Post by Eliza Barclay and Jessica Naudziunas, The Salt at NPR Food (7/11/13)
For centuries, the act of refusing food has turned human bodies into effective political bargaining chips. And so it's no surprise that the prisoners desperate to leave Guantanamo after, in some cases, nearly a dozen years there, have turned to hunger striking on and off since 2005 to try and win their release.
For years, the Pentagon officials who run the detention camp have responded by force-feeding prisoners. Currently, some 45 of the 104 hunger-striking captives are receiving the procedure, as many people learned this week when a graphic video featuring Yasiin Bey, the rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def, went viral. While Bey's performance may be part publicity stunt, doctors say it does help expose the unethical treatment and some of the pain of the Gitmo detainees subjected to force-feeding.
In the video, released by the British human rights organization Reprieve on the night before the start of Ramadan, Bey is strapped down while a feeding tube is shoved up his nose, down his esophagus and into his stomach. He resists, whimpers and writhes and eventually calls for it to stop, breaking down into tears. According to Reprieve, Bey's force-feeding followed the Pentagon's Standard Operating Procedure used on the actual detainees.
The Pentagon calls force-feeding a "medical response to [Guantanamo] detainees who hunger strike," according to a document detailing the procedure obtained by Al Jazeera. And President Obama has said he supports force-feeding, because he does not want to see anyone die.