By Jon Wiederhorn
To protest the U.S. government's policy of force-feeding Guantanamo Bay prisoners on hunger strikes, rapper Mos Def — who in early 2012 started calling himself Yasiin Bey — volunteered to be filmed undergoing the standard medical procedure being used on 44 detainees who refuse to eat.
The four-and-a-half-minute clip was shot for the U.K. news organization The Guardian by the human rights charity Reprieve and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award-winner Asif Kapadia.
Mos Def starts out dressed in a dapper black slacks, a collared black shirt, a leather jacket, leather shoes with white laces, and a knit black hat. He walks towards a medical chair and a pair of spotlights and says, "Peace. My name is Yasiin Bey, and I'm here to demonstrate the standard operating procedure for force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay."
The next moment, Bey's wearing an orange jumpsuit and guards are handcuffing his wrists and ankles, placing him in the chair and strapping down his arms and legs. Then, they place a belt across his forehead to prevent him from moving his head and a doctor inserts one end of a tube to a feeding syringe and starts to push the other end into the performer's right nostril. Mos Def squirms, groans, coughs, and gasps in pain. Doctors hold him down and turn his head to the side.
They push the tube past his nostrils and into his throat. Guards hold his chest down and try to force the tube past his throat and down his esophagus, but it doesn't seem to be working, so they remove the tube to try again.
As the doctors are about to restart the procedure, Bey says, "Please, please, please, please, don't!" At first, the doctors don't listen and he pleads again, "Nooooo, stop! I said stop it! This is me. Stop it. I can’t do it."
The doctors end their efforts and Bey leans over and starts to sob. Then a caption flashes across the screen: "In Guantanamo Bay the full procedure is carried out twice a day. Typically, it takes two hours to complete."
(Generally, the process takes 20 to 30 minutes per feeding, The Guardian reported. But prisoners are often required to remain in the feeding chair for up to two hours to ensure the injected nutrients reach their stomachs.)
The disturbing clip ends with Bey relaying what he experienced. "I really want to thank you guys for setting this up and having the idea to do it. I really didn't know what to expect," he says, still sniffling. "When the tube went in, the first part of it is not that bad, but then you get this burning. I got this burning. And it starts to be really unbearable, and it feels like something's going into my brain, and it reached the back of my throat, and I really couldn't take it."
The message from the video is clear. The prisoners being fed against their will, even as Ramadan begins, don't have the power to stop the procedure; they have to suffer through it.
About 100 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay started a hunger strike in February to protest their continued incarceration. Reprieve reports that many have not been charged or tried during their stay and others have been cleared for release by the U.S. government.
In a recent statement, the U.S. government said that to respect the high holiday Ramadan, during which religious Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, Guantanamo detainees will be force-fed only at night barring "unforeseen emergency or operational issues."
"We believe it's wrong to force-feed at any time but it is particularly upsetting to do it through Ramadan," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told The Guardian. "It's not just a religious issue, it's also a human rights issue in violation of international norms and medical ethics."
(WARNING: The video below is very graphic.)