Yasiin Bey, better known by his previous stage name Mos Def, can’t handle a Gitmo force-feeding, but he’s willing to give it a try. The rapper and actor agreed to participate in a project to demonstrate what it’s like to be a Guantanamo Bay prisoner on a hunger strike.
UK-based human rights group Reprieve teamed up with Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia to produce the video and published it on the Guardian website today. More than 100 of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo have undertaken a hunger strike since February, and the facility force-feeds about 45 of them on a regular basis.
With the approach of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which Muslims abstain from food and water during the day, Gitmo critics have renewed calls for the prison to end the force-feedings. Guantanamo authorities have defended the practice as “humane, high-quality medical care to preserve life and health,” and say they will engage in force-feeding at night during Ramadan to respect the daytime fast.
In the graphic video, volunteer doctors strap Bey, clad in what has now become an iconic orange jumpsuit, to a restraint chair and stick a tube up his nose and down toward his stomach. Bey gasps and moans as two additional men force him still.
When the doctors prepare to insert the tube a second time, Bey pleads in genuine anxiety.
“Stop it, please! Stop it!” he shouts, before an off camera voice calls for the doctors to end the simulation.
The procedure follows Guantanamo’s “Standard Operation Procedure” for force-feeding, a document that surfaced on Al Jazeera earlier this summer. The manual, which notes that some detainees have been on hunger strike since 2005, explains: “Just as battlefield tactics must change throughout the course of a conflict, the medical responses to GTMO detainees who hunger strike has evolved with time.”
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rejected today a legal claim from a prisoner objecting to the force-feeding during the month of Ramadan, but she challenged President Barack Obama to take on the issue.
“Even though this Court is obligated to dismiss the Application for lack of jurisdiction, and therefore lacks any authority to rule on Petitioner’s request, there is an individual who does have the authority to address the issue,” Kessler wrote.
The Brooklyn-born musician emerged as a hip-hop star in the late 1990s alongside Talib Kweli in their duo Black Star. He has acted in a variety of television series and films, and also has a history of political activism. In 2008, he was arrested in front of the MTV VMAs ceremony in New York City for his unauthorized street performance of his song “Katrina Clap,” a critique of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.