Chelsea Manning began a hunger strike today at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is serving a 35-year sentence for the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Manning is seeking written assurances from the Army that she will receive the medical treatments for her gender dysphoria beyond the hormone treatment she began in early 2015. Manning has sued the government to get such treatments and to lift the male grooming standards she is subject to that prevent her from growing her hair out.
Manning is also requesting an end to what she labels "high tech bullying" by prison and military officials.
In a statement released by her attorneys, Manning wrote that she began her hunger strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
"I need help," Manning said in the statement. "I am not getting any. 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 said a suicide attempt in July was driven "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."
According to Manning, she is now "being punished for surviving" the suicide attempt that led the Army to file new charges that could lead to additional punishments at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. "I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now," Manning said.
"Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison -- or by anyone within the U.S. government," Manning wrote. "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."
"I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding," she added. "As of 12:01 a.m. Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned."
"I am deeply saddened and very concerned for Chelsea's well-being," said Chase Strangio, one of Manning's attorneys. "The government has long been aware of her medical needs and continues to ignore them."
Strangio noted that in the initial lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense in September 2014, "we made very clear that the lack of treatment put her at very serious risk of harm. They have known this for years."
"We are still in litigation over her treatment and are optimistic that justice will ultimately prevail but the government need not wait to be ordered to do the right thing and we hope they act promptly to treat Chelsea consistent with their constitutional obligations,” Strangio said.