Hunger striking for 'dignity' in Guantanamo

"To me, hunger striking is a way of holding my head high. It's a simple exchange: of pain for dignity."

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    Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - It's been over a month since I started my hunger strike and I've lost a pound every single day.

    The reason I started this hard, long path of starving myself, of constant pain and suffering, is simple enough to explain, but that does not mean that it is easy to understand the reality of its impact on me. No one, for example, would understand how a fire burns and how painful it is unless he touches it - and the moment he does, he will feel it, and fully understand the excruciating heat.

    Khalid Qasim is a 39-year-old Yemeni citizen who is being held in Guantanamo

    I really cannot do more than touch on the reasons why I strike in these few brief words. It would be better if I used the language of silence to convey it, as that can sometimes be more telling than speech. I can only say that protests such as the hunger strike are the only recourse left to us here in Guantanamo. One must resist, at all costs, the degradation of the human spirit. And for me, the only resistance I am allowed is to cease from eating.                                 

    This hunger strike, as we all know, is not going to help me. I do not do it to achieve my liberty. I do it to breathe life into my sense of justice. I do it to defend myself in a place where there is no defence. I do it in the name of fairness and human rights - and all the things America stands for but does not respect in its prisons.

    Here, even the medical staff have managed to stifle the message of hunger striking - they use force-feeding to try to overpower the hunger strikers in Guantanamo. To me, hunger striking in GTMO is a way of holding my head high. It is a simple exchange: of pain for dignity.

    To say one thing and do another is what we know as hypocrisy. To me, the greatest hypocrisy of all is America's preaching about human rights and claiming the crown as pioneer of the concept while (behind the scenes) whispering, "those detainees are terrorists and don't deserve any human rights. They are the worst of the worst!"

    I therefore pose a question to America, and challenge the notion that allows for such hypocrisy: Do those we call "terrorists" fall within the class of human beings?

    If America answers "yes", then human rights automatically should apply to them.

    If "no", then America will have to come up with a new pronouncement, something along the lines of: "Human rights for all humans! Except, of course, for people who we label terrorists, who are sub-human."

    Either answer - "yes" or "no" - must carry similar, heavy consequences for the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave".

    Khalid Qasim is a 39-year-old Yemeni who has been held at Guantanamo for more than 14 years.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policies.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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