Imagine escaping from a home where you do not feel safe, just to be captured and sent to a horrifying prison. There, you live in pain, and people accuse you of crimes you have not committed. Years later, you are freed and your name is cleared – but you now have no home. No country will welcome you in; no country will grant you asylum. Finally, one country opens its doors to you, but it is not a home. Your heart lies with your family halfway across the world. But, they will not let you in to reunite with your family. You have been separated for over a decade. You are kept apart from your children; you miss first words, first steps, and first days of school. They are growing up without a father only because their country fails to recognize the absurdity of your case and grant you the status you need to reunite with your family, to reunite with your children.
Ayub Mohammed, Salahidin Abdulahad, and Khalil Mamut are three Uyghur men who left China after childhoods of discrimination, persecution, and hopelessness. They travelled to Pakistan, and then Afghanistan, in search of a new home. Before their dreams could be realized, Ayub, Salahidin, and Khalil were taken with nineteen other Uyghur migrants into American custody, shipped to Guantanamo Bay due to unsubstantiated claims that they were part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) – an alleged terrorist organization that China convinced the United States to target. This led to over five years of detention in Guantanamo Bay, where they were aggressively and repeatedly interrogated. They were exonerated as early as 2003, and yet were kept in detention and isolation for several more years.
The US finally released the men from Guantanamo Bay, but refused to let them enter the States. Instead, the men were sent all over the world to countries that would accept them, without any say in where they would end up. Ayub is now in Albania, and Salahidin and Khalil in Bermuda, but their families are here in Canada; their kids growing up without their fathers. Downtown Legal Services is launching a campaign, aiming to bring to light the absurdity and inhumanity of their cases, revealing the continued pain and limbo that the Canadian immigration system has put on them. Posing no threat to Canadian national security, these men have been waiting over five years to reunite with their families and find a safe place to land.
They must be brought home.
Uyghur Persecution: The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim Turkic ethnic minority group native to Xinjiang, China, that are persecuted by the Chinese government. In 2018, a UN human rights panel reported than 1 million ethnic Uyghurs were detained in “re-education camps”, where detainees are forced to denounce their faith, learn Mandarin, study Chinese propaganda and chant Chinese slogans in prison-like facilities. Former inmates have reported punishments such as waterboarding, handcuffing and being strapped to “tiger-chairs” for those who fail to follow. Detainees have also reported brainwashing, widespread sexual abuse and forced compulsory sterilization within these camps.
Guantanamo Bay: All 22 Uyghur men who were detained at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center were cleared of “enemy combatant” status as early as 2003. Yet, the last of the Uyghur men were released from the detention center in 2014. For more information on the Uyghur men detained in Guantanamo watch “Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd” (NFB documentary).
The three men’s stories have been covered by the Star. For more details on their legal case, please visit this website.