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Clive Stafford Smith

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The Fifth Day of My Hunger Strike

Posted: 17/07/2013 00:00

Shaker Aamer

Today was my little boy Wilf's birthday, which I feared might be something of a strain on an empty and shrunken stomach. He is a bundle of energy, and I find abundant energy in short supply at the moment. He was awake at 4:27am this morning, ready to get on with being five years old, and while he went back to sleep quite quickly, it took me a while to. The combination of lack of sleep with lack of food does seem to be the worst part of going on hunger strike.

Fortunately, my wife and I gave him an enormous Lego kit of a jumbo jet and much of the associated airport to go with it, and he worked on that assiduously (while I helped fairly lethargically), for a total of seven hours - including a few hours of rearranging the parts of the airport.. He seems to have taken my hunger strike on board, though, and in the late afternoon he did not object that I had none of his cake.

As is often the way this symbolic action - and I stress again that what I am doing is inconsequential compared to the real struggle faced by the Guantánamo detainees - has not chosen a very convenient moment in my life. After today's family festivities, Wilf is having his 'Dragon Party' tomorrow and, while I would normally relish it, I am not looking forward to rushing around the garden in a sweltering dragon outfit chasing 32 squealing kids. Regardless, it is not something I can pass up. Right on the back of it, my cricket team the Mapperton Marauders are in the semi-final of the Crosby Plate. I'll only have to bowl a couple of overs and bat a bit, but my main concern is that I do not let the team down.

Despite the fact that I don't notice too much impact on myself, and I find going without food less of a problem than I had expected, I wonder whether I may not be the best judge of it. My family are getting increasingly concerned about whether I am capable of doing things safely. There is already talk of 'force feeding' me with a can of liquid nutrient Ensure for Wilf's Dragon Party so that I don't pass out in the broiling sun that has visited Dorset for the past week.

I have very mixed feelings about that. I recognise that I cannot let Wilf down, and I cannot put a symbolic stand above my child's happiness, so I may acquiesce. In any event, I am probably going to pass the baton onto Frankie Boyle in a couple of days (that will have been a week, which is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but a first for me). Other members of Reprieve are also lined up to take over from me.

The notion of being coerced into feeding does make me think of the procedures described by Shaker Aamer in my call with him two days ago. Things in Guantánamo have gone from worse to terrible. Below is a passage from Shaker's own diary over the past week, as he recited it to me:

"The main issue is that they are trying to break the hunger strike through the doctors. Today is the first day I leave my cell since I saw you. I went to rec [the small cage outside, hardly bigger than his cell]. I heard the news that five are dropping out from force feeding as they cannot take it any more. The good news, I suppose, is that fifteen brothers are ready to take over force feeding. They are eligible in terms of how much weight they have lost, it is just a matter of whether the military is going to follow its own rules.

"I got a message to pass on from the block downstairs: they are saying please tell Clive about the force feeding. It involves the doctors. The leading doctor, the SMO [Senior Medical Officer] is just a tool for the military. I have requested to see him many times but he won't come to see me. There is one detainee with medical problems who needs something with very low fat. We told the doctor. He needed low fat Ensure. The SMO sent a message: 'Those of you on hunger strike are not going to get accommodated with anything. If you stop the hunger strike for the month of Ramadan, after that I will see if I can to accommodate you.'

"The detainee in question has been force fed for 90 days, and over five months he has gone from 180lbs to 107lbs. He said you must be insane if you think I'd go along with that.

"Another person met Dr. Cordelia (they are all using fake names, from Shakespeare) three days ago. I know I am not meant to be swearing to my God, but I swear this it true. She told him: 'You know why we stopped all your medication. We know you are in pain.' He is a very sick man. He is diabetic. She said: 'I will not give it to you until you are off hunger strike.'

"A minority are kind, and would like to do the right thing, but they say they cannot, they have to obey orders. But most of them do not seem to care, because they think they are invisible, they think they are protected by the shield of the military.

"I say to them: 'You are not nurses, you are not doctors. You are butchers.'"

 

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