FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Flowers From Guantanamo

by

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 

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Douglas Valentine
The Real Man’s Ten Commandments
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail