About one-fifth of the people being held at Guantánamo Bay are on hunger strike. According to a report in the UK Times newspaper, they are starving themselves as a form of protest to attract the attention of Barack Obama, who has said he plans to close the facility — but has not said when or how. Most of the hunger-strikers are being force-fed through tubes.
Of the 248 inmates inside the detention facility, 44 are refusing food – but 33 of those are receiving nutrition with tubes that are forced up their noses and into their stomachs. On election night, according to one official, news of Mr Obama's win spread across the prison facility even though no inmates had access to television that evening, and chants of "Obama! Obama! Obama!" erupted throughout the complex.
Human rights groups claim the total number of hunger strikers is higher than officials say. Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer for the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, says that more than 70 men held at the US base in Cuba are refusing to eat. She cited reports from visiting lawyers.
According to one official, most inmates are now well informed about what is happening in the outside world through a combination of watching Arabic news programmes and meetings with civilian lawyers and the International Red Cross, who are allowed to visit the facility. Most are aware of Mr Obama's pledge to close the prison, which received its first inmates seven years ago this week. Asked why so many were on hunger strike and why the number was increasing, an official said: "This is the seventh anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees, and a week today is the inauguration of a new president. Hunger striking is an acknowledged form of protest."
One in five Guantanamo Bay detainees is on hunger strike (Times Online UK, via @mkapor)