Maya can you tell us about your fast?
I’m taking part in a weekend of action in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay. There are 166 people there at the moment. They have been imprisoned, tortured and have been on hunger strike for 100 days now since 6 February. One of the first things that Obama said when he came into power was that he was going to close down the prison, but today he’s force feeding the very people who are still held there.
Many of the prisoners haven’t even received a trial. The courts that do exist within the military institutions of Guantanamo Bay are considered a sham, so if they do get a trial it wouldn’t be a fair one. What’s happening to individuals in this prison is one of the biggest infringements on civil liberties and human rights existing on the planet today.
Who are the people held in Guantanamo Bay?
There has been a child as young as 12 years old imprisoned and the eldest person is aged 89 and has dementia, so it’s not as if you can legitimise this place by saying that it’s locking up dangerous insurgents and members of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda.
I’m involved in a peace campaign for Afghanistan and a lot of the guys in the prison are Afghans. In the early 2000’s the Americans offered bounties for people in Afghanistan to report on insurgents, so a lot of people who were reported on weren’t actually insurgents, just because others were just up for gaining the bounty. A lot of those who were falsely accused ended up being shipped around the world illegally and then ultimately ended up in Guantanamo Bay. It’s a completely crazy way of trying to bring about justice and of trying to capture people who are terrorists or insurgents.
Did you expect Obama to have shut it down by now?
It is disappointing that he hasn’t keep his promise but I’m not surprised because Obama was never really saying that he was going to be a peace president, he didn’t make pledges to withdraw from Afghanistan. He has been making strong noises around Palestine but in reality nothing has actually been improved and in fact, when Obama came in there was an increase in troops placed in Afghanistan from America and he’s really been a driving force behind the increasing use of American drones in Afghanistan. So it is very disappointing but not very surprising.
How do you feel at the end of your first day of fasting?
I feel okay. There are lots of people around me eating and that’s quite tricky, but then I think about the guys in Guantanamo who have been fasting for 100 days and they’ve been in prison for over 10 years. I just feel that the least I can do is to spend a weekend fasting because it’s really nothing compared to what they’ve gone through.
How did you get involved in campaigning for peace?
I was very worried about the outcomes of 9.11 because our political leaders at the time, George Bush and Tony Blair were just seeking to get revenge and were talking about going into Afghanistan and catching the bad guys, it sounded like crazy rhetoric and indeed it was. So I started going along to my anti-war group up in Liverpool, then in the run up to the Iraq war I started going on national demonstrations in London. Bit by bit I became more and more involved in the peace movement to the point that now I go out to Afghanistan leading British peace delegations. It was a slow progression, it's not like I just woke up and decided to get on a plane or fast.
How can people support the cause?
On the London Guantanamo website you’ll see a petition and a list of ways you can get involved including writing to political leaders. You can support Shaker Aamer, the last British citizen to be held there and one of 86 inmates who have been cleared for release but are still being held inside the facility. You can also fast in your community wherever you are in solidarity. I believe that the Guantanamo hunger strikers are going to continue until they have been released or until they die. It’s so drastic to reach that point in your life, where you’re either going to starve to death or win your freedom, so we really need to rally around them in support.
Maya Evans is a campaigner of the group Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK focusing on the on-going conflict in Afghanistan
A Twitter campaign to mark 100 days of a hunger strike by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has been trending with #opGTMO