In July 2005 Sami al Hajj embarked on a hunger strike along with up to 200
other detainees. In his own words, he states that "the demands [of the
strike] include stopping the heavy handed approach to the prisoners,
particularly those in Camp V, and to give us the health care we need so much
Also to stop the widespread practice of drugging the prisoners and
manipulating their state of mind." The demands also included that Camp V be
shut down, because "conditions are so bad" in that modern, ‘supermaximum’
security style block.
The detainees called a halt to their hunger strike after the authorities
reportedly made a number of promises to the detainees to improve their
conditions of detention. It quickly transpired, however, that the harsh
treatment of the detainees, and their legal limbo, would not cease.
The strike restarted in response to the beating of several detainees and the
failure of the authorities to implement the promised reforms. Sami al Hajj
expressed the desperation of the detainees restarting their hunger strike
when he said that "it is not something that I look forward to, but I must".
" I wish to return to Sudan to resume my normal life with my precious family
– Sami al Hajj
Sami al Hajj’s family were not informed of his arrest in Pakistan. They
believe that the Sudanese government knew about his arrest but did not
intervene and refused to inform the family. It was over one month after Sami
al Hajj had been handed over to the US authorities that his family were
informed of his detention.
They did not know he had been transferred to Guantánamo until six months
after his arrest, when his wife received a letter via the ICRC.
Contact with the family has been intermittent, and letters that the family
receive are generally heavily censored. The letters generally take around
four months to arrive. Sami al Hajj’s brother told Amnesty International
that they received only two letters last year. The same seems to be true in
reverse. His brother sent a letter in 2003, but Sami al-Hajj was only
allowed to read it in August 2005.
Sami al-Hajj has a five year old son, who he has not seen since he was one
year old. As his brother said, "you can imagine how emotionally difficult it
can be for a child for being so harshly deprived of the compassion and love
of his dad".
The family have suffered financially as well as emotionally as a result of
Sami al Hajj’s detention by the USA. Since his father became ill, Sami
al-Hajj had been the major breadwinner for the family, his finding work with
al-Jazeera a major boost for all the family. The family have also found it
very difficult to cope with the continued reports of torture and
ill-treatment at Guantánamo.