Chelsea Manning starts hunger strike

Chelsea Manning, the US army private who leaked classified information about US war crimes to WikiLeaks, announced on September 9 that she has begun a hunger strike to protest the lack of respect and dignity from prison and military officials.

“I need help, I am not getting any,” Manning said in a statement. “I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.”

Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in jail after a military court convicted her of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks in 2010. It was the biggest breach of classified materials in US history.

Manning said she would refuse to eat or drink anything, except water and prescription medication, and she won’t cut her hair until she is given “minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity”.

“Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison — or by anyone within the US government,” Manning said. “I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect — that I once actually believed would be provided for — afforded to any living human being.”

In her statement, Manning referred to her attempt to commit suicide on July 5, after what she called constant abuse, and said she is prepared to face pain, incapacitation and even death.

“I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture said in 2012, after a two-year investigation, that Manning was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment by the US Armed Forces.

Manning, who was born with male sex organs, revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman and would seek hormone therapy as soon as possible. Manning, despite being a transgender woman, continues to be held at an all-male facility.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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