Free at last, praise Allah!

Four Uighurs experienced their first swim in the ocean recently after being released from seemingly endless detention at Guantanamo.  Their new home is the island of Bermuda, which at first glance appears to be an unlikely destination for men who grew up in a landlocked part of China.

Uighurs are ethnic Chinese Muslims who oppose the regime in their home country and fear reprisals if repatriated.

The British-affiliated island of Bermuda would seem to be an unlikely host nation for the former detainees. These four were among 21 Uighurs  who were plucked from inland Asian training camps and whisked to Guantanamo.   All of the Uighurs were cleared for release from Guantanamo years ago — the question has always been where to resettle them.

It has taken the election of a new U.S. President to change the dynamics of the situation.  Now active efforts are underway to find new homes for detainees like the Uighurs.  First, four were resettled in Bermuda (not without controversy).  Now it looks like Palau or Germany will be the new home for all or most of the remaining seventeen Uighurs from Guantanamo.   Palau has offered to accept Uighurs “as a humanitarian gesture”” while Germany has set conditions for accepting them.

Irrational fearmongering has prevented their resettlement in the U.S.

As the four frolicked among the ocean waves on Bermuda it must have seemed to them that they have reached paradise.  It did not take divine intervention to get them to the tropical beaches.  But it would not be surprising if there cries of “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!) as they breathed free air at last.

Let us hope that their fellow Uighurs, as well as other innocent detainees, quickly find new homes outside of Guantanamo.

Note: this information was originally posted online at the German site Der Spiegel and later on Salon at the following link: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/06/10/palau/

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