Saturday, June 09, 2007


Subhan'Allah. This story is another reminder of just how fortunate and privileged we are.

Chinese Leave Guantánamo for Albanian Limbo

TIRANA, Albania — Ahktar Qassim Basit says he is not angry about the four years he spent as an American prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before his captors mumbled a brief apology and flew him to this drab Balkan capital to begin a new life as a refugee.

It is this new life in Albania, Mr. Basit and other former Guantánamo detainees say, that is driving them to desperation.

The men, Muslims from western China’s Uighur ethnic minority, were freed from their confinement in Cuba after they were found to pose no threat to the United States. They have now lived for more than a year in a squalid government refugee center on the grubby outskirts of Tirana, guarded by armed policemen.

The men have been told that they will need to get work to move out of the center, they said, but that they must learn the Albanian language to get work permits. For now, they subsist on free meals heavy with macaroni and rice, and monthly stipends of about $67, which they spend mostly on brief telephone calls to their families. But some of the men have already lost hope of ever seeing their wives and children again.

“We suffered very much at Guantánamo, but we continue to suffer here,” Mr. Basit said. “The other prisoners had their countries, but we are like orphans: we have no place to go.”

Mr. Basit and four other men here, who spent time at a hamlet in Afghanistan run by Uighur separatists, are still considered terrorist suspects by China’s Communist government. Only Albania’s pro-American government would give them asylum, but Albanian officials have since told the men they cannot afford to give them much else.

Things could be worse, the former prisoners note. At least 15 of the 17 Uighurs who remain at Guantánamo have also been cleared for release, but not even Albania will accept them — and neither will the United States. Instead, American diplomats say they have asked nearly 100 countries to provide asylum to the detainees, only to find that Chinese officials have warned some of the same countries not to accept them.
Read on at: NY Times

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