Thursday, May 09, 2019

Dame Fortune's Unfortunate

"I live with that [the memory of a four-year stay at Guantanamo Bay] every day, that stain of having been a detainee at Guantanamo Bay."
"Coming out of Guantanamo, I went into another kind of prison. Everywhere I go, I don't have the documentation, I don't have the freedom to move around and once people hear about my background, they stay away ... After they hear about my past, they just disappear."
"If they knew me, they would know I'm innocent, that I'm a non-violent person, that I'm against any kind of violence and bloodshed."
"I'm the kind of person who cares not just about human rights but cares for all living things. Who feels hurt when other living things hurt."
Ayub Mohammed, 36, ethnic Chinese-Uyghur, Tirana, Albania
Ayub Mohammed, with his daughter Azia in Albania, has applied to emigrate to Canada to be with his wife and children, the U.S. having cleared him of terrorism accusations more than a decade ago when they freed him from Guantanamo Bay. But Canadian authorities allege he was a member of a terrorist group and is inadmissible. Handout

Well then, we have it on the best authority, none other than the individual in question himself, that he is a peace-loving, reliable and respectful individual whom the world has done wrong. One among a veritable uncountable multitude of individuals for whom life has been harsh and wayward. He has had bad experiences in life and good experiences to counterbalance the misfortune. Granted, four years at Guantanamo Bay detention centre cannot have resembled a picnic.

But he met a Canadian Uyghur woman on line and ended up marrying her when she travelled with her father to Albania to meet him in person and become his wife. He has lived in Albania since 2006, and while living there earned a business degree from the New York University of Tirana, his tuition covered by a kindly benefactor. His wife, however, lives in Toronto with her extended family, among others who arrived in Canada as refugees and immigrants.

The couple now have three children, three little Canadian citizens. And reasonably enough, Mr. Mohammed would like to live with them. In Canada. Unfortunately immigration officials have denied him the status for permanent residency that he sought when a visa officer reached the conclusion that Mr. Mohammed was inadmissible to Canada, being a member of a terrorist organization.

A ray of light; the Federal Court of Canada to which he appealed has ordered a new hearing even while federal lawyers argue that a negative decision on the immigration request would be "inevitable". He is not alone in his search for status in Canada. Another two Uyghur men also held at Guantanamo and now living in Bermuda who happened also to marry Uyghur-Canadian refugees have also applied to join their wives in Canada.

"With absolute certainty, Ayub is not and never was a member of a terrorist organization. I am shocked and appalled that Canada would deny someone like Ayub refuge on the basis that he was a terrorist", stated Wells Dixon, an attorney with the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights. The former Guantanamo inmates fled their homes in China, they said because of persecution. But were captured in next-door Pakistan during the war on terror.

They and 19 others were taken in 2001 in Pakistan where they had arrived from Afghanistan, as suspected terrorists and they were sent by U.S. forces to Guantanamo where the harsh conditions did nothing to further their cause of finding a new life for themselves outside China away from constant persecution. Eventually Mohammed and three others were flown by military plane to Albania, one of few countries agreeing to take Uyghur ex-detainees.

And there they remained, stranded, unable to obtain travel documents. At one time, then-18-year-old Mohammed was accused by Americans of training at a camp operated by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), identified as a terrorist group, whose focus is on the control of Uyghur-majority Xinjiang by China. And this is the terrorist group that Mohammed has been identified with by Canadian immigration.

Oddly enough, while U.S. lawyers and even a senior State department official, have been supportive of the Uyghur men's application for immigrant status in Canada, both the Bush and Obama administrations refused to allow the men to immigrate to the United States. Washsington lobbied various countries, including Canada, to accept Mohammed and the others.

"It is something that I worked on directly and found extremely frustrating. It was the morally courageous countries that have now stepped forward", noted Randall Schriver, assistant under-secretary of state in the Bush administration.

Ayub Mohammed’s daughter Azia and son Hamzah in Canada. Handout

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