Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

Sami Alhaj Guantánamo Memoir/2/

Published on: 13 January, 2021

I decided to begin a hunger strike at roughly the same time as the opening of Guantánamo’s Camp 6.

It was extremely important for me to remember those days and dates inside the blocks and cells.

For this reason, I made an effort, to the extent that I could, to follow what was going on and commit it to memory. It was extremely difficult, though not impossible at times, especially during the days when I was locked up in a solitary confinement cell, almost continuously in the dark.

My hunger strike coincided with the first week of January 2007.

I began by decreasing the amount of food, and then by reducing the number of daily meals, refusing some and eating others. After my refusal to eat meals had expanded to encompass breakfast, lunch and dinner, they cleared the cells to my right and left to make sure that nobody was passing me food in secret. When my refusal extended to the other meals, an officer and a doctor came to see me. They told me that they would be testing my blood pressure every day. When they found that the blood pressure had dropped, they forced me to drink two bottles of water.

There were times when they would take my blood pressure three times a day. During that preparatory period, I was really eating very little, on an intermittent basis, and I persevered in that through a time when I was afflicted with severe constipation accompanied by hemorrhoids. Throughout this period, I renewed my determination every day as to the necessity of a total hunger strike.

Then, as I recall it, I announced a total hunger strike immediately after Eid ul-Adha passed. On January 7, 2007, prior to starting the hunger strike, I sent a message to the General with five demands: first, respect for Islam; second, our right to enjoy the rights provided for us in the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war; third, the right to advocate for ourselves in front of a civil court. This was where the US Supreme Court and Congress had bailed on our abuse. The fourth demand was to return the brothers who had been isolated in Camp Echo for a long time. The fifth and final demand stated the necessity of an investigation into the deaths of the three prisoners who passed away on June 10, 2006.

I raised these demands and stopped eating food as the sun rose on January 7, 2007.

I succeeded in my hunger strike for a month while I was still on the block.

I must mention that when I started my total hunger strike while still on the block, they sought to neglect me. Actually, they were negligent of me throughout that month so as to make me despair and renege on my demands under the pressure of hunger and thirst.

At the end of that month, they began to present some temptations and deceptions in the guise of telling me that I would soon leave the prison. They tried to get close to me by saying, “You’re still a young man with your life ahead of you. Don’t kill yourself. Isn’t suicide haram in your religion? Your family is waiting for you.”

They were disappointed since I bore all these hardships with the support of Allah and resisted all kinds of temptation. I was able to end the month with unswerving determination and tireless perseverance.

When the month ended and they were convinced that I would continue my strike for a second month — especially since my weight had decreased from 90 to 56 kg — they seemed forced to transport me to the hospital and keep me there.