The Uighurs are Muslims from East Turkmenistan who have long been under Chinese rule. A handful of them, determined to free what they regard as their country, joined al Qaeda and traveled to Afghanistan to train as terrorists, with the plan of returning to China to commit terrorist acts. They were captured in Afghanistan shortly after September 11 and brought, with many other enemy combatants, to Guantanamo Bay.
Since their grievance was against China, not the United States, the Bush administration would have been happy to send them away. The catch was that if they had been repatriated to their native China, they would have been killed. So, for humanitarian reasons, our government held on to them and tried to persuade other countries to take them.
That goal has now been achieved, as a number of Uighurs are reportedly heading for the South Pacific island of Palau, while four others are newly arrived–astonishingly enough–in Bermuda, quite possibly the sweetest place on earth. Think about it: four men who grew up in East Turkmenistan, trained in terrorist camps in one of the most Godforsaken places in the world, and have spent the last seven years in Gitmo, woke up one day to find themselves in an island paradise that you have to apply to get into–a country with no immigration, unless you’re, say, Ross Perot or Catherine Zeta-Jones, and where you can’t get through customs unless you can demonstrate that you have a plane ticket to get you back home. A place, in other words, where riff-raff is normally unwelcome. The four Uighurs most have woken up and started looking around for their 72 virgins.
The Daily Mail reports on the Uighurs introduction to Bermuda: they went shopping.
Embracing the delights of their new island home, the Uighurs have already taken a sunset swim and caught a fish at their first attempt at fishing. They have also reverted to their real names after using pseudonyms since leaving China. …
‘When we didn’t have any country to accept us, when everybody was afraid of us … Bermuda had the courage and was brave enough to accept us,’ said Abdulla Abdulgadir, who at 30 is the youngest of the four men who relished their first weekend of freedom in seven years.
‘We are not moving anywhere,’ he said.
I’ll bet they’re not.
The four Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs) also have immediate priorities, such as learning to drive, scuba dive and bowl, said Glenn Brangman, a former military official who is helping reintroduce them to the world outside prison.
Bowling Uighurs: how normal can you get? The former detainees went out for ice cream in Hamilton:
I’m quite certain I’ve been to that ice cream parlor, actually. Here, three of the Uighurs stroll along by the ocean:
This news story has prompted considerable controversy in both Great Britain and Bermuda. Arguably the real controversy should be here in the U.S., since these would-be terrorists are being supported at taxpayer expense in a place to which most Americans can go only on their honeymoons or in their dreams.
Still, it’s hard not to enjoy the story. It’s much like the story of the down and out South Dakota rancher who won the lottery. My guess is that the Uighurs aren’t such bad guys, especially after being exposed to the civilizing influence of Guantanamo Bay. On the whole, I’m happy for them. I just wish I weren’t helping to pay for their accommodations.