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Manning sent this photograph of herself in a wig and makeup to her supervisor in April 2010.

Chelsea Manning Begins Hunger Strike Against Prison Conditions

Protests Bullying by Prison and US Government

Common Dreams staff

U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning announced she began a hunger strike in protest of her prison conditions as she serves a 35-year sentence for leaking classified documents.

Advocacy group Fight for the Future shared a statement from the 28-year-old transgender woman as she demanded written assurances from the Army she will receive all of the medically prescribed recommendations for her gender dysphoria and that the “high tech bullying” will stop. “High tech bullying,” is what Chelsea describes as “the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials.”

Following her sentencing, Chelsea has respectfully requested that the US Government give her treatment for her gender dysphoria. Over a year later, Chelsea filed a lawsuit in September of 2014, where she sued the government to get a battery of treatments. As a result, she began hormone therapy in February of 2015.

However, the military has been making her cut her hair to the male length and grooming standards. As part of her treatment, her doctors recommended that she follow the military prison’s female hair grooming standards. In September of 2015 she amended her lawsuit, asking that the government allow her to grow her hair. The government’s response in December 2015 was “no.” The case is still active before a DC District court judge.

Statement from Chelsea Manning:

“I need help. I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.”

“I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.”

“I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying—to "suck it up.” But, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.“

"I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.”

“Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect—that I once actually believed would be provided for—afforded to any living human being.”

“I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.”

“I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall—refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.”

“This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vindictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a "do not resuscitate” letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudo-medical means.“

"Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.”

“I need help. Please, give me help.”

Following her suicide attempt Manning was facing indefinite solitary confinement, a move into a maximum-security prison and an additional nine years in medium custody and the chance of no parole. The outcome of the ruling is unclear.

Fight for the Future also launched a petition for people to express their support of Manning's nonviolent protest for basic rights and dignified treatment.


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