[Ppnews] Gitmo hunger strike: ‘The last right of people who don’t have rights’

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 11 13:38:57 EDT 2013

  Gitmo hunger strike: ‘The last right of people who don’t have rights’

Published time: April 11, 2013 05:16

Feroz Abbasi spent several years in extrajudicial detention at 
Guantanamo - two of them in solitary confinement - before being released 
without charge. He took part in the previous mass hunger strike and 
shared details of his experience with RT.

*RT:* /Your time in Guantanamo. How were you treated there?/

Feroz Abbasi: In Guantanamo, because I can speak English, I was treated 
better than the other detainees. So, those Arabs, who didn’t speak 
English, who came from a different culture, were treated harshly, very 
harshly. But my treatment wasn’t so much physical, we did get beatings, 
when we were transferred from camp to camp, it was psychological. So, 
for some reason on the same night when Iraq was bombed in March 2003, I 
was moved into isolation, solitary confinement, and I was there for two 
years. Six months of which were without sunlight.

*RT:* /The fact that you could speak English. Did you pick up anything 
that other people didn’t understand?/

*FA:* Yes. Because I understand the language and the soldiers assumed 
that everyone didn’t understand English, so it was kind of an advantage. 
And there was a period of time when I pretended to be Arab and did not 
speak English. I can’t remember how many months it was – maybe three. 
And therefore I could negotiate more around the camp – understanding 
what was going on, understanding the phrases of soldiers, when they 
expressed them, without them knowing.

    ‘US administration had learned from the first hunger strike’

*RT:* /Were you there during hunger strikes? Did they achieve anything 
during your time?/

*FA:* The first hunger strike was in camp X-ray and that was because of 
desecration of the Koran. Someone’s cage was being violently searched 
and the Koran was kicked by a soldier – this was in one of the blocks, 
which was away from us. And this was the last straw in what was 
accumulating abuses. And that being the case – and the hunger strike was 
the response. It started with the last British resident leaving 
Guantanamo Bay. He, who came from a very conservative background, told 
the Arab detainees, that this is what they needed to do, because this 
was IRA and some loyalist in the Northern Ireland. So, he took it right 
from there and told them that we need a hunger strike. We need to make a 
stand, to protest for our rights – at that point of time they didn’t 
believe him, they didn’t listen to him. But seeing the effect, the 
experiencing at camp X-Ray, they realized that this was the only option 
that they had and it was the last right of all the rights being taken 
away from them.

*RT:* /Was there anything that you took part in?/

*FA:* Coming from a different point from the Arabs and not being limited 
to my Arabic language I wasn’t much included in a circle, in discussions 
and so forth. And my position was that the Islamic doctrine tells us 
that you are not allowed to self-harm. We are not allowed to self-harm 
in that situation, so in terms of a hunger strike you harm yourself, you 
harm your body, and suicide – the same – you are harming yourself. So, 
this is not something that you would do. So, I didn’t participate in the 
first hunger strike. The second hunger strike (there were also other 
things - I didn’t like speaking to the interrogators, because they were 
asking the same questions over and over again, I was giving them the 
same answers, they did not believe me), so they said no talking and 
cooperation was to be limited.

*RT:* /And results? Was it useful tactically?/

*FA:* Surprisingly, in the first hunger strike there was a result. And 
from there it seemed it was the impetus for the next hunger strike. But 
unfortunately the American administration had learned from the first 
hunger strike and then the whole trajectory of how many people came 
onboard, how it starts, and where they fall off - they took that 
knowledge into the second and, I believe, the third hunger strike.

*RT:* /So, that’s why this one is lasting so long, because they know how 
to deal with it?/

*FA:* Basically yes. So, they formulated a way of dealing with it. They 
looked into the first one and took the measures to deal with it as best 
as they could. So, in terms of the effect later on, I am not sure of the 
impact on the conditions at Guantanamo Bay, detainees over there.

*RT:* /With this particular strike – why are they being treated like 
this and what are those ways of dealing with the hunger strike?/

*FA:* What I understand to be in the media it’s the desecration of the 
Koran again and it must be the last straw in the abuses they have to 
suffer. That’s why they are on a hunger strike again. I believe this is 
a protest. They are protesting. And this is their last right. Otherwise 
that right is being taken away from them. They don’t have the right to 
remain silent during interrogations. So, this is the last right of 
people who don’t have rights. They are protesting against the situation, 
but primarily because their religion is being abused.

*RT:* /Is there only force-feeding or are there any other methods to try 
to stop the strike?/

*FA:* All I know about force-feeding, they were trying to put in fluids 
into you. I don’t know how much fluid we should have got, but they were 
giving us some five or six times a day. Craziness like that! Actually, 
when I went to the medics, because I was pretending not to speak 
English, I could hear everything they were saying, there was one guy, 
who was doing a trainee medical course and he was joking about which 
needle to use: whether to use a big one or so forth. So, we were like 
guinea pigs for their training. The person, who was putting a needle 
into me – they took a long time – I mean they took a lot of stabs into 
my arm – they missed the vein until they actually found it. The medical 
capacity of these people is limited. So, in terms of that when I was 
there, when I was participating in a hunger strike – they intervened, 
but what I actually hear from people about force-feeding them through 
the nose, giving them some nourishment drinks or something for medical 
purpose and trying to keep them alive, as they say.

    ‘Gitmo cages became darker’

*RT:* /Conditions. Have they got worse or improved since you left?/

*FA:* From my experience the situation progressively got worse. In camp 
X-Ray there were cages, they looked like animal cages. There was an 
element of nature, there was an element of sunshine, there was an 
element of talking, communication with other detainees. But 
progressively the cages became darker, they became more excluded, they 
became more closed-off from the world – from the sky, from the sun, from 
the moon. Everything was being isolated in a very strict situation, 
which really affects person. So, it seems that Guantanamo is going that 
way and they are getting even worse in terms of isolating people. The 
enemies are around them.

*RT:* /There were reports of a suicide attempt. Were you there? How 
desperate people must be to lead to that?/

*FA:* There is an element of sometimes going through some rough parts. 
Someone who gets desperate in a way, they would find it hard in 
Guantanamo. But in terms of Islamic doctrine you can’t self-harm. And 
that’s very strong. And that’s basically what detainees have left – 
their religion. They seem to have nothing else. And they are not going 
to sacrifice, for instance, going to hell as we believe – to sum up 
those conditions in Guantanamo Bay. Because the Guantanamo Bay is 
obviously better than hell.  So, I mean they can make the threat, they 
may faint. But in terms of them taking their lives of their own – I 
don’t believe them.

*RT:* /And they are saying he has gone off the radar, gone missing. Is 
that a common occurrence?"/

*FA:* I was in the blocks with population until March 2003 and I went 
missing. And they took me to isolation for two years. The other 
detainees didn’t know where I was. They didn’t know what happened to me. 
They didn’t know whether I was alive or dead. So, in terms of my case 
this could happen. You can be taken somewhere else, and they kept me 
there for a very long time.

*RT:* /Did anybody know where you were?/

*FA:* At the end (around the end of 2004) we got some legal 
representation, but they can play the games, so they can pretend such 
and such person doesn’t want to see a lawyer and so forth. And they can 
play these games around so a person can’t even see any representative.

    ‘No way would minority go on a hunger strike’

*RT:* /US officials say there are 42 people on the strike. There are 
claims from legal representation that the number is a lot higher. Have 
you any idea of how many people are on that strike?/

*FA:* Arabs work together, so it won’t be 42. They work together, so 
there’ll be a majority. There’s no way that a few people would go on a 
hunger strike unless they are very isolated – in this case it could be 
maybe six, or three of four. If they say 42 – it’s definitely the 
majority – 166.

*RT:* /Psychologists have raised the alarm since it went past the two 
months, saying that detainee's condition is critical. They’ve demanded 
an independent investigation. Do you think that's likely at all?/

*FA:* No. An independent investigation in Guantanamo is unlikely. The 
only people who are allowed in is the Red Cross. And unfortunately they 
failed us in Guantanamo Bay. Hopefully, they will learn from their 
mistakes and transfer that kind of knowledge to other kind of operations 
they have. But in terms of anyone who is allowed in Guantanamo Bay, it’s 
always in favor of the US administration and they will toe the line.

*RT:* /So, Red Cross was compromised because they had to bow to the US 

*FA:* I believe the Red Cross believed that we were terrorists and they 
didn’t help us and actually worked against us.

*RT:* /Is that possible whoever would come and wouldn’t be affected in 
the same way?/

*FA:* When I was there I wanted someone from Amnesty International, 
someone to speak out and tell the world what was happening to us, but 
that’s unlikely to happen.

*RT:* /Why aren’t they doing what they are for?/

*FA:* Amnesty international?

*RT:* /Yes./

*FA:* Because they are not allowed. The US controls the Guantanamo Bay, 
it’s a military institution and they don’t allow someone to come in 
there and criticize what they are doing. Red Cross doesn’t criticize – 
so they are allowed. Anyone who is allowed has to be kind of compliant 
in a way. Although, lawyers have been allowed, who have spoken out, some 
military lawyers, which we are thankful for. But those are individuals – 
not really organizations.

*RT:* /There are street protests planned for this Thursday. Do you think 
they will achieve anything?/

*FA:* In terms of policy changes or impact on Guantanamo Bay and the 
administration – they tend to be hard-headed and stubborn, but the 
detainees will appreciate it. All they want is to be heard, to see that 
people or feel the people actually offering support and see that they 
are suffering and they are crying out. In terms of moral support the 
detainees will appreciate it.

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