Actor and rapper Yasiin Bey's -- also known as Mos Def -- latest video isn’t promoting a new song or movie. Instead, it’s a raw demonstration of him cringing and squirming and screaming as he undergoes a force-feeding, a torture technique used on those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
"Standard Operating Procedure," directed by Asif Kapadia, is meant to raise awareness about how gruesome the force-feeding process is. And be warned: It's seriously gruesome.
As of July 8, according to the U.S. government, 106 of the prison's 166 inmates are on hunger strikes; about 45 of those are being force-fed daily.
Bey, 39, agreed to participate in this graphic demo as part of a project attempting to demonstrate what it’s like to be a Gitmo prisoner. And the demonstration Bey agreed to participate in involved him receiving the same treatment Gitmo inmates experience, according to a 30-page document titled "Standard Operating Procedure: Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike," obtained by Al Jazeera English.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Bey said in the video following the procedure. "When the tube went in, the first part of it is not that bad, but then you get this burning that just starts to get really unbearable as if something was just going into my brain. As it reached the back of my throat, I really couldn't take it."
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The video shows how medical staff at the naval base restrain a person and insert a feeding tube nasally while the subject resists. It's something the authorities wouldn't want the public to see, and yet they have no control over it; the video was produced by the human rights group, Reprieve.
The timing of the video coincides with the beginning of the Ramadan holiday, a month of fasting for Muslims. This is not the first time a public figure has undergone a Gitmo torture procedure to raise awareness. Writer Christopher Hitchens underwent waterboarding for Vanity Fair in 2008, to which he said: “Believe me, it’s torture.”
Ignoring Gitmo won't make it go away. As graphic as the video is, the point isn’t to make people sympathize with known terrorists -- who anyone can argue ought to be at Gitmo. And arguably confessed terrorists don't really care at all about human rights. But the video does highlight the fact that, after President Barack Obama's five years in office, despite his desire to find an alternative, we still have no real evidence about which Gitmo detainees had terrorist intentions versus those who were just rounded up at random by the previous administration.
This do-nothing Congress is hogtied to this issue perhaps more than any other. The only process in place is torture, not due process. And despite a bill due to be voted on (and voted down) soon, things aren't likely to change. Obama is powerless against his own congressional Democrats, who don't care about human rights as much as they do about getting re-elected.
Since elected officials aren't brave enough to rectify this issue, at least we have a celebrity activist willing to undergo torture to highlight torture. If this video goes viral, it'll do more for this issue than anything on Capitol Hill.