Guantánamo Bay

#FastForJustice: Day 3

Two of my clients in Guantanamo, Ahmed and Khalid, are currently hunger striking. This is their only means of peacefully protesting their continued detention – all they are asking for is a fair trial. The authorities now are withholding medical treatment, which is putting them at serious risk of serious organ damage, mental health problems, and even starving to death. I hope by hunger striking on their behalf, I can convince Ahmed and Khalid to pause their own strike, without damaging their principles.

That is three days done. 72 hours gone without food. Today was not too bad after the morning when the others in the house had a big bacon breakfast (smells wafting through the house), except this evening when my son was trying to tempt me with a Penguin chocolate bar, after two episodes of Red Dwarf. I kept busy all day, which was distracting – drafting some of the pleadings for Ahmed’s case, and then chopping up wood for the winter ahead. (No power tools!)

Really there is not much to tell about me. Shaker said Day 3 was the hardest, and it is behind me. I am on the Hunger Strike Highway now, and I suspect it is going to be easier in future as the stomach has shrunk, and the body turns to slowly cannibalising itself (I’m not going over a week, and there is plenty of me left – about 200 lbs!). I think there is a rather distinctive odour off the skin when that happens. We’ll see.

But I did want to write about one thing today. I had tweeted various things, and at one stage I asked people to contact me by email (clive@reprieve.org.uk) and tell me when they were fasting, and send me anything they write about it. This so I can, first, thank them personally, then share the blog with Khalid and Ahmed, and finally also publish it (if they are willing).

So a few people have told me when they are going to do it, and one person so far has sent me her story of her day. I asked her how she would like to be identified, and she said: “In my light-headed delirium (maybe a bit strong there) GH – a wee Scottish woman probably sums it up if you think that’s suitable.” More importantly, I suspect, she said, “I’m Myrtle’s Mum”.

This is her blog, for which I am grateful:

* * *

You asked for people to email you when they are taking part in the Fast For Justice. Well that would be me today.

Although I would not describe it as easy (who knew I thought about food so often), with a bit of will power it has gone well so far. I cannot even begin to comprehend the strength of mind that Ahmed and Khalid possess to have continued their hunger strike since 20th September.

Although missing my coffee (I’m a bit of an addict to be honest) the morning passed quite uneventfully and then the caffeine headache kicked in, a dull thump to start with, before building to a full-on drill through the head. I decided that I would take some paracetamol as it is medicine and so would not break ‘the rules’.

This got me to thinking about what I had signed up for. I am an ordinary person with an ordinary life. What difference can I make? Who would know if I stuck to the fast or not? Why am I even doing this?

The conclusions I have come to are as follows:

Although I am doing this alone I am connected to many other people through yourself and Reprieve. The battle is with myself, keeping my mind stronger than the pangs in my body. If I did not stick to it I would be the one who knew and either by not taking part or by ‘cheating’ I would be colluding in denying Ahmed, Khalid and the others a fair trial – and ultimately I have to live with myself. I do not expect everyone to think the way I do but this is what it is for me.

This afternoon I sat at my kitchen window and watched the birds in the garden when suddenly the almost-tame squirrel which had been missing for several weeks popped up. When it saw me it ran to the window and sat, shaking with excitement while I hurried to get her favourite monkey nuts to put out. She spent the next hour or so scurrying around burying the nuts, and sometimes sitting on the ledge while I told her how much I’d missed her and how glad I was that she was alright.

People have told me that she only likes me because of the food I give her but to me they are missing the point. We have a connection. She is pleased to see me and I her.

Food is powerful. It connects every living one of us in this world. By giving it we can make life better – and today, by denying myself, I really hope that I can have the honour of carrying a very small part of Ahmed’s and Khalid’s burden.

This has become a longer email than I had intended to write but you did ask! Also it has taken up the time I would usually have spent cooking dinner – result! I’m planning to catch up with some television tonight, maybe not the Great British Bake Off though!

* * *

Thanks for that GH, and for your #FastForJustice. And thank you to everyone else – there are now 255 days pledged but do keep it coming. We need all the help we can get!

Clive Stafford Smith

Author Clive Stafford Smith

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve UK and Reprieve US. Clive oversees Reprieve US’s casework program, as well as the direct representation of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and on death row as a Louisiana licensed attorney at law.

More posts by Clive Stafford Smith