Guantánamo Bay hunger strike: Do hunger strikes usually work?


One hundred detainees at Guantánamo Bay continued their hunger strike on Wednesday, even though President Obama renewed his promise to close the prison. Are hunger strikes usually successful?

130502_EX_BOBBYSANDS.jpg.CROP.article568-large

It depends on how you define success. Hunger strikers sometimes win clear victories. Scholars credit suffragette Marion Wallace-Dunlop with the first political hunger strike of modern times—and it was a smashing success. After her 1909 arrest for stenciling a portion of the British Bill of Rights on an outer wall of the House of Commons, Wallace insisted that she be treated as a political prisoner rather than an ordinary criminal. She refused food for nearly four days. Fearing for her life, the authorities released her from prison altogether, going well beyond her demands. There are, in contrast, plenty of failed hunger strikes, such as Dan Choi and James Pietrangelo’s 2010 fast to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The pair abandoned the hunger strike after a week, and the rule remained in place for more than a year after that. While such cases of clear winners and losers are salient, the outcome of many—perhaps most—hunger strikes is more difficult to call.

In March 1981, Irish nationalist prisoners in Northern Ireland embarked on a hunger strike for the same reason that Wallace-Dunlop did in 1909: to be treated as political prisoners. That would mean the right to wear civilian clothes, the right to education and recreational opportunities, freedom from work obligations, and a set of other benefits not afforded to other inmates. The hunger strikers gained so much renown that Bobby Sands, the most famous of them, was elected to Parliament during the protest. By Oct. 3, when the protest ended, 10 of the strikers were dead, including Sands. The British government eventually granted most of the prisoners’ requests, and public opinion shifted massively in favor of the protesters.

Advertisement

Muddled endings are more common than deaths. Hundreds of Kurdish prisoners embarked on a hunger strike late last year and demanded, among other things, that high-profile inmate Abdullah Öcalan be released from solitary confinement. Öcalan called the fast to an end after 68 days, when the government finally agreed to allow Kurdish people the right to speak Kurdish in Turkish courts. Öcalan himself, however, remained in solitary confinement. (A recent deal between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists may soon change Öcalan’s imprisonment status.)

It’s hard to calculate a winning strategy for hunger strikers, but a few themes emerge. The first rule of hunger striking is to have a demand that is reasonably achievable within the time frame of a hunger strike. That means around 60 days if the hunger striker is refusing all nutrition. Those who allow themselves sweetened coffee or energy drinks can go significantly longer, building up publicity and pressure on the opposition. That tactic recently paid off for William Lecuyer, a New Jersey inmate who was placed in solitary confinement for refusing to submit a urine sample. Lecuyer insisted that the failure was the guard’s fault—he allegedly made Lecuyer wait so long that he had to empty his bladder before the test—and Lecuyer consumed only liquids for more than a year. The Department of Corrections finally caved in March and promised a new hearing for Lecuyer, who has lost nearly one-half of his body weight.

Choi and Pietrangelo’s failed protest against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy illustrates the second rule of hunger striking: It works best as a last resort. A hunger strike is an appeal to the public. If people perceive a hunger strike as frivolous, possibly because less-risky alternatives were available, they’re unlikely to blame the government. That’s why inmates are among the few people who can launch a successful hunger strike.

These rules don’t apply to the famous and powerful. If you’re Gandhi, the world is so worried about your health that any threat of self-harm is taken seriously from the beginning.

via Guantánamo Bay hunger strike: Do hunger strikes usually work? – Slate Magazine.

via Guantánamo Bay hunger strike: Do hunger strikes usually work? – Slate Magazine.

Advertisements

About Old Boy

Love the past and the future but live in the present

Posted on May 6, 2013, in activism, Crime, Human rights and Liberties, Ireland, politics, Protest, UK, USA and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Essence Within

Silently, the grass grows.

FLOW ART STATION

THE CONTEMPORARY MAGAZINE

21st Century Films

Film Analysis, Essays, and Short Stories

swo8

Music means something

Discobar Bizar

Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Hurricane Willem nu je hier bent. Welcome to the blog of Discobar Bizar, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Hurricane Willem whilst you are here!

Playing by My Own Rules

Cancer Messed with the Wrong Hellion

manologo

pienso y recuerdo...luego, existo

When the Whippoorwill sings

Queer Supernatural Romance and Horror Erotica

Noellie's Place

Life is brutal at times but always offers beauty and love to soften the blows if you open your hearts eye

After Credits Corner

There's a million films I haven't seen. Just you wait...

Reel Time Flicks

Film reviews and news, everyone's a critic! Welcome to the drinking blog with a film problem.

Baz Allen

Archive

Silents, Please!

interesting avenues in silent film history

Superduque

Mi patria es todo el mundo.

WRITE THEM ALL.

THOUGHTS. FEELINGS. MEMORIES.

Budget Traveler

Travel Guide, Blog & Reviews

The Conglomerate Lode

Mining thoughts, opinions, and experiences that enter the eyes the front door to the grey matter

La Audacia de Aquiles

"El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto" / "The Visible World is Just a Pretext".-

CINESPIRIA

Shining a light on the deep recesses of film history

Dr. Grob's Animation Review

The animation film review site

Genç Yazarlar Kulübü

Edebiyat burda, kahve tadında.

Alfred Eaker's The BlueMahler

Alfred Eaker's art (painting & film), reviews and essays. BlueMahler is a performance art character first created by Eaker at the John Herron School of Art in the early 1980s.

Master Mix Movies

One Movie at a Time

Jason's Movie Blog

A Movie Blog for the Latest Movie Reviews, Trailers, and More

Purple Pants

Presenting Life Delicacies with a Pinch of Salt

La Page @Mélie

Contre le blues, le meilleur remède, c'est le rock...!

simple Ula

I want to be rich. Rich in love, rich in health, rich in laughter, rich in adventure and rich in knowledge. You?

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Prestridge²

Independent journalism on the things we love - money, film and the arts

smithartonline

Art, education and ruminations

Exclusivito

Confessions of a book-traveller

Kitchen Scenes

Performance Art Based Video & Film

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Paperback Cinema

Never judge a book by its movie.

CURNBLOG

Movies, thoughts, thoughts about movies.

Widdershins Worlds

WRITING LESBIAN FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION, AND FANTASY, SINCE THE 20TH CENTURY

SKYLINE REPORTS

comedy magazine

Flicks and Pieces

Film & TV Reviews, News & Musings

MovieBabble

The Casual Way to Discuss Movies

seriesdefilms

Pour ceux qui se font des films en séries!

Plain, Simple Tom Reviews

Musings on film and TV, old and new.

Rarest Kind of Best

Talking about children's books and films. Useful information for parents.

Outspoken and Freckled

Kellee writes about classic & modern film, retro TV... and life's adventures, with a sassy Irish passion.

%d bloggers like this: