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A Victory for the Uighurs at Guantanamo...but Now What?

The strangest cases to come out of Guantanamo have been those against a group of Chinese Muslims who were picked up in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. These men were training or living in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and were sent to Guantanamo after being turned over to U.S. authorities apparently by bounty hunters.

Some of the Chinese Muslims -- known as Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) -- believed in establishing a breakaway state from China that they called East Turkestan. Others said they were in Afghanistan because they just wanted to live some place where they weren't persecuted for their faiths. None of them, several federal courts have ruled, were threats to the United States.

From my travels in Central Asia and elsewhere, no group that I've ever come across has struck me as more pro-American than the Uighurs. So one has to wonder who made the decision to send them to Guantanamo in the first place.

But today a federal judge ordered 17 of them released from Guantanamo into the United States. The judge agreed with the detainees' attorneys that the Constitution bars holding the men indefinitely without cause.

It was the first time, the Post reported, that a U.S. court has ordered the release of a Guantanamo detainee, and the first time that a foreign national held there has been ordered brought to the United States. The Bush administration will fight this decision and an appeal is planned.

The Uighurs saga is the stuff of, well, Greek tragedy.

First, who are they? The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group of some 8-9 million that inhabits the northwest corner of China, an autonomous zone called Xinjiang. Xinjiang means "new frontier" in Chinese and got its name during the Qing Dynasty when China's empire expanded into those zones. They speak Uighur -- a language related to Turkish.

From the middle 19th century until after World War II, Russia, later the Soviet Union, China and various warlords vied for influence over the region. Several independent states -- one called East Turkestan -- were established there. Soviet influence was high for a while. Then in 1949 China's People's Liberation Army entered Xinjiang, placed it under military control of Marshal Wang Zhen and the region grew in infamy as China's Siberia -- a place of labor camps and nuclear testing grounds. China tested its first nuclear device in Xinjiang's Lop Nur in 1964. China's biggest oil fields were discovered in Xinjiang as early as the mid-1920s.

Relations between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese have never been close. With their opposition to religion and traditional cultures, the Communists were no exception. After 1978 when China began opening up to the outside world, Uighur separatist groups started agitating for independence, sometimes violently. Unlike the Tibetans with the Dalai Lama, independence-minded Uighurs never had a single locus of authority. So their struggle was often scattershot and regularly violent, involving attacks on Chinese police stations and bombings of buses and other acts.

The United States traditionally took a dim view of Chinese claims that Uighurs were "terrorists." Instead, US officials maintained that China should allow all its citizens the freedom to associate and lobby peacefully for change. After 9/11, however, US policy on the Xinjiang issue shifted. For the first time the United States labeled a Uighur group as "terrorist." On Sept. 12, 2002, the United Nations accepted a joint recommendation by the governments of the United States, China, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan that the Chinese-based East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) be declared a terrorist organisation. The US was pushing for war against Iraq at the time and needed to make sure that China did not block UN Security Council resolutions against Saddam. As such, Washington's support for the terrorism label was most probably an American pay-off for Beijing's acquiesecence to the US invasion.

After 9/11, bounty hunters apparently picked up more than 20 Uighurs in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan border. Somehow they were shipped to Guantanamo. The US government asserted that the Uighurs were members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and trained at camps affiliated with the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

In one of the most bizarre chapters of the Guatanamo episode, the US released five of the Uighurs several years ago to (of all places) Albania where they were resettled. They can't work; they can't visit their families; their wives and kids can't get passports to leave China. They live on a couple of hundreds Euros a month. At least the US, in its wisdom, didn't send them back to China because of worries that they would be jailed and tortured. (China is in the midst of a serious crackdown against Uighur separatism. China has accused Uighur groups of a series of recent attacks on police and other security forces. However, Western reports, have called into question the veracity of China's official claims.)

So U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled today that the Uighurs still in Guantanamo can now enter the United States. If the ruling stands, it will be quite a victory for this group of Uighurs. But I wouldn't be surprised if China exacts revenge on their compatriots back in Xinjiang.

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Comments (22)

cubezero3 Author Profile Page:

It's interesting to view what "Terrorism" really means in political sense, though it's will obviously quite different from that is in terms of law.

As a gourp, which is somehow pro-Amrcia and of no harm to the States, East Turkestan movements are no enemy for U.S. However, the violent activities pushed by them have caused hundreds of deaths in China.

I suppose declaring them as terrorists by Amreican government in early 2000s was some sort of deal made between Chinese governments and American government, as view from Chinese people's position it's not their country that was attacked by Al-Qeada and the group literally showed no threat to their country. Otherwise, Chinese government had no reason to adopt the same view against Al-Qeada as American government did.

Then here the problem came. The Chinese has a different form of governing and every branch of it asts as a whole. While on the other hand, the legal branch of American government is currently jerpodizing the fundermental assent upon which the deal was made. What would the Chinese side react? No signs show they will act against American people's current efforts to bail-out their economy, which would in return harm their own constructing of "Harmonious Society". Turning a blind eye upon those, who claime to be the enemy of American and poses not threat to their country may be an option.

killer_85 Author Profile Page:

They are Islamic terrorists, regardless of their country of origin, and we're supposed to get our panties in a wad over a possible extradition to China?
I don't like China any more than the likes of the Uighurs, but to release them into the U.S. is just plain stupid.

The ACLU is more concerned with 'rights' than keeping this Constitutional Republic safe from the likes of Islamic-indoctrinated terrorists.

Yeah, go ahead and turn them loose in D.C.; with maps and directions to Urbina's house.

As for you morons who chant the mantra of "torture" and "human rights" blah...blah....blah...": most of the little terrorist cutthroats detained there are treated so well they don't WANT to go home, wherever that is.

IMO as a former Soldier and Iraq war vet, we shouldn't take prisoners to begin with. Kill em' all and let 'allah' sort em' out.
I love how this is being questioned as a "Constitutional right", when there is NO specification in the U.S. Constitution for enemy combatants.

Note to "WTF08":
Spend some time on the battlefield and find out why the Islamofascist miscreants EARNED their way into those orange jumpsuits. Otherwise, STFU.

luyi99 Author Profile Page:

When O BL fought the Soviet Union, he was considered a hero to American. When he attached US on 911, he became a terrorist. And the US “exacts revenge” on their compatriots back in Afghanistan, that is righteous and legitimate.

While the Uighurs attached other Chinese ethnic groups and killed innocent civilians, it is “violating human rights” if China government throw them in to jails.

What a contradiction.

luyi99 Author Profile Page:

United States and Bush should be held accountable for Afghanistani and Iraqi Civilians casualties.
United State is the largest terrorist country in the world. The invasion of Iraq is neither about freedom nor about democracy but national interest. However Americans are not benefit from the invasion. The oil millionaires are.

US always implements double standards. O BL was trained and supported by CIA, so are as those Uighurs doing terrorist in Xijinag China.

spidermean2 Author Profile Page:

LET THEM BECOME USELESS (Taliban's rifles and land mines)

Obama was complaining why our military were air-raiding the vilages infested with Taliban and suggest that they do the raid by foot.

NO WONDER WE HAVE RISING AMERICAN CASUALTIES IN AFGHANISTAN. Obama and Bush should be held accountable for the rising American casualties.

More Americans could die in Afghanistan if Obama becomes president. Like George Bush, this man is an AMATEUR.

The life of an American soldier is more precious than a hundred taliban sympathizers.

The talibans' shoulder weapons and mines are useless in the face of an air-raid. LET THEM BECOME USELESS. Don't send foot soldiers. ONLY PLANES.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

"In one of the most bizarre chapters of the Guatanamo episode, the US released five of the Uighurs several years ago to (of all places) Albania... At least the US, in its wisdom, didn't send them back to China because of worries that they would be jailed and tortured... U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled today that the Uighurs still in Guantanamo can now enter the United States."

"Worries" that they would be jailed and tortured? That must be the joke of the century!

After Abu Ghraib, after Bagram, after seven years (!) spent at Guantanamo, after the famous "we do not torture", after the rendition program, after the world having been given proof of the existence of that gulag all over the world where people are tortured by Americans, under American supervision or by proxy.... those alleged terrorists may not be returned to China, where they belong, BECAUSE they would be TORTURED?

This selective expression of concern for human rights at this time, those endearing pangs of moral conscience, this payment of lip-service to what has become for us nothing but moral niceties, must be the farce of the century.

nowayyousaidthat Author Profile Page:

Doubter one you probably said the most ignorant thing I have ever heard a human speak. Why dont you learn a little bit more about religion or at least learn the history of your own before popping off nonsense.

I'm glad they were released, it shows that some people still FOLLOW the Constitution, and had the balls to say and do something about it.

Maybe those of you who think they were rightly held will think differently if it was you being held by a foreign country, taken from your own country and imprisoned...great job there guys...good logical thought process.

Doubter1 Author Profile Page:

I think China is laughing all the way to the bank... Why? because no sane country wants to have a bunch of violent free-loaders whose religion can be better described as militant and intolerant. As usual, America got the worse part of the deal. The US government did want them to stay in the US for a reason; no, not America is afraid of China. It knows these people up to no good. The court overstepped its boundary. Sad! The winners of the clash of civilizations will be China, India and Islam.

thmak Author Profile Page:

USA admits the Uighurs terrorists into USA indicates that USA is terrorist country and the USA president is equivalent to Bin Ladin.

dahuanzhou Author Profile Page:

1.”These men were training or living in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “”.The US government asserted that the Uighurs were members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and trained at camps affiliated with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. “
Comments: Since they were trained at camps affiliated with Taliban or Al-Qaeda, They are terrorists without doubts.
2.” None of them, several federal courts have ruled, were threats to the United States.”, ”So one has to wonder who made the decision to send them to Guantanamo in the first place”
Comments: No, no , who can guarantee that they won’t be hijackers?
3.”So their struggle was often scattershot and regularly violent, involving attacks on Chinese police stations and bombings of buses and other acts.”
Comments: Chinese government has evidence to classifying them as terrorists.
4.” For the first time the United States labeled a Uighur group as "terrorist." On Sept. 12, 2002, the United Nations accepted a joint recommendation by the governments of the United States, China, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan that the Chinese-based East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) be declared a terrorist organisation. “
Comments: True
5..”But I wouldn't be surprised if China exacts revenge on their compatriots back in Xinjiang.”
Comments: If Chinese government captured a terrorist who has USA passport, USA government will ask Chinese government to send this person back to America for trial. The rule of game should be fair. I don’t like double standard. I hate pragmatism.

kevinzhaochn Author Profile Page:

maybe China should take BL and grand him a Chinese citizen, I do not see there are any harm to China, he just killed several thousands American, no Chinese. Good work, BL.

WTF08 Author Profile Page:

What is WRONG with all of you!!! When did Americans become so ignorantly righteous about other human beings who've done nothing wrong to them and probably have a hell of a lot more soul inside them than any of you idiots who whether you actually thought about them or not-place these kind of comments on news web sites!
Kesac, Peter 34,Thozmaniac and the rest of you! - Shame on you or rather pity on you for the ease to which you bought what was sold and signed up for the best minion of the U.S. "democracy" award - prize goes to the fastest lemming! What do you win?! A faulty subprime mortgage and a nice solid cause to invade your home and bomb your children... Please, take your spineless 'nigger' comments back to your quintessential trailer-park in Jesus' heaven and stay far from this land - because you know what -I don't welcome you here any more - I think you need some time in an orange jumpsuit to think about what you said and all that you let happen to innocent people just because you think you're American as as god-given right. Maybe there is a mass conspiracy to blow up Americans - but you know what - YOU are their target and not the rest of them - so do the country a favor and shut up or get out!

lohengrin Author Profile Page:

I find what Pomfret is saying most curious. What he says about the Uighurs is all true. However, the Uighurs' plights are no different from that of the Palestinians and only happened much earlier.

Clearly the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the root cause of terrorism against the West and US in particular. The Uighurs are a good analogue of the Palestinians, albeit with a weaker case. Or is Pomfret trying to make the case that one nation's freedom fighters are another nation's terrorists?

As Pomfret pointed out, those 17 Uighurs were trained in Afghanistan. One wonders what kind of training they were receiving and who were training them. After all, we are talking about Taliban and Al-Qaede controlled Afghanistan.

After 9/11, we went around and tell everyone: "If you are not with us, you are against us." China decided to be "with us", but said that we had better stand with them in their fight against their terrorists. As a result, we classified some Eastern Turkistan group as terrorist groups.

Now we are trying to walk the cat back. I have no objection to walking the cat back. However if we do walk the cat back, then don't expect the Chinese to maintain their level of cooperation in our fight against our terrorists in that part of the world.

Peter34 Author Profile Page:

Now Urgury's cause are justified by U.S court.China could relax the border patrolling now and let more Muslim Jihads flood to Pakistan tribe.Whether they are American enemy or not in the future,it is all none of China's business,and it is merely the business between American court and government.

They could also smuggle weapons from China to Afghan and Parkistan,How that sounds? Great,Bravo.But don't blame on China,no matter what.

Nobody knows who they are going to be: terrorists or free fighters,sometimes those theoretical concepts are interchangeable;case in point,Bin Laden to Soviet Union and to U.S.But one thing in common: they fight for "faith," which are you guys favorite and show no wrong against U.S.

watchclosely Author Profile Page:

"You don't have any idea of the conditions these poor mistreated murderers were captured in..
You weren't on the battlefield."

you say they're 'murderers' even though they haven't been convicted of a single crime, locked up for 6 years without a hearing, just to get china on-side for iraq. THAT is a crime. mentioning that fact doesn't make someone less compassionate towards their own countrymen. for you to suggest that doing so shows 'approval for terrorists' just demonstrates your fear of the fundamental philosophies that underpin the laws of your own nation.

i don't even see how locking up chinese dissidents, who have nothing to do with the mission, is positive from a genuine conservative perspective. maybe if it gives you an excuse to say that 'liberals love terrorists and hate our troops'. but i don't see much strength, morality or honor in that.

Peter34 Author Profile Page:

Uighur Jihads are really pro-American,so they went to Pakistan tribe for training only for attacking Han Chinese instead of American.Therefore,their action should be endorsed as long as they are not a threat to U.S. Since those people have at least some Jihad training,they could be better serviced in CIA against China....Dr. Pomfret's reports are really thought-provoking.But the history is not as what Dr.simply put,Dr.still need more study to graduate.

From Wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uyghurstan

East Turkestan:The area was part various Khanates before it became part of China's Tang Dynasty until the 9th century. The local empire, Kara-Khanid Khanate ruled from 840 to 1212. The region had been ruled as a section of the Chagatai Khanate, from the Mongol invasion of Central Asia of the 13th Century. In the late 17th Century it experienced fragmentation and annexation by Mongol groups. It again became part of China during the Qing Dynasty with the defeat of the Dzungars from 1757 to 1759.

After the Qing Dynasty
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang

In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor of Xinjiang, fled. One of his subordinates Yang Zengxin (杨增新), acceded to the Republic of China in March of the same year, and maintained control of Xinjiang until his assassination in 1928. Following insurgencies against Governor Jin Shuren (金树仁) in the early 1930s in Eastern Sinkiang, a rebellion in Kashgaria in February, 1933 led to declaring by Southern Sinkiang (94% population of which were at this time ethnic Uyghurs) on November 12, 1933 its Independence and establishment at Kashgar of the short-lived self-proclaimed Turkish Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan or Republic of Uyghurstan , known also as First East Turkistan Republic (1st ETA). Xinjiang was eventually brought in 1934 under the control of Sheng Shicai (盛世才), who ruled Xinjiang for the next decade with close support from the Soviet Union, many of whose ethnic and security policies Sheng instituted in Xinjiang. Sheng invited a group of Chinese Communists to Xinjiang, including Mao Zedong's brother Mao Zemin, but in 1943, fearing a conspiracy, Sheng killed all communists, including Mao Zemin, in Xinjiang. A Second East Turkistan Republic (2nd ETA, also known as the Three Districts Revolution) existed from 1944-1949 with Soviet support in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in northern Xinjiang.

The Second East Turkistan Republic came to an end when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Xinjiang in 1949. According to the PRC interpretation, the 2nd ETA was Xinjiang's revolution, a positive part of the communist revolution in China; the 2nd ETA acceded to and welcomed the PLA when they entered Xinjiang, a process known as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang. However, independence advocates view the ETA as an effort to establish an independent state, and the subsequent PLA entry as an invasion. The autonomous region of the PRC was established on October 1, 1955, replacing the province. The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, on October 16, 1964.

kesac Author Profile Page:

The Bush Administration has previously offered to release the Uighers. The problem has been that they don't want to return to China nad face persecution, and every other nation that at one time or another offered to accept them, has renegged on the deal.
You can look it up.
Of course, if you want trained killers residing in your neighborhood, or living sequested on your tax dollar for life, call you Congressman and offer your help.

Peter34 Author Profile Page:

One thing for sure: We American need to help them in board and accommodation,and get them to be American citizen.

Perhaps they could work in CIA.Other than that,where to put them in this recession?

Thozmaniac Author Profile Page:

Hey liberals,
a little more compassion for your countrymen and a little less lust and approval for terrorists might be nice for a change.
You don't have any idea of the conditions these poor mistreated murderers were captured in..
You weren't on the battlefield.

Maybe if you all write a letter to Obama you can get their explosive vests and AK47's returned to them before their release.

troutcor Author Profile Page:

So while Osama and his number two remain at large, we've cooped up innocent men for six years at Guantanamo. America's image as the bastion of democracy takes another shot, and not even for any productive reason. Gitmo, it is clear, was crammed with men that were at most small fish, at worst completely innocent. Katrina, Gitmo, 9/11, the failure to capture Obama, the Iraq fiasco, a worsening picture in Afghanistan and now the economic collapse. I sure hope all those Bush voters out there are happy with their man's track record.

andyoo Author Profile Page:

They will wish they are back in Guantanamo after they taste the chinese labor camp.

andyoo Author Profile Page:

well, time to send them to chinese labor camp for life.

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