Chelsea Manning goes on hunger strike to protest U.S. gov's "high tech bullying," lack of treatment

"I am no longer going to be bullied," the imprisoned whistleblower said in statement demanding "dignity & respect"

Published September 12, 2016 9:15PM (EDT)

Chelsea Manning  (AP/U.S. Army)
Chelsea Manning (AP/U.S. Army)

Imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning has gone on hunger strike to protest her treatment by the prison system and the U.S. government.

"I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison — or by anyone within the U.S. government," she said.

Manning released a moving statement on Sept. 9 explaining why she is on hunger strike.

"I need help," she said. "I am not getting any."

Manning, who is transgender, accused the government of failing to provide care for her gender dysphoria.

"In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect — just more pain and anguish," she said. "I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding."

Manning added that she is demanding "minimum standards of dignity, respect and humanity."

A press release accompanying Manning's statement explained that she "is demanding written assurances from the Army she will receive all of the medically prescribed recommendations for her gender dysphoria."

Manning also revealed in her statement that the lack of care drove her to attempt suicide.

In July, Manning tried to take her own life. She later confirmed that she is okay and that she is "glad to be alive."

U.S. authorities subsequently threatened to punish Manning for her suicide attempt, potentially with indefinite solitary confinement. The proposed punishment inspired widespread outrage. On Aug. 10, Manning's supporters delivered a petition with more than 115,000 signatures to Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning.

"Chelsea’s access to mental health care has been inconsistent," explained Chase Strangio, Manning's attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, after her suicide attempt. "It is an ongoing concern of her attorneys and supporters that she is not getting adequate mental health care, particularly in light of the external forces that are destabilizing her mental health, like the service of these administrative charges against her and the ongoing investigation of those charges."

"It seems like the government is doing everything in their power to make her physical and mental condition worsen," Strangio added.

Since her suicide attempt, Manning said she still has not gotten the help she requested.

Manning is incarcerated in the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas.

She is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to whistleblowing journalism organization WikiLeaks. Among the leaked materials were videos that show U.S. pilots killing more than 100 civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2014, Manning sued the government for access to transgender medical treatment. In 2015, she was allowed to begin hormone therapy. The military, however, has made her adopt male grooming standards.

In her statement, Manning called for an end to the U.S. government's “high tech bullying,” which she described as “the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials.”

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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