A Premonition of Death at Guantánamo: Adnan Latif’s Hunger Strike Poem


Note: This image was produced by Amnesty International as part of their letter-writing campaign for this December, featuring Adnan Latif (on the left), a Yemeni prisoner who died at Guantánamo last weekend, and Hussein Almerfedi, another Yemeni who, like Latif, won his habeas corpus petition, but then had it reversed by the malignant rightwing ideologues of the D.C. Circuit Court. Amnesty made the image available to Latif’s attorneys, so please feel free to circulate it widely.

The news cycle is such that we are all trapped like hamsters on a fast-moving wheel, and even when something terrible happens, the media tends to move on after a couple of days — even when that terrible event is the death of a man at Guantánamo who had mental health problems, who was cleared for release in 2006 by a military review board under George W. Bush, and in 2009 by Barack Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and who had his habeas corpus petition granted by a federal judge in July 2010.

Instead of being released, Latif had his successful habeas petition thrown out by the D.C. Circuit Court last October, not on any factual basis, but because of the application of a twisted ideology, and in June this year the Supreme Court also failed him, refusing to get involved when he — and six others — appealed for them to restore justice to the habeas process.

In addition, he and 57 other Yemenis cleared for release were also failed by President Obama, by Congress and by the right-wing media. Lawmakers took advantage of the capture, on Christmas Day 2009, of a failed plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian recruited in Yemen, to insist that no more Yemenis should be released from Guantánamo, and Obama capitulated to the pressure, issuing a moratorium in January 2010 that has never been withdrawn, despite it being almost unspeakably unjust, consigning 57 men to indefinite detention, possibly for the rest of their lives, for no reason other than a suspicion of Yemenis in general.

Now that one of those men has died while waiting in vain to be freed, it is to be hoped that calls will be renewed, both domestically and internationally, for the other cleared Yemenis — and 29 other men, from other countries — to be freed before any more of them die.

In the hope of keeping the story of Adnan Latif in the public eye, and to try and make sure that his death was not in vain, I am posting below a poem that he wrote for the book Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, which was compiled by the attorney Marc Falkoff — incidentally, one of Latif’s attorneys — and published in 2007, around the same time as my book The Guantánamo Files.

A howl of pain against the torture regime at Guantánamo, and, in particular, the treatment of hunger strikers, Adnan Latif’s poem serves both as an ongoing indictment of the existence of Guantánamo, and of Obama’s failure to close it, as promised, and also as an epitaph for Adnan himself. If you appreciate it, please share it.

Also see Marc Falkoff’s article about Adnan, published by Amnesty International when the book was published (and see my interview with Marc here).

Hunger Strike Poem
By Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

They are criminals, increasing their crimes.
They are criminals, claiming to be peace-loving.
They are criminals, torturing the hunger strikers.

They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults and humiliation.

They are faithless — traitors and cowards —
They have surpassed devils with their criminal acts.

They do not respect the law,
They do not respect men,
They do not spare the elderly
They do not spare the baby-toothed child.

They leave us in prison for years, uncharged,
Because we are Muslims.

Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?

But we are content, on the side of justice and right,
Worshipping the Almighty.

And our motto on this island is, salaam.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

18 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    In the hope of keeping alive the memory of Adnan Latif, and trying to make sure that his death at Guantanamo at the weekend was not in vain, I’m posting here his powerful poem, “Hunger Strike Poem,” which was included in the 2007 anthology, “Poems from Guantanamo.” Let us not let him be forgotten. Please feel free to share this widely!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    We wont forget

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Jennah Solace wrote:

    WOW! Andy, that is powerful and amazing! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Natalia and Jennah. I was just glad to have been able to make it available.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Shakeel Mohammed wrote:

    It’s amazing that he was able to conjure up inspiration to write these powerful words while in Guantanamo. He didn’t die in vain, no way.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Shepard wrote:

    I am very greatly saddened by the death of my brother Adnan Latif. As an American I am disgusted and horrified.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Shakeel and Mary. Powerful words.

  8. Kabuli says...

    How many different things have I done during the past 11 years, lived in freedom?

    During all that time, every year, every month, every day and hour of it, he was fighting for his life, to remain a human being in spite of all the horrors inflicted on him.
    All in vain.
    Except that he did remain a human being, capable of wishing others ‘peace’, in spite of all that he suffered. That is the ultimate victory of good over bad and a lesson for us.

    Did we really do all in our power to save him?
    Do we really do all in our power now, to save his brothers whose desperate fight continues?

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kabuli. Good to hear from you. I’m glad you can access comments.
    Very well put. Adnan’s wishes for others remains very moving. As for whether we are doing enough, we will find out if we can prevent another cleared prisoner from dying. I think we know that this death has sent ripples of discomfort though the White House, but is that enough?

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Paula Helliwell wrote:

    I won’t forget, we will fight to free them all

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma Nunes wrote:

    Hungry and angry …Hungry for justice makes people full of hate…
    It’s difficult say not feed anger” but, it’s necessary be calm and never lose your temper and your hope…

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Paula, for not giving up, and for the moving words, and Zilma, while there seems to be a lot of incendiary anger going on elsewhere in the world right now, I’ve not been hearing it in relation to the death of Adnan Latif. Mainly there has been sorrow. The quest for justice needs a clear head, I think.

  13. Solidarity in Cardiff with Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Palestine | WISE Up Action – A Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange says...

    […] of corpses, and that big headache that just won’t go away, Guantanamo Bay, where another detainee has just recently died. Almost everything they do comes back to haunt them and they are constantly having to put out fires […]

  14. » Chronicle of a death foretold Mutiny Radio says...

    […] who were his warders as “artists of torture, pain, fatigue, insults and humiliation”. He joined other prisoners in a hunger strike in protest of their continued imprisonment, being forcibly tied to a special restraining chair and […]

  15. Justice for Guantanamo Prisoners | Maine Talk says...

    […] to fight despair.   Where is the world to save humanity?   Judy Robbins Sedgwick, Maine http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/09/13/a-premonition-of-death-at-guantanamo-adnan-latifs-hunger…   […]

  16. tortured mouths: thoughts on maria alyokhina | saga: the feminist muse says...

    […] we have his words. Here’s an excerpt from Lanif’s “Hunger Strike Poem” from Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak.: They are artists of torture, They are […]

  17. The life and death of Adnan Latif | Toledo Faith & Values says...

    […] Excerpt from a poem  by Adnan Latif Mark Falkoff, ed., Poems from Guantanamo, University of Iowa Press, 2007. […]

  18. Chronicle of a Death Foretold - My Blog says...

    […] guards who were his warders as “artists of torture, pain, fatigue, insults and humiliation”. He joined other prisoners in a hunger strike in protest of their continued imprisonment, being forcibly tied to a special restraining chair and […]

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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