Fasting to close Guantanamo

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

I've been fasting since Sunday, one of about 100 fasters nationwide (including 40 of us in D.C.), part of Witness Against Torture's 100 Days Campaign to mark the seventh-anniversary of Guantanamo prison and call for Obama to close it within his first 100 days, as promised. We'll break the fast on inauguration day. Here's my most recent account of my experience:

"O Sea, do our chains offend you? It is only under compulsion that we daily come and go. Do you know our sins? Do you understand we were cast into this gloom? O Sea, you taunt us in our captivity. You have colluded with our enemies and you cruelly guard us. Don't the rocks tell you of the crimes committed in their midst? Doesn't Cuba, the vanquished, translate its stories for you? You have been beside us for three years, and what have you gained? Boats of poetry on the sea: a buried flame in a burning heart. The poet's words are the font of our power; His verse is the salve for our pained heart." ~Ibrahim Al Rubaish

Each morning, we gather in an ornate Buddhist Temple sanctuary for a moment of reflection. The reflections include a Fasters check in, an inspiring poem, the latest Guantanamo media story and plan for the day. I was moved to tears, one morning, by the poem "Ode to the Sea" by Ibrahim Al Rubaish. According to "Poems from Guantanamo The Detainees Speak", Ibrahim was teaching in Pakistan when he was arrested by mercenaries and sold to allied forces. After looking over the New York Times Guantanamo prisoner docket, I was unable to find his status. Could Ibrahim be one of the 70 men who are currently on a hunger strike at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?

Day three of the Fast, we stood in silence at Dupont Circle for a short time, then made our way over to Obama's transition office. Standing in single file across the street from the President-elect's expensive caravan of high security and media pool, we were swarmed and cleared off the sidewalk by the DC police. We found another location and eventually Obama's caravans pulled out and sped pass our "Shutdown Guantanamo" signs and banners. We were able to carry the immediate and urgent message to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba directly to Obama and his transition team who have stated shutting it down in one year. We believe it could be closed sooner.

The next day we had the privilege to attend the Center for Constitutional Rights "The First 100 Days: Bringing Human Rights Home" press conference and panel discussion at the National Press Club. Members of the Human Rights community filled the room to listen to representatives from ACLU, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Dr. Orlando Tizon, Witness Against Torture and others to speak about foreign and domestic issues. The organizations offered a blue print for the next administration to uphold human rights in and out of the United States. The panel dealing specifically with Guantanamo echoed the same message to close the facility, but others felt it wasn't enough. Survivors of torture demand accountability and investigation just as Dr. Tizon Orlando states, "We owe it to the American people. How do we teach our children about Human Rights and Rule of Law? Let's learn, so those mistakes will not be repeated." Devon Crafee with Human Rights First laid out a concrete plan and saw the Obama Presidency as an opportunity to make a clean break from the Bush administration. Jennifer Dashal of Human Rights Watch had a specific request for Obama to set a certain date to close the prison. She also looked at the new administration as an opportunity to jump-start the process to resettle detainees into other countries that are willing to take them. The Center for Constitutional Rights represents some detainees at the prison. Over 779 men have been in Guantanamo over the years with 250 remaining. The vast majorities are from Yemen. The United States government has done terrible diplomatic outreach to the Yemeni government on resettling their citizens. Although a great plan has been laid out by the Human Rights community for the Obama administration, human rights lawyers and activists will still have to battle in Bush courts even under a Democratic Congress and a newly elected Democratic President. What does this mean for those who are illegally and wrongfully held at the U.S. prison in Cuba?

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