View Full Version : [yengi] Palaudiki Uyghurlarning eng yengi resimi

Uyghur News
03-11-09, 14:55

Jackson Henry, Palau's ambassador to Taiwan, second from left, and Masaichi Etiterngel, a Palauan traditional chief, third left, presents four recently freed Guantanamo Bay detainee Uighurs with a bouquet of roses as a welcome gift to Palau in the capital, Koror, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. Six former Guantanamo Bay detainees thanked the people of Palau for taking them in, but signaled the Pacific Island nation would be only a temporary home. (AP Photo/Jonathan Kaminsky)

Uyghur News
03-11-09, 14:59
Ex-Guantanamo detainees begin new lives in Palau

By JONATHAN KAMINSKY (AP) 26 minutes ago

KOROR, Palau They've shaved off the long beards they wore at Guantanamo Bay, and they were angered at a local newspaper report that casually referred to them as terrorists.

The six Chinese Muslim men were also relieved and thankful to be out of the U.S. prison and beginning new lives in Palau on Tuesday as they gave their first tentative media interview to The Associated Press.

"We are extremely grateful to the president of Palau and the people of Palau who have graciously accepted us and given us this home," said Abdul Ghappar Abdul Rahman, who along with the other members of China's Uighur minority group spent some eight years in U.S. custody before being released without charge this week.

"The U.S. government told us this would be a temporary home," Abdul Rahman told the AP as they spent their first day out and about. "We will study English here, look for a job and establish our new lives in this beautiful country," he said, speaking through a U.S. government-appointed interpreter.

The resettlement came after long negotiations, both with Palau to achieve the offer to house the Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs), and with the men themselves, who their lawyers said knew little about the Pacific island nation and were concerned they would be isolated from their people.

The six were among 22 Chinese Muslims picked up by American forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 on suspicion of terrorism. They were taken eventually to Guantanamo, where they were held as enemy combatants until a federal court ruled last year that they should be freed.

They spent months in legal limbo as U.S. officials tried to find somewhere to send them, and help meet U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to close Guantanamo. Congress moved to block any Guantanamo detainee from entering the United States. Beijing calls the Uighur men terrorists and has demanded they be returned to China, where activists say they would face persecution and possibly death.

Palau, a clutch of islands east of the Philippines that is home to some 20,000 people and still relies on funds from Washington, offered to take all but one of the Uighurs. Both sides denied the offer was linked to U.S. aid. The one exception was a man Palau said it had mental health concerns about. Six have so far declined Palau's offer.

But the Uighurs remain stateless in important ways. President Johnson Toribiong also says the Uighurs' resettlement is temporary, though it could last years, and they are free to leave when they want.

Where they could go is uncertain. Palauan citizenship is strictly hereditary, and the Uighurs will not be eligible for Palauan passports.

Toribiong is taking a personal interest in the resettlement. He turned out to welcome them when they arrived before dawn Sunday. On Wednesday, he plans to treat them to a boat trip and picnic in Palau's Rock Islands, the country's main tourist destination and one of the world's top diving spots.

Tuesday's orientation events were more mundane.

The men made their first visit to Koror's only mosque, where they met some of the Bangladeshi migrant workers who make up most of Palau's 500-strong Muslim community. Two of the Uighurs joined in prayers.

"I think they are good, and we are happy," said one of the locals, Anowar Hussain. "They are our brothers."

Earlier, the Uighurs spent time at an Internet cafe, setting up e-mail accounts and contacting relatives in Australia and four fellow former detainees now living in Bermuda.

Nearby, their government-supplied home has spotless hardwood floors, a fresh coat of paint, new furniture and appliances, and a sweeping view of the ocean. Washington is paying for the Uighurs' housing, job training, food and other costs in Palau.

To the men's visible relief, a large air conditioner was delivered Tuesday afternoon to help them cope with the tropical heat. High speed internet a rarity in Palau and cable television are scheduled to be installed on Wednesday.

One of their first visitors was Jackson Henry, Palau's nonresident ambassador to Taiwan, who presented them with a lavish bouquet of red roses. Beijing aggressively opposes the idea of independence for Xinjiang, the far western province that is the Uighurs' homeland. China is equally opposed to Taiwan's claims to independence.

"If there is anything we can do for you, do not hesitate to ask," Henry told the men.

Not all has gone smoothly. In its first article about the Uighurs' arrival, the Tia Belau newspaper on Monday referred to "bearded Moslem terrorists" in a report that compared the Uighurs' arrival on an undisclosed flight on Saturday night to a fictionalized spy story. The reported sparked outrage and fear in the men, who thought it could influence Palauans against them, said their interpreter, Ala Mamtimin.

"It is a very bad sign," Mamtimin said. "I hope people are not misled by this bad and wrong idea."

Toribiong says Palauans welcome the newcomers, and there has been no sign of widespread opposition.

The Uighurs were wary of the handful of reporters gathered outside their home, refusing most interview requests, and they asked that photos not be taken.

In his brief AP interview, Abdul Rahman frowned when asked why he and most of the others had shaved their beards, saying only, "It's a personal matter."

Long beards are seen by some Muslims as a sign of devotion to their faith. In tropical Palau, a beard can feel hot and most men go clean shaven.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer representing three of the Uighurs, said shaving was part of their efforts to fit into their new home. "They're very intent on integrating into the local culture," she said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.