April 11 has been declared a National Day of Action for the closure of Guantanamo Bay military prisons and an end to the illegal, indefinite detention of the 166 prisoners there. Many of them are engaged in a hunger strike for more than 50 or 60 days, which I’ve written on previously. The question is, what actions have each of us taken to restore the rule of law, the liberation of the imprisoned, and the just ordering of society?
Witness Against Torture offers tremendous resources on how each of us can stand with the Guantanamo detainees, speaking as a voice for the voiceless. Options include tweeting using the hashtags #closegitmo and #GitmoHungerStrike, sharing articles and photos on all forms of social media, and advocating to our elected & military leaders. Will you join me in these three steps?
1) Make Calls
Call the White House comment line with your message at (202) 456-1111. Then, call the Department of Defense at (703) 571-3343. Finally, call US Southern Command at (305) 437-1213.
All three calls took me under 5 minutes, but we amplify one another’s voices in these comment lines. You can write your own script, or just use what I wrote up below:
“I’m calling to urge President Obama/Secretary Hagel/General Kelly to act in response to Guantanamo Bay detainees now engaged in a hunger strike. This reality should spur the Obama Administration and US military to action, as the costs morally, financially, and to US credibility abroad are too great to continue — never mind the deep toll asking young kids in our military to force feed innocent detainees will do. I ask that, in the face of the failure of our elected officials to close Guantanamo, our military will end participation in force feedings. I also request that President Obama/Secretary Hagel/General Kelly rapidly find a way to release the 86 detainees held now who are declared innocent and able to be released, while working to the just, secure, and peaceful closing of the military prisons overall.”
You can also (in addition I mean!) submit online comments to the White House and the Pentagon.
2) Write a Letter to Detainees
Regardless of guilt or innocence, the detainees are being denied their human rights and have been subjected to terrible inhumanity in many cases, either at Guantanamo or before arriving. Write a letter to those entering Day 65 of a hunger strike, acknowledging their dignity and making it known that you’re working for justice on the outside. You can find names, addresses, and more information here. Yesterday, I mailed 166 letters to Guantanamo Bay using a mail merge (and if you want to commit to all, or some chunk of detainees, I can send you the files). Here’s the text, based off of Witness Against Torture’s suggestions:
After witnessing outside the White House in solidarity with the growing hunger strike by over 100 detainees at Guantánamo, I’m writing to express my continued prayers and support for those on strike and held captive.
My anger at your continued detention without charge or trial, denying you justice before the law and subjugating you and other detainees to sub-human conditions grows with my government’s persistent silence. As a Catholic, I decry how Islam is routinely denigrated within Guantánamo especially because this offense cries out straight to God in its inhumanity.
The resolve and persistence of hunger strikers inspires those of us working for justice from our government, and your suffering is a constant reminder of how degrading US policies in Guantánamo remain as indefinite detention goes on unimpeded.
I am only one of many US citizens joining you in solidarity fasts in recent weeks, as we prayerfully struggle for your liberation. Our fasts are symbolic relative to the hunger strikers, but we also make our voices heard to President Obama, the Defense Department, and our elected representatives that justice will be enacted.
You are not forgotten, and your united witness as detainees on hunger strike inspires me to press for justice.
3) Participate in the Rolling Fast through May
Advocates of a just resolution at Guantanamo Bay will be joining the detainee hunger strike symbolically to show our solidarity in the coming weeks. Witness Against Torture explains more here, and if you’ve done the two steps above you’re on your way to participating, so can you fast for 24 hours? 12 hours? A meal?
This matters. 3 simple acts, united with thousands of others could be world-changing, but even more importantly it could change the lives of men, unjustly detained, who we can call be name.