News / USA

Guantanamo Hunger Strike Grows

The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, March 6, 2013.
The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, March 6, 2013.
Luis Ramirez
Officials at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say a detainee hunger strike is growing.  Thirty-one inmates are now taking part in the strike. The U.S. military says it has begun force-feeding at least 11 of them.  

Officials at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo detention facility say that between six and 12 detainees are on hunger strike during any given month at the prison but that the number of those refusing to eat has grown.

The hunger strike began after prison guards last month conducted what officials say was a routine search of the detainees’ belongings in which the detainees allege that guards desecrated copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, by touching them.

The case drew international media attention after the detainees’ lawyers complained.

A facility spokesman, Navy Captain Robert Durand, says the protest grew from six to more than 30.

“As the word of the hunger strike [was] getting out in the media, the detainees who can watch satellite television saw that they were getting some attention and the hunger strike has grown," said Durand. "So, it sort of grew on itself as the detainees achieved their ends of getting media attention and we believe that’s the goal of the detainees is to elicit attention through the media.”

Officials at the detention facility say the search in February was done according to procedure and that guards did not touch the Muslim holy books.

The inmates’ demands include an apology from the detention facility authorities, and new rules exempting Qurans from being searched.  

Durand says those are demands that detention facility officials cannot meet.

“We’re not going to admit to Quran abuse which didn’t take place," he said. "We’re not going to exempt the Quran for search because it’s the perfect place to hide things that could be used to injure themselves or guards, and we’ll continue to conduct those searches in a respectful manner as we have for 11 years.”

Durand says the detainees have offered to turn in their Qurans - a measure that prison officials reject out of concern that they might be portrayed as depriving the inmates of religious articles.

Lawyers for the detainees say they believe the number of detainees taking part in the hunger strike is higher than what U.S. military officials are reporting.

One hundred and 66 detainees are being held at the facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants without trial.  The facility has been the subject of longstanding protests by U.S. and international human rights activists.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs