Tirana, Albania — A devout Muslim man from western China, accused of being a terrorist with the U.S. military allied with the Taliban, was cleared 15 years ago and before being subsequently dumped in Albania. He was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for four years.
A man, Afghanistan Kasim, 51, who is still stuck in a country he didn’t know existed until he was sent there, fled their country over the past month and went to one. Has a warning to the hundreds of Afghans who have followed his path in Europe’s poorest but most welcoming countries as they are waiting to enter the United States.
The “American” and he remembered how he and four other accidentally imprisoned Uighurs were flown from Guantanamo, Cuba to Albania, ensuring that they would not stay long.
Mr. Kasim was given “humanitarian protection” in Albania, who was willing to take him from the points sought by the State Department, despite protests from China. He receives nearly $ 400 a month, but he hasn’t got a visa or passport, which makes it difficult to travel anywhere. The only country that really wants him is China, and he considers him a terrorist because he defends the independence of his hometown of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (which he calls Turkestan).
If he comes back, China will certainly arrest him.
A few days after arriving in Tirana, the capital of Albania in 2006, I first met Mr. Kasim. At that time he was disappointed. China has called on Albania to describe him and his fellow Uighurs from Guantanamo as part of a “terrorist force” with “a close relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”
He was also very confused and wasn’t sure where the Americans sent him. He and his fellow Uighurs were trapped in a remodeled military barracks that had rusty barbed wire in the windows and felt like another prison. Speaking only Chinese with Uighurs, he couldn’t communicate with anyone in the host country and didn’t know what the Albanians were trying to do with him.
His spirit is now quite high. A former Communist dictator and close friend of China during the Mao Zedong era, Albania, now a NATO member and a strong US ally, has refused Beijing’s request to China. Instead, it gave him money to rent an apartment and a monthly meal allowance. He found a job at a pizzeria, made friends at the Tirana Mosque and started a new family.
He now speaks fluent Albanian and forgets much of the Chinese he had to learn to grow up in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The small Balkans that accepted him recently promised to accept up to 4,000 Afghans in need of shelter, “there is a tradition of accepting those in need,” said the country’s foreign minister, Alter Jaka. Said in an interview.
“We are proud of being kind,” she added.
Nearly 700 Afghans have already arrived and are located at beach resorts on the Adriatic coast.
But Kasim is disappointed that so many Afghans are fleeing. The escape was driven by fear of the Taliban and the desire to go to the United States.
Unlike the Uighurs, who were ruled by the increasingly oppressive Chinese government and were mass imprisoned in the vast network of camps in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Mr. Kasim has his own country, no matter how oppressive the Taliban are. , You had better stay at home.
“I don’t know why they left. You had better stay in your own country,” he said. “I know what it is to be put in jail, but even if they go to jail, they will be close to their family.”
Kasim hasn’t seen his family in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region for more than 20 years since he left with a friend in western China in an unfortunate effort to travel by land to Turkey, a language similar to the Turkic language spoken by Uighurs. And where he wanted to find a job. He traveled with a Chinese passport valid for only two years.
He was stranded in Afghanistan during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, without money or paperwork. It was handed over to a person. They regarded him as an “enemy combatant” and sent him to a prison in Guantanamo Bay to join other Muslims involved in President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
After being exonerated by a military court in 2006, Mr. Kasim was bound and led to a military transport plane, flying overnight from Cuba to Tirana. Since then, repeated efforts to obtain US and Canadian visas have failed, and all but one in five Guantanamo are still in Albania. The person who left has moved to Sweden, where he works as a taxi driver.
Kasim said last month that U.S. officials negotiated with the Taliban about access to Kabul’s international airport after a U.S.-backed government collapsed on August 15 and transferred control of the Afghan capital to rebels. He said he laughed when he heard that he was there.
During his detention in Guantanamo, he said, “I kept telling me that the Taliban were terrorists and accused me of working with the Taliban, but now I am working with the Taliban.”
“The world has certainly changed a lot in 20 years,” he said.
One change that comforts him is the evolution of his attitude towards China, he said. When he was first sent to Guantanamo, the Bush administration accepted China’s view that it would be dangerous for Uighurs to demand independence or simply greater autonomy. Was there. In 2002, Washington nominated a group of mostly phantom Uighurs, called the Turkistan Islamic Movement, as al-Qaeda affiliates. The movement masked China’s claim that Uighurs protesting their treatment were terrorists.
Last year, the Trump administration removed the Uighur group from US terrorists, saying there was no evidence that it existed.
“We talked about China’s risks more than 20 years ago and always told everyone,’Beware of China,'” Kasim said. “But they are only now beginning to understand what the Chinese Communist Party has created.”
He last contacted his wife and three children in China in 2016, and the Communist Party appointed a new hardline boss in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which subsequently accommodated more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims. Mass detention program started. “Re-education” camp. He is worried that his relatives, contaminated with China’s position as a dangerous militant, have been victims of what the State Department has described as a “genocide” in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region this year.
The last thing I heard about her 21-year-old daughter in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was that she wasn’t arrested and worked in a store, but was pressured to marry the Han Chinese to prove her loyalty to Beijing. It is said that Avoid detention.
Separated from his family in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Kasim took his second wife in Albania. This is a Uighur woman with three children. He told his first wife that he had remarried over the phone and said, “She was a little angry,” but realized that they were unlikely to meet again because of Chinese policy in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. ..
He is deeply grateful to Albania for not sending him back to China and giving him money, but for giving him a formal asylum or Albanian travel document despite having lived for over 15 years. He said he was dissatisfied with the impasse.
The Albanian Ministry of Interior said Mr Kasim had not applied for a passport. Mr Kasim said his lawyer had asked the ministry to say that the Uighur’s “humanitarian protection” status ruled out the possibility of a passport.
While angry with the United States for his years in Guantanamo and his 15 years in limbo in Albania, he still sees America as the only real hope of the Uighurs.
“If Turkistan becomes independent, it is …