Chelsea Manning, the U.S. army private convicted in 2013 for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, has announced she has started a hunger strike to protest what she calls “constant and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials.”
“I need help. I am not getting any,” Manning said in a statement released to TIME through a member of the Chelsea Manning Support Network and confirmed as authentic by her lawyer, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Stragio. “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.”
On July 5, Manning attempted to commit suicide, her attorneys said. She was subsequently charged with several administrative offenses that, her lawyers say, could result in her being transferred to indefinite solitary confinement.
Manning said that beginning Friday morning, September 9, she will not voluntarily consume any food or drink except water and prescription medication, nor will she voluntarily cut her hair.
Officials at Fort Leavenworth referred inquiries to the Office of the Army’s Chief of Public Affairs at the Pentagon. An official with that office did not have immediate comment but said he would consult with the Department of Justice, which is representing the Defense Department on this matter.
Manning’s entire statement announcing the hunger strike is reproduced below:
I need help. 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.
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.
I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying—to "suck it up." But, I couldn't stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn't take the pain anymore.
I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.
Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. 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 do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.
I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am 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.
This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vendictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a "do not resuscitate" letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudomedical means.
Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.
I need help. Please, give me help.
Philip Elliott contributed to this report