The Story of the Uighar Captives at Gitmo
Via Conor Friedersdorf, I’ve come across an astonishing series of blog posts by Hilary Bok that track the story of the 17 Uighar captives in Guantanamo Bay. (It’s in six parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). You should read the whole series, which forthrightly defends these captives from the lies that have been hurled at them in the media. But the bottom line is this:
The short version is: the Uighurs are refugees from China who wound up in a village in Afghanistan affiliated with a group called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Some wanted to resist Chinese rule; some were just trying to get away from Chinese oppression; one was trying to go to Turkey and couldn’t get a visa. They were not trained by al Qaeda. There is no evidence that any of them had anything against the US, or ever acted against us. The village was bombed, and they fled and were turned in by bounty hunters.
Even the Bush administration’s Combatant Status Review Commissions, which were heavily slanted towards the government, found them not to be enemy combatants. (The government had decided that some of them were not enemy combatants even before their CSRT hearings.) Despite that fact, we have kept them in prison for over seven years. (After they were cleared in 2003, they could not be released back to China, since they would be tortured or killed.) That’s a very long time to be locked away without having done anything. Some of them have children they have never met. Their wives and families did not know that they were alive for several years.
They are still detained. Right now. Do you know what makes this particularly tragic? This snippet from a 2004 FBI report regarding the Uighar captives.
The Uighurs are moderate Muslims who occupied East Turkestan, which was taken over by the Chinese and renamed the Xinjiang province of China. The Uighurs were offered land in Afghanistan in order to gather personnel opposing Chinese oppression. They were often inspired by Radio Free Asia, which [redacted] was often a broadcaster for. The Uighurs considered themselves to be fighting for democracy, and they idolized the United States. Although the Uighurs are Muslim their agenda did not appear to include Islamic radicalism.