Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Gitmo Uighurs, New Life Is No Walk on the Beach

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Gitmo Uighurs, New Life Is No Walk on the Beach

Article excerpt

"Uighurs in Paradise" is the headline atop one of the many stories published today chronicling the first day of freedom for a group of four Uighurs released from Guantanamo to Bermuda.

There have also been tales of the guava juice-sipping lifestyle that awaits several Uighur prisoners who are expected to be resettled soon in the Pacific island republic of Palau.

Much of the news coverage has focused on the fears of local residents: How can someone locked in Guantanamo be declared safe? Are they Al Qaeda? What's a Uighur, anyway?

These are the same questions asked in 2006 when a group of five Uighurs from Guantanamo were released after a US federal court found their detention to be illegal.

Although China considers the Uighurs to be domestic terrorists (many, in fact, want their own Muslim homeland) their time in Guantanamo appears owed more to bad timing and poor luck than geopolitical considerations.

Wrong time, wrong place

The men had fled their home province of Xinjiang, China, and were near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2001 when the US bombing campaign began. The Uighurs have contended their time in Guantanamo was the result of overly zealous bounty hunters.

Regardless, the men have long been declared innocent of wrong- doing, yet few countries were willing to risk angering China by accepting them.

Kicking back in Albania

The US reportedly asked about 100 other countries to take the men. Until recently, Albania was the only country willing to help.

One of the freed detainees who ended up in Albania eventually went on to gain political asylum in Sweden (read more here). The rest remain in Albania, where they have lived relatively quiet existences (for more on their stories, click here). [Editor's note: The original story incorrectly referred to the country wherea detainee was granted political asylum.]When our correspondent caught up recently with former detainee Abu Bakker Qassim in Albania's capital, Mr. Qassim was training to become a chef. …

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