Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def) undergoes force-feeding procedure to protest GTMO

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 7.30.11 AMMajor trigger warning.  The hip-hop artist and actor formerly known as Mos Def and currently going by Yasiin Bey underwent the force-feeding procedure administered to some of Guantanamo Bay inmates on hunger strike. Over 100 prisoners are on a hunger strike, which started in February and 44 of them are being fed against their will. Bey made the video with the Human Rights organization Reprieve “to rally support for Guantanamo Bay prisoners who are on hunger-strike in protest against their detention without charge or trial” and to urge the Obama Administration to halt the force-feeding during the month-long day-time fast of Ramadan observed by Muslims. The video was released on Monday, to coincide with the start of Ramadan. The procedure performed in the video is based on a 30-page long Standard Operating Procedure manual on force-feeding Guantanamo Bay prisoners, which was leaked to Al-Jazeera in May. Jason Leopold describes the brutality of the procedure,

that requires them to wear masks over their mouths while they sit shackled in a restraint chair for as long as two hours… The prisoners remain this way, with a 61cm – or longer – tube snaked through their nostril until a chest X-ray, or a test dose of water, confirms it has reached their stomach.

At the end of the feeding, the prisoner is removed from the restraint chair and placed into a “dry cell” with no running water. A guard then observes the detainee for 45-60 minutes “for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting”. If the prisoner vomits he is returned to the restraint chair.

Bey was unable to repeat the procedure, which is performed on prisoners twice a day,  after it was done once. Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe as members of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances. The American Medical Association, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and other organizations have condemned the practice.

Four of the detainees on hunger strike have filed a law suit to stop the force-feeding generally, but especially during Ramadan. And several religious leaders are supporting them. Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of the largest US Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said: “We believe it’s wrong to force feed at any time but it is particularly upsetting to do it through Ramadan… It’s not just a religious issue, it’s also a human rights issue in violation of international norms and medical ethics.” Dr Azzam Tamimi, an Islamic community leader in Britain, stated: “As Ramadan starts, this issue is becoming increasingly embarrassing for the US government; it’s about time President Obama took a brave decision to end this in a way that would be appreciated around the Islamic world.” And Bishop Richard Pates, chair of the committee on international justice and peace for the US conference of Catholic bishops, wrote to the defence secretary Chuck Hagel that, “[r]ather than resorting to such measures, our nation should first do everything it can to address the conditions of despair that have led to this protest.”

The Obama Administration has said it will only force-feed prisoners at night, during Ramadan. Despite Obama’s 2008 promise to close Guantanamo Bay, the facility remains open and continues to undermine the United States and its claims to democracy and human rights. In the words of one critic, GTMO has “become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law”. That critic is Barack Obama.

Video after the jump. Transcript coming soon.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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