There's a reason they call it "force feeding," and that's because nobody would choose to receive nutrition that way unless they had to. But activist and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), recently volunteered to undergo the painful procedure to call attention to the force-feeding of terrorism detainees at the U.S. military prison facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In a graphic four-minute video, a somber Bey marches into frame wearing all black in an all-white room to explain that he is prepared to "demonstrate the standard operating procedure for force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo Bay." He quickly changes into an orange jumpsuit and has his hands and feet cuffed together as he takes a seat in a dentist-style chair while his wrists are strapped down to the arms of the seat and his head is immobilized by a leather strap.
Looking concerned, he watches a team of anonymous physicians lubricate a tube and insert it into his right nostril as he recoils painfully from the intrusive procedure. His feet curling up and his head thrashing from side to side, Bey grunts, coughs, tears up and recoils while the tube is fished further and further into his nasal cavity. After an unsuccessful first try, the three-person team attempts to insert the tube again as Bey cries, "Please! Don't! Don't! Stop!! No! This is me, stop, I can't do this!"
Bey breaks down in tears as the medical team tries to console him and a message pops up to explain that the full procedure is carried out twice a day at Guantanamo and typically takes two hours to complete. Among the 120 detainees at Guantanamo currently participating in a hunger strike, 44 are being force fed against their will, according to the clip's introduction. A spokesperson for Bey could not be reached for further comment on the video at press time.
The demonstration is especially poignant as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins at sundown on Monday (July 8). During the month, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, and considering that many of the detainees at Guantanamo are practicing Muslims, the act of force-feeding — regardless of their status as hunger strikers — is seen as a religious affront. A group of lawyers representing four inmates have challenged the force-feeding as inhumane, noting that even changing to a night-only schedule during Ramadan is problematic due to the length of time it takes to enact the procedure.
The video was produced by the British human rights group Reprieve and shot by director Asif Kapadia ("Senna"). "I really want to thank you guys for setting this up and even having the idea to do it," says a clearly emotional Bey after the attempted feeding, which he said was accompanied by an "unbearable" burning sensation in his nasal cavity. "I really didn't know what to expect ... I really couldn't take it."