Hunger strikes against segregated housing, unsanitary water, lack of access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and more have swept the U.S. military's Bagram prison in Afghanistan, journalist Spencer Ackerman revealed Wednesday in the Guardian.
News of the protests offers a rare glimpse into a prison that operates behind a wall of military secrecy, with even the identities of the 38 non-Afghan men held by the U.S. concealed from the public.
The strikes were confirmed by Abdul Sattar, who hails from Pakistan and was formerly held at the prison for approximately 2.5 years before being released in May. Sattar told the Guardian that he participated in five or six hunger strikes, which decreased his body weight by 55 pounds.
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According to Sattar, the strikes take aim at specific grievances, last for finite amounts of time, and in some instances included all of the non-Afghan men held at Bagram, as well as some Afghan detainees, who are technically under Afghan control. "This was the way we could protest and get things done that we wanted. The Americans did not want to talk to us, they never sat with us around the table to discuss the problems with us," he told the Guardian. Sattar said he knew of one to two cases in which hunger strikers were forcibly fed.
Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University, is involved in the representation of Amin al-Barki—a Yemeni man currently held in Bagram. While Kassem has difficulty obtaining information about his client, because they are prohibited by the military from speaking privately, he told the Guardian that al-Barki has gone on hunger strike more than once to protest his ongoing detention despite being cleared for release.
Bagram, which has been referred to as the "Forgotten Guantánamo," is notorious for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and beatings. Men held there are denied regular and confidential access to lawyers and are denied the right to challenge their incarceration.