FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Flowers From Guantanamo

teahughesinscribed

Kabul.

Here in Kabul, young friends with the Afghan Peace Volunteers look forward to learning more about “The Tea Project” in late December, when Aaron Hughes arrives, an artist, a U.S. military veteran, and a core member of Iraq Veterans Against War. He’ll carry with him 20 plaster replicas of a standard-issue, factory-made Styrofoam cup. They’re part of a set numbering 779 replica cups, each cup dedicated to prisoners detained in Guantanamo. In the entire collection, 220 of the cups bear names of Afghan citizens imprisoned in Guantanamo.

In Guantanamo, with each evening meal, Guantanamo prisoners are served tea in styrofoam cups. Many prisoners etch floral designs into their cups, which become a nightly artistic outlet for men with few other freedoms allowed them. Aaron had heard a former Guantanamo guard describe how deeply he grew to deeply love the cups that had become works of art.

The cups would then be collected, each night, and turned over to military intelligence which most likely just dumped them. Aaron’s cups are more durable. A Guantanamo prisoner’s name is written on the base of every cup, and each carries a unique design. Following the practice of the prisoners, Aaron focused on etching floral patterns into the cups he created, displaying flowers that are native to each prisoner’s homeland. 220 of the cups he has sculpted bear the names of prisoners from Afghanistan.

Life stories represented by each cup are reaching a wide variety of individuals and groups during Aaron’s travels on behalf of the project. He invites people to sit with him, sip tea from the cups, and talk about their stories related to war, destruction, peace, love, creativity …the conversations range freely, but the cups bring a certain focus, remembering the prisoners in Guantanamo.

I wish that Aaron could somehow sit across from Tariq Ba Odah and serve him tea. Now 36 years old, Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni citizen, arrived in Guantanamo in 2002, when he was only 23. Detained without charge in Guantanamo since 2002, Tariq has maintained a hunger strike since 2007. He now weighs 74 pounds. His lawyers say that he visibly suffers from severe effects of malnutrition and is at serious risk of permanent physical and neurological impairment and death. Tariq Ba Odah endures horrible force feeding rather than cooperate with the system that has separated him and the other prisoners from loved ones, subjecting them to torture and dehumanizing conditions.

Witness Against Torture activists from the U.S. focused on Tariq Ba Odah’s life in Guantanamo when they set up their encampment, in late November, 2015, in Cuba, outside the U.S. naval base. Like Aaron, they feel great empathy for the people imprisoned in Guantanamo, along with responsibility to keep educating U.S. people about the plight of 47 prisoners still held there. The delegation demanded that the prison close. They reject a new plan being developed by the Obama administration which would move the Guantanamo prisoners to prisons in the U.S., some still to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

“Simply moving Guantanamo is no solution,” says Helen Schietinger of Washington, D.C. “That would mean holding on to the barbaric practice of indefinite detention. Besides, the entire domestic system of “correctional’ institutions is a travesty, poisoned by racism. We need to overhaul the U.S. justice system, not add Guantanamo to it.”

Enmanuel Candelario, an artist from New York, spoke bluntly about the base itself, calling it “an unwelcome symbol of U.S. power, which houses a torture chamber.”

We can’t directly nourish Tariq Ba Odah or bring him the consolation and affection for which he must also be starving. But together we can invite people to slow down and think about their actual circumstances and relationships with supposed enemies. We can help dismantle the terrible Islamophobia and fear that keeps many people in the U.S. imprisoned in the reckless grip of war makers.

When Aaron arrives in the Afghan Peace Volunteer community, he will sit with the young volunteers as well as the child laborers who are part of the Borderfree Street Kids School. He’ll also connect with local artists. While here, he hopes to serve tea and converse with people in a variety of places.

The conversations will very likely stir up questions about the 220 Afghans who were imprisoned in Guantanamo, as well as Afghans detained in the ‘Afghan Guantanamo’, Bagram Prison. I asked friends in our community here what kinds of questions they hope might be raised. Here are two responses: “Prisoners of the U.S. military – are they people who can create and enjoy art?” “Do they love?”

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omaorosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail