The Gitmo Hunger Strike

by Zoe Pollock

Last weekend Amy Davidson crunched the numbers on it and found that “there are six times as many [Gitmo] prisoners on hunger strikes as there are those who have actual charges lodged against them.” Olga Khazan is pessimistic that the strike will accomplish anything:

Nearly 70 percent of hunger strikes occur in prison, and government entities are the target of the vast majority of them, according to research by Stephen J. Scanlan, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio University, who examined hunger strikes over the past century. Few (6 percent) of hunger strikers die. Rather, about three-quarters of these protests are called off voluntarily — usually because demands have been met, at least to some extent. What’s more, Scanlan found that nearly 76 percent of strikers get at least some of what they want. …

However, hunger strikes are most effective when the protesters’ predicament presents an obvious solution, something Guantanamo doesn’t necessarily have. President Obama pledged years ago to close the facility, but now that the detainees are banned from the U.S. and can’t be sent back to their home countries out of fears that they’ll join back up with terrorist groups, they’re effectively living in a geographic and legal limbo.