Watch the Shocking New Animated Film About the Guantánamo Hunger Strike by Andy Worthington

by Andy Worthington
Writer, Dandelion Salad
October 13, 2013

Guantanamo hunger strike day 101 at Powell & Market

Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Below is a powerful new animated film, six minutes in length, which tells the story of the hunger strike at Guantánamo that began in February, and involved the majority of the 164 prisoners still held over the six-month period that followed. At its height, 46 prisoners were being force-fed, and even though just 17 prisoners are still taking part in the hunger strike, 16 of them are being force-fed. Force-feeding is a brutal process, condemned by the medical profession, but it is difficult to understand what is happening at Guantánamo because no images are available of prisoners being force-fed.

To overcome the difficulty for people to empathize with people whose suffering is deliberately kept hidden, the new animated film, “Guantánamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes,” produced by Mustafa Khalili and Guy Grandjean of the Guardian, and the animation company Sherbet, features the testimony of four prisoners, all of whom have been cleared for release but are still held (a situation in which 84 of the remaining 164 prisoners find themselves). The film, which depicts life in the prison, including the horrible reality of force-feeding, is narrated by the actors David Morrisey and Peter Capaldi. See here for an account of the making of the film in today’s Observer, and see here for David Morrissey’s comments about it.

The men whose stories are featured are Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, Younus Chekhouri (aka Younous Chekkouri), a Moroccan who has strong ties to Germany, Samir Moqbel (aka Mukbel), a Yemeni whose op-ed in the New York Times in April drew attention to the hunger strike, and Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian who lived in the UK before his capture. The film also includes testimony from Nabil Hadjarab, one of just two prisoners released since President Obama promised to resume releasing cleared prisoners in May, and all of the statements were provided by the men’s lawyers at Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity.


The Guardian on Oct 14, 2013


Speaking about the film, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, Cori Crider, said, “The details of what goes on in Guantánamo are either completely hidden from the public or censored. Even what my clients say to me, their lawyer, is monitored. This animation cuts straight through the sterilized Gitmo the US government would have us believe in to the ugly reality my clients face. Over half of the [164] prisoners [still held] have been cleared for release for years, including British resident Shaker Aamer.  Yet he and the others remain without charge or trial. Obama must send the cleared men home.”

To follow the release of the film, the Observer published a separate article explaining letters from the prisoners have provided an insight into the “punitive tactics” used by the authorities to break the hunger strike.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian whose account of the hunger strike I made available in July, said that Shaker Aamer “had been targeted and humiliated by the authorities to the point where it became impossible” for him to continue his protest.

As Abu Wa’el Dhiab explained, the Extreme Reaction Force (or Immediate Reaction Force), the five-man team responsible for enforcing compliance through violence, “would ‘storm’ Aamer’s cell five times a day in an attempt to crush his resolve during the strike.” In his letters, Dhiab wrote, “They have deprived him of food, water and medicine. Then the riot squad uses the excuse of giving him water and food and medicine to storm his cell again.”

He added, “They took him to the clinic, tore his clothes off and left him with only his underwear for long hours, taunting him.”

In his correspondence, as the Guardian described it, Samir Moqbel “alleged that throwing the prisoners into isolation helped break the protest, which lasted more than 200 days and drew such international attention that President Barack Obama reiterated his intention to close the camp.”

In addition, Ahmed Belbacha “corroborated the claim that solitary confinement was used as a punishment for prisoners making political statements.” He “described how the authorities were punishing hunger strikers by confiscating their belongings,” as the Guardian put it. As he wrote, “My glasses, legal papers, toothbrush, toothpaste and all my other necessities have been taken.”

Samir Moqbel “added that other tactics were utilised to whittle down the size of the hunger strike,” explaining that “the temperature was deliberately manipulated to make conditions inside the camp even more uncomfortable and that during the hunger strike searches of cells were timed to disrupt detainees’ sleep.”

As Cori Crider noted, “The US authorities have, with some glee, announced the hunger strike to be over. What they fail to tell you is the horrific things they did to crush the hunger strikers’ spirits, as my clients have described. And yet still there are at least 16 men striking and being brutally force-fed twice a day.”

The Guardian also noted that Shaker Aamer’s lawyers are concerned about his health, because he “has refused one visit and three phone calls since August.” His family, in London, explained that they were “fearful that his treatment has dangerously weakened his health.” It was also noted that Prime Minister David Cameron “has recently written to President Barack Obama in another direct attempt aimed at ‘securing Aamer’s release and return to the UK.’”

In a press release today, Reprieve have added further information, noting that the recent silence from Shaker may be because, “in order to take calls or have meetings with their lawyers, detainees must endure an arduous process which can involve genital groping.” This intrusive and insensitive policy began in May, and it continues, even though, in July, District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued an order banning the guards from “conducting genital searches of detainees before meetings with their attorneys and described the practice as an ‘exaggerated response’ to security concerns,” as the Washington Post described it. Judge Lamberth wrote, “The choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or foregoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like petitioners.”

Reprieve also point out that, in a recent phone call with his lawyer, Samir Moqbel said, “It’s very difficult to continue the hunger strike for more than seven months. Whoever wants to continue the hunger strike will be put in isolation. Even the nutrition person told us that the Colonel wants us to stop or go to isolation. So how can you continue your hunger strike when people are treating you this way? There was a lot of pressure to put a stop to our peaceful hunger strike which was just peacefully asking for our rights.”

If you find the video useful, please do what you can to let others know about it. We all need to keep the pressure on President Obama to fulfill his promise to resume releasing cleared prisoners. It should not need saying that force-feeding them, instead of releasing them, as they were promised nearly four years ago, is a shockingly callous way to act.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.


[DS added the videos.]

US used strong-arm tactics to end detainees hunger strike

PressTV on Oct 13, 2013

When US President Barack Obama was running for office in 2008, he made a bold promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. But years later, the prison is still open. Now new details have emerged about the sufferings of inmates at the controversial detention center. We have the details in this report.

Video no longer available


Hunger striking inmates in Gitmo subjected to violent tactics

PressTV on Oct 13, 2013

Newly-declassified documents show prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center have been subjected to a variety of strong-arm tactics to end their hunger strike.

The documents have been obtained from interviews with some of the detainees. The tactics are said to include long periods of solitary confinement, constant humiliation and excessive use of force. Back in February, a large group of inmates at Guantanamo prison went on hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention without charge or trial. The US military tried to end the strike by force-feeding the inmates through their noses. American officials now say the protest movement is over but human rights groups say at least 16 inmates are still refusing food.

Video no longer available

From the archives:

Jacob Dean Gets Tortured at Gitmo Solidarity Protest + Gitmo Protester Arrested After Scaling White House Fence

Close Guantánamo: We Still Have Three Urgent Demands for President Obama by Andy Worthington

A Warning from Guantánamo – Four Prisoners Are Close to Death, and the Authorities Don’t Care by Andy Worthington

Andy Worthington: Gitmo Guards Brutally Hurt Prisoners

22 thoughts on “Watch the Shocking New Animated Film About the Guantánamo Hunger Strike by Andy Worthington

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  9. With reference to Mary;s comment on the writer who is unable to understand how Gitmo, is in Cuba, I would say it is not my egoistical boast to say I know the inner workings of tyranny, the Cubans drove the USA, out of Cuba, as I understand it, therefore I would of thought it possible if such a force could with stand the onslaught of American militarism they may have over come the remainder of the imperialist forces that are trespassing as the unwanted having a dubious foothold in Cuba.
    With reference to number 1, point, I do not know if the American people have a a representation with Obama, as to what the will of the American people are? the lobby groups and corporations pay big money as a investment to exert pressure on the government, to obtain say contracts, as to whether a minority govern America is highly debatable, the rich in America are getting richer, the majority of Americans are getting poorer, would this be the representative view of the majority of Americans who vote a desirable outcome as this? for them?
    With reference 3, 5,I have heard these men are not wanted in the world, I have yet to hear or know their story and have not heard what they are charged with, most likely the analysis is propaganda, and the vilification of these prisoners, reminds one of the cleansed always need scapegoats.
    As for forced feeding, the conditions as how this is done is in question, who has a right to a opinion as how this is done? have you been and seen this? what I am questioning is the authority of what is assumed to be as a given fact?
    Always David is pertinent in his succinct commentaries.

  10. There are no adequate words to describe this monstrous travesty.

    How dare these people do such blatant wrong in the name of freedom and right. What is left of human dignity? Presumably this is high entertainment for some Skull and Bones laughing society. Gestapo games, more like.

    The US has lost the will to even make an effort in the direction of moral and legal governance. The compass (if it ever existed) is broken. This really demonstrates what caliber of gangsters, perverts and bandits run the United State of America, what a disgraceful apology for a country it has become.

    Anyone who remains silent about this outrageous abuse is a cowering accomplice to it.


    We must show these hoodlums the contempt they deserve.

    • One of the problems is that corporate media doesn’t report on Gitmo or very briefly such as during the hunger strike. So, most people haven’t a clue what’s going on there, more than they don’t care.

      • Such a very important point Lo. One that Karen Hudes has been making lately, repeatedly and very forcefully. The hard fact is that we really have to do the critical work and think for ourselves, but wherever the creative commons allows cross-posting, this helps enormously and keeps the ideas and information flowing.

        Navigating an independent internet is daunting and immensely time-consuming, so sites like your own are truly invaluable, and we owe you a profound acknowledgment for your exemplary commitment to tireless work, although you must consider your natural limits and take a break occasionally!

        I am actually quite confident that we have already passed a consensual tipping point, and that the proactive minority need to stick with it, and push ahead with their own initiatives in the certain knowledge that we are part of an invisible wave that will break upon the shifting shoreline of social reality in ways we cannot yet even calculate, but only intuit.

        How such change manifests will be unpredictable and no doubt unconventional, and so may be quite difficult to identify. One of the sobering considerations that keeps me from going completely crazy, is the minute percentage in real terms, of our human knowledge about the multiverse of consciousness and the probable limitless diversity of life in all its complexity.

        We have everything to learn therefore, and even more to gain from persisting in our respective (time encapsulated) follies ~ for as Blake observed, they will eventually bring us to the palace of wisdom.

        Thank you for everything that you do, and the superb quality and range of analysis you present ~ we are evolving I am sure of this; but as yet I suspect we are only still in our cosmic infancy as sentient beings, yet gifted with innate creative intelligence and still unknown spiritual potential.

        • Fawning, emotional and essentially worthless concerns and praise.
          1)-criticizing Obama for failing to close gitmo is misplaced anger. It is not his fault that his will was squashed by powerful conservative interests. Realize that Obama is the Pres of the USA and thus represents the will of ALL Americans and not just the far-left.

          2)-force-feeding is not brutal. The worse part is the insertion of the tube. Allowing these men to starve to death is brutality. These men can still continue their protest by refusing the joy of eating, while being nourished.

          3)-If you were informed about the conditions surrounding gitmo (see comment below from reader who can’t understand why the US has a base in Cuba), you would realize, for example, that the nations to which these men belong DO NOT WANT THEM. These are nation-less people and the US is housing and feeding them.

          4)-there are a lot of serious issues going on in the world of which the gitmo terrorist holdings are actually quite small. Note how the Tamils are still in RE-DOCTRINATION camps after being brutally crushed by Sri Lanka. They were crushed at EXACTLY the same time as Leftists and so-called “peace activists’ were screaming about Israel finally accepting, after 8000 invitations to war -daily rockets, missiles and mortars over years- war with Hamas. Leftists still are utterly silent on the Tamil suffering and excuse that by arguing that they do not have the time nor energy to defend all defenseless peoples. So, pick and choose reveals YOUR heart.

          5)-These men chose their paths and are harvesting their just deserts. I have suggested that if no one wants to accept these people, that the US take a decommissioned aircraft carrier and park it in the middle of the floating garbage island in the Pacific and let these guys do as they wish there.

          6)-I have heard only criticism and absolutely NO SUGGESTIONS from the left of how to solve this issue satisfactorily to the American electorate. As such your tears are crocodile, as they are intended, primarily, to condemn the US and to minimize the evil of these men.

          Shame on you!

        • Hi Mary. I’ll respond to you tomorrow, as where I am it is rather late & I’ve just returned from a climate lecture by the chief oceanographer from the Met Office here….

        • OK Mary: you are setting yourself up as judge and jury over matters about which you cannot possibly have any conclusive or coherent understanding. Is it about “my USA right or wrong?”

          You know nothing of these men nor how they came be to be the arbitrary subjects of US government malfeasance. Your assertion that they are unwanted is hyperbolic absurdity, unwanted by whom exactly? They are scapegoats, latter-day whipping boys. I can assure you, any British citizen being held in illegal custody in Guantanamo is not “unwanted” in the UK. Have you conferred with Amnesty International about this?

          As for the assumption that anyone who comments here is a fawning “leftist” I take serious issue with that. I am neither a leftist nor a rightist, I am a mature thinking person with my own history and an earned sense of community & civilized propriety, no more no less.

          I think you’ll find that most of the intelligent feedback and commentary here is inspired by principles of ethical intent and moral probity ~ motivated by a strong recognition for the need to witness ecosystemic change and evolve as active participants in our own co-creative futures, not engage in hysterical muck slinging or indulge some dubious paraphilic compulsion.

          Obama broke his election promise. If he is the astute politician you infer, why would he peddle such ridiculous opiated platitudes to the great mass of American voters? Obama was sold to the US electorate, polished, pitched, packaged and paid for.

          It is impossible to know everything, everywhere all the time, but the internet opens our options to discriminate, select, discuss and dispute. You can buy the corporate mind-wash or you can resist it ~ it’s your choice entirely.

        • President Obama as president can shut down Gitmo if he so chooses. The man has a “kill-list”, he can do anything he so desires. Obama has never represented the “far left”. He doesn’t represent the “will of all Americans” either. He serves those who put him in office: Wall Street and other corporations.

          Force feeding is torture in my opinion.

          Dandelion Salad has posted on Gitmo since the blog began; over 533 posts. See:

          Dandelion Salad has posted many articles/videos on the Tamils of Sri Lanka. See:

        • Thank you so much, David, for your continued support of Dandelion Salad. It means a lot to me.

          I, too, hope that more and more people become informed on these human rights issues, not only at Gitmo but around the world.

          Creative Commons is so incredibly important in getting more information out to a larger audience. I highly recommend it for writers and photographers and others.

          Dandelion Salad uses Creative Commons for all the photos used on blog posts, including my own photos which have always had a CC license on them. Also use “copyleft” articles whenever I can find them.

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