National Security Brief: Gitmo Prison Will Adjust Force Tube-Feeding Schedule During Ramadan Fast

Restraint chair used to force tube-feed Gitmo detainees (Credit: Getty)

With the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay continuing unabated since President Obama announced his renewed effort to close the prison, authorities there are force tube-feeding (the military calls it “enteral feeding”) dozens of hunger striking detainees. The military announced on Tuesday that it is tube-feeding 45 detainees, the most since the hunger strike began in February.

But many Muslims fast in daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, which begins on July 8. So how will the military handle its force feeding procedures? According to the Miami Herald, Gitmo spokesperson Navy Capt. Robert Durand said authorities there will alter the feeding schedule to coincide with the Ramadan fast.

“We understand that observing the daytime fast and taking nothing by mouth or vein is an essential component of Muslim observance of Ramadan,” Durand said. “And for those detainees on hunger strike we will ensure that our preservation of life through enteral feeding does not violate the tenets of their faith.”

The military justifies its force feeding procedures by saying, as Durand said, it is
“preserving life.”

“This policy mistakenly conflates hunger striking with suicide,” three physicians at the Boston University School of Medicine wrote recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, adding, “Hunger strikers are not attempting to commit suicide. Rather, they are willing to risk death if their demands are not met. Their goal is not to die but to have perceived injustices addressed.”

The Huffington Post published a letter from a Syrian national at Gitmo on hunger strike to his lawyer. He was reportedly cleared for release by the U.S. in 2010. “Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight,” he writes, “Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes.”

In other news:

  • The New York Times reports: As Egypt edged closer on Wednesday to a return to rule by the generals, with a military deadline only hours away for President Mohamed Morsi to cede power, the Egyptian leader and army commanders pledged to spill their blood to achieve their aims, propelling the crisis further toward a showdown.
  • McClatchy reports: Despite U.S. intelligence officials’ repeated denials that the National Security Agency is collecting the content of domestic emails and phone calls, evidence is mounting that the agency’s vast surveillance network can and may already be preserving billions of those communications in powerful digital databases.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports: Canada’s federal police force on Tuesday said it thwarted a plot to detonate bombs fashioned out of pressure cookers at the provincial legislature in British Columbia, and had arrested two “self-radicalized” Canadians on terror-related charges.