgettable and unforgivable crime.

Nonetheless, I think Anne Frank would keep her ideals in Guantánamo, in spite of the challenges. And that would be the biggest test she would face.

Emad Hassan (ISN 680 — cleared for release back home over four years ago)

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