After 11 years of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel has never gotten his day in court, but thanks to The New York Times op-ed page, he's finally getting his say in public. Moqbel is one of 43 prisoners at the U.S. military's terrorist detention camp who is currently on a hunger strike, and the essay that appears in Monday's paper under his byline is less a plea for his innocence than it is a horrifying tale of what it's like to be kept alive against your will.
The 35-year-old Yemeni citizen has been living in Guantanamo for more than 11 years, since being arrested in Pakistan in late 2001. Yet, he has never been faced any criminal charges and is no closer to being released now than he was on the day he arrived. It's been more than two months since he stopped eating, and now twice a day, military police and under-trained medical staff tie him down and force feed him through tubes. He says he's down to 132 pounds, but that the last time he weighed himself was over a month ago.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
The hunger strike is spreading through the prison and has occasionally led to violent clashes between inmates and guards. It may also soon start to take the lives of some of the 166 detainees who are still there. (If Moqbel's account is true, more than one has dropped below 100 pounds.) There have been hunger strikes in previous years that have failed to have much impact, but now that this one has moved beyond dry headlines on the newswires to the "paper of record," perhaps Americans will take notice once again and remember that despite a four-year-old executive order from President Obama, the government still hasn't found a way to shut down the controversial jail.