Chelsea Manning: Thanks to Barack Obama I can live as the person I am
Transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning has thanked former President Barack Obama for freeing her in one of his final acts of office.
In one of his final acts as President, Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Pvt Chelsea Manning, who had been imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth military prison after leaking classified government documents concerning alleged war crimes and rights abuses via WikiLeaks.
Manning, who announced her transition to female in 2013, has been denied the right to transition behind bars, leading her to make several suicide attempts.
Chelsea Manning released these images during her time in prison, to show she has been forced to present as male and keep her hair short
She is set to be released next week when her commuted sentence expires.
In her first personal statement since the commutation was granted, an emotional Manning thanked the former President for freeing her to live as herself.
She said: “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world.
“Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.
“Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts.
“I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters.
She added: “I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians and artists.
“My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own.
“I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.”
Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Like far too many people in prison, particularly transgender women, Chelsea Manning has had to survive unthinkable violence throughout the seven years of her incarceration.
“Finally, she will be leaving prison and building a life beyond the physical walls of the many sites of her detention. It is a remarkable gift to the world that Chelsea will be able to grow and fight alongside us for justice.
“The transition out of these horrific institutions will not be easy, and part of what we hope is that Chelsea will find the space, love, and support to heal and build a life of her choosing.
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“Her fight to be herself, to access the medical care that she needed, and to gain her freedom have transformed law and society for the better.
“The urgency of those fights for so many in our communities will continue, and Chelsea’s past and future work will no doubt be a critical force in moving towards a more just society for everyone.”
Donald Trump, who does not have the power to reverse the commutation, previously said Manning should stay in prison.
He tweeted: “Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!”
Trump was referring to a newsoaoer column penned by Manning from prison, which claims “Barack Obama’s legacy is a warning against not being bold enough”, lamenting his “very few permanent accomplishments”.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who fled from a rape investigation by living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, had initially claimed he would surrender himself “if Obama grants Manning clemency”.
However, Assange went back on the promise and remains inside the embassy, despite the ample presence of police officers outside willing to detain him at any time.
The only outstanding warrant for Assange’s arrest is from Sweden, where he is wanted in connection with a rape allegation.