from what I have had time to read. We were in western China earlier this
summer and met with the Uighurs. Depressing. Note that this is written
from Albania. I will follow with one of the worst op eds ever published
by the NYTimes, by John Yoo, who must be an alien from outer space.
September 17, 2006
The View From Guantánamo
By ABU BAKKER QASSIM
I HAVE been greatly saddened to hear that the Congress of the United
States, a country I deeply admire, is considering new laws that would
deny prisoners at Guantánamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions
in federal court.
growing up as a Uighur in China, there were no independent courts to
review the imprisonment and oppression of people who, like me,
peacefully opposed the Communists. But I learned my hardest lesson from
the United States: I spent four long years behind the razor wire of its
prison in Cuba.
I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong
time during America’s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantánamo
detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a
battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to
the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans
made a terrible mistake.
It was only the country’s centuries-old commitment to allowing habeas
corpus challenges that put that mistake right — or began to. In May, on
the eve of a court hearing in my case, the military relented, and I was
sent to Albania along with four other Uighurs. But 12 of my Uighur
brothers remain in Guantánamo today. Will they be stranded there forever?
Without my American lawyers and habeas corpus, my situation and that of
the other Uighurs would still be a secret. I would be sitting in a metal
cage today. Habeas corpus helped me to tell the world that Uighurs are
not a threat to the United States or the West, but an ally. Habeas
corpus cleared my name — and most important, it let my family know that
I was still alive.
Like my fellow Uighurs, I am a great admirer of the American legal and
political systems. I have the utmost respect for the United States
Congress. So I respectfully ask American lawmakers to protect habeas
corpus and let justice prevail. Continuing to permit habeas rights to
the detainees in Guantánamo will not set the guilty free. It will prove
to the world that American democracy is safe and well.
I am from East Turkestan on the northwest edge of China. Communist China
cynically calls my homeland “Xinjiang,” which means “new dominion” or
“new frontier.” My people want only to be treated with respect and
dignity. But China uses the American war on terrorism as a pretext to
punish those who peacefully dissent from its oppressive policies. They
brand as “terrorism” all political opposition from the Uighurs.
Amnesty International reports that East Turkistan is the only province
in China where people may face the death penalty for political offenses.
Chinese leaders brag about the number of Uighur political prisoners shot
in the head. I was punished for speaking against China’s unjust
policies, and I left because of the threat to my life. My search for
work and refuge took me from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I heard about the Sept. 11 attacks for the first time in Guantánamo. I
was not aware of their magnitude until after my release, when a reporter
showed me images online at an Internet cafe in Tirana. It was a terrible
thing. But I too was its victim. I would never have experienced the
ordeal and humiliation of Guantánamo if this horrific event had not
I feel great sadness for the families who lost their loved ones on that
horrible day five years ago. And I would be sadder still to see the
freedom-loving American people walk away from their respect for the rule
of law. I want America to be a strong and respected nation in the world.
Only then can it continue to be the source of hope for the hopeless —
like my people.
Abu Bakker Qassim was imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2002 to
May. This article was translated from the Uighur by Nury Turael.
York Times Company <http://www.nytco.com/>