The Prisoners Speak: Reports from the Hunger Strike in Guantánamo

On Friday, I received an alarming message from inside Guantánamo, from a reliable source who described the impact of the prison-wide hunger strike, now nearing the three-month mark, by stating that the the guards were “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”

The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”

I have been reporting on the hunger strike since it first became public knowledge in February, and it is reports like the one above, and the statements that have been featured in prominent newspapers — by Samir Moqbel, a Yemeni, in the New York Times, and Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, in the Observer — that have helped to put the spotlight back on Guantánamo, after several years in which most people had lost interest. Read the rest of this entry »

“High-Value Detainee” Abu Zubaydah Blinded By the Bush Administration

The story of Abu Zubaydah has fascinated me for many years — since I was writing my book The Guantánamo Files, specifically, and, in my journalism, since I first wrote extensively about him in my April 2008 article, The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts. Since then, I have returned to his story repeatedly, in articles including Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives and Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? (in 2009) and Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing, The Torture of Abu Zubaydah: The Complaint Filed Against James Mitchell for Ethical Violations, In Abu Zubaydah’s Case, Court Relies on Propaganda and Lies and New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania (in 2010), and Algerian in Guantánamo Loses Habeas Petition for Being in a Guest House with Abu Zubaydah and Former CIA “Ghost Prisoner” Abu Zubaydah Recognized as “Victim” in Polish Probe of Secret Prison (this year).

As the supposed “high-value detainee” for whom the CIA’s torture program was specifically developed, and who, after John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee wrote and approved the notorious torture memos of August 1, 2002, was waterboarded 83 times, Zubaydah is pivotal to any assessment of the CIA’s torture program, and what makes his story particularly poignant — while reflecting awfully on the Bush administration’s supposed intelligence — is the fact that it should have been clear from the very beginning to the CIA, and to senior Bush administration officials, up to and including the President, that Zubaydah was not , as touted, the number three in al-Qaeda, but was instead the mentally damaged gatekeeper of a military training camp — Khaldan — that was only tangentially associated with al-Qaeda, and was, in fact, closed down by the Taliban, after its emir, another notorious “ghost prisoner” named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, refused to bring it under the command of Osama bin Laden.

In the wake of WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the Guantánamo prisoners (the Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs), my friend and colleague Jason Leopold had an excellent story out yesterday on Truthout, which, in essence, analysed why, in the photo of Abu Zubaydah available in the documents, he is wearing an eye patch, when, in the few photos available from before his capture, he clearly had both his eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

Abandoned in Guantánamo: WikiLeaks Reveals the Yemenis Cleared for Release for Up to Seven Years

In all of the mainstream media analysis of WikiLeaks’ recent release of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from Guantánamo, relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the prison over the last nine years and four months, one group of prisoners has so far been overlooked: the Yemenis.

The most unfortunate group of men in Guantánamo, the Yemenis — 89 in total — make up over half of the 172 prisoners still held. In 2006 and 2007, when the majority of the Saudi prisoners were released, as part of a political settlement between the Bush administration and the Saudi government, which introduced an expensive rehabilitation program to secure the return of its nationals, no such deal took place between the US and President Saleh of Yemen.

Just 23 Yemenis have been released from Guantánamo throughout its history, and those who remain have found themselves used as political pawns. When President Obama established the Guantanamo Review Task Force to examine the cases of all the remaining prisoners in 2009, the Task Force — a collection of sober officials and lawyers from various government departments and the intelligence agencies — recommended that 36 Yemenis should be released immediately, and that 30 others should be held in a new category of imprisonment — “conditional detention” — until the security situation in Yemen was assessed to have improved. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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