uli-schmetzer.com
Article by Uli schmetzer

June 2, 2006

FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE:



In our mercenary era, when everything and everyone seems for sale and human dignity and human rights are easily dismissed as ‘collateral commercial damage,’ the fate of five Central Asian Uighurs has hardly caused a ripple of international interest. Yet their story is indicative of a new global order in which people can simply vanish into the Black Holes of the System.

The five Uighurs were released from Guatanamo Bay in May this year after five years of being subjected to interrogations, abuse and torture, first at a U.S. military detention center in Kandahar, Afghanistan and then, after being transferred in 2002, at Guatanamo. In the end the U.S. military had to admit (and one is baffled why it took so long) the men were not terrorists. The five and ten other Uighurs yet to be released are members of a Turkic ethnic group in China’s north-western Xinjiang province. All of them were kidnapped from a village in Pakistan by Pakistani head hunters. In those early days after the attack on the Twin Towers the U.S. military was desperate to inflate its quota of ‘terrorist’ arrests. The head hunters, modern slavers, sold the Uighurs as genuine Al Queda terrorists to the United States military for five thousand dollars each.

According to the men’s American lawyers the five had left Xinjiang in search of jobs in Pakistan and a possible visa to study in the United States.
Now comes the really sad part: After being released as ‘mistakes’ the five asked for student permits to remain in the U.S., a country that had subjected them to shocking indignities and the loss of five years of their lives. The U.S. refused. Other western nations also denied them political asylum. The reason for these refusals had nothing to do with fear of terrorism but a lot to do with politics and economics.

The men can not return to their native Xinjiang because Chinese authorities have accused the five (and the ten others) of membership in an Islamic Uighur brotherhood clamoring for Xinjiang’s independence. The Chinese had asked the U.S. to extradite the Uighurs, a request the U.S. did not heed, at the same time turning down the request for asylum. Cunningly this let the U.S. off the hook and the Chinese to pursue the wanted Uighurs elsewhere.

(The massive influx of government-sponsored Chinese settlers has turned the Uighurs, the natives of Xinjiang, into a minority group in their own country. Now and then radical Uighurs blow up Chinese buses, or, as happened in 1990, hang Chinese officials from lampposts. The Chinese government has employed ever harsher methods to stifle the simmering Uighur rebellion, one reason why Peking has thrown its support behind the fight against Al Queda and Islamic radicals.)
Although the U.S. did not heed the Chinese extradition request it allowed Chinese officials to interrogate the ‘Uighur terrorists’ at Guatanamo Bay. During these questioning sessions the Uighurs allege the Chinese were allowed to use similar interrogation methods as those used by the Americans at Abu Ghrab, methods which the Chinese government had indignantly renounced as ‘inhuman,’ one more example, if needed, of the hypocrisy of governments.

In fact countries like Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Turkey (among twenty nations approached) rejected the Uighur’s asylum requests. All of these nations, like the rest of the world, are deep in debt to Chinese productivity flooding their markets or have vulnerable joint ventures in China. No one was willing to jeopardize China’s goodwill and its commercial clout for the sake of a few Uighurs from the central Asian steppes.

But then, low and behold, the Uighurs were granted ‘temporary’ asylum by an impoverished Albania whose fourth largest trading partner just happens to be Peking. Of course no one was surprised when China immediately demanded the Albanians hand over the ‘Xinjiang terrorists.’ Nor was anyone surprised by the reply of the Albanian president, Sali Berisha, who said his country was anxious to receive evidence from China implicating the five men as terrorists.
As China’s legal record has amply demonstrated in the past obtaining evidence suitable for conviction has never been a problem for Chinese authorities.
One can only deduce that the dramatic odyssey through international prisons and detention centers is not yet over for the unlucky Uighurs.
Ends.