Hunger Strike Highway – Shaker Aamer’s rules of hunger striking
On a call from Guantánamo Bay, Reprieve’s Clive Stafford Smith was given advice on how to successfully hunger strike by Shaker Aamer. Shaker had been on hunger strike many times during his 13 years of detention at Guantánamo. He was finally released on 30th October 2015.
Here is what he said:
I am a professional hunger striker and have been using it as a peaceful way to protest since my earliest days in US custody in Bagram Air Force Base, where my treatment was particularly bad.
Two days before you begin your hunger strike, eat as much fruit as you can. Eat no solid food, and no carbs if you can. You will find that you have maybe five pounds of excrement in your body that you need to get out. Apples, grapes and pears are good; prunes can be the best if you have them. Drink lots of water during this time. In addition to preparing you for your strike, this is good for your body. You want to get the meat toxins out as they weaken you on your forthcoming strike.
The night before you begin your strike, use a laxative to flush your system. I try to get 60ml of Milk of Magnesia here, but our options are few. Hopefully on the morning you begin your strike your bowels will be a bit looser, but don’t overdo it. But remember, constipation is one enemy of the hunger striker.
Do not listen to the doctors in Guantánamo who tell you to take more water. This expands your stomach.
Make sure, as you begin your strike, that you drink enough water. But it is much better to drink little and often, as you are trying to shrink your stomach, and drinking large amounts will keep the stomach larger. Do not listen to the doctors in Guantánamo who tell you to take more water. This expands your stomach. Reduce it as much as you can but be sensible. Drink at least four to six large cups a day. Do not take too little as that makes you dizzy and you will fall down.
If it is not too hot, I have found that it is good to gradually reduce your water intake, though never to the point of being dehydrated. However, it is generally very hot here in Cuba, except when they are using the air conditioning units to abuse us, and you must not leave yourself without enough liquid.
Acid in the stomach is the worst part of hunger striking
Acid in the stomach is the worst part of hunger striking; heart burn is the biggest enemy. More water can mean more acid. Chewing gum is very bad – it provokes the stomach into action without giving it anything to work on.
At the start you will hear loud noises in your stomach. You may be a little light headed, so don’t go getting up fast. You may have the urge to read food magazines – if you can believe it, they have such magazines here in Guantánamo, and they tend to be all over the place during a hunger strike!
Days three and four are the worst. After that you will be much less hungry. Now you are on the ‘Hunger Strike Highway’.