Guantánamo Bay

#FastForJustice: Day 2

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 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.

Day two of my strike is now over. While it started with a splitting headache, it actually went pretty easily for the most part. I barely slept last night though. I got through writing a preliminary injunction draft for urgent legal action we’re taking at around one in the morning, and then found I’d drunk too much black tea in the day. Up half the night, I was dehydrated by morning.

I belatedly thought I would weigh myself this morning. Normally I am around 210 lbs but I found I was 201 lbs today. I am actually pretty skinny, but that is still more than double Ahmed Rabbani (who is hovering around 90 lbs right now). It made me think how much tougher all this has to be on him.

Most of the day I was pleasantly distracted, pulling together various affidavits for the injunction against the mistreatment of the men in Guantánamo – my own statement of the facts as I know them to be, as well as helping to draft statements from doctors about the health care Ahmed and Khalid Qassim ought to be getting. Typing was not always easy though, as I found I was getting a bit of cramp.

My big mistake was going to my 9 year old’s ‘Harvest Festival’ service this afternoon. The kids sang endless songs about the food they like – “Apricots and plums, ripened in the sun, oranges and yellow bananas good for everyone. It’s another opportunity to be grateful for the food we eat.” With each celebratory verse, my friend Matt would smirk at me from the far corner. I stood over to one side, thankfully against the wall furthest from the 85 cakes (I counted them, obviously) that awaited the parents at the end.

In between whiles, many people emailed their support, which was very heartening. Roger Waters was willing to fast for a day, even though he is on tour in Canada. Stephen Fry was up for it next Thursday. And, as of bedtime tonight people have pledged 217 days of hunger striking themselves (#FastForJustice). I am very thankful for that, and I know Ahmed and Khalid will be too.

When  I brought Wilf back from school he did a bit of Minecraft while I worked, but then he wanted to conduct some of Roald Dahl’s scientific experiments, which I enjoy doing with him. One involved creating a kind of play putty by mixing flour, five eggs and food coloring, and it was smelling rather like we would get a cake of our own until we got to the bit where you added glue.

Meanwhile, Emily was picking up a friend from the station and locked her key in the car, so while they begged a locksmith to come, I got the dinner. Really, I am not a foodie, but there is food all around us at the moment.

All of this jumps out of the day to reminds me of Ahmed and Khalid of course. The most revolting aspect of Trump’s new Guantánamo wheeze is to have them starve until they are half-dead, and then force feed them again so they are kept half-alive. I remembered the video we made with the Guardian where, with extraordinary generosity of spirit, Yasiin Bey (the rap star formerly known as Mos Def) allowed us to force feed him, to show how horrible it is. I tweeted it around to remind people. But the current coercion includes wafting food close to Ahmed and Khalid as they gradually slip away, which must be the definition of sociopathy.

As I go to bed I wonder how they are doing, lonely and far away in some steel cell in Guantánamo Bay.

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