Uighurs Freed from Guantánamo Are Still Deprived of Fundamental Rights As They Seek to Be Reunited With Wives and Children in Canada

Former Guantánamo prisoner Ayub Mohammed with his youngest child in Albania. He is seeking to be reunited with his wife and children in Canada, where they live.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.


Please sign and share a Change.org petition to the Canadian government calling for Ayub Mohammed, Salahidin Abdulahad and Khalil Mamut to be granted permanent residence status so that they can be reunited with their families.

In the long and shameful history of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, where most of the 779 men held by the US military during the last eighteen and a half years were never charged or put on trial (as remains the case for the majority of the 40 men still held), the prevailing lawlessness and abuse do not necessarily end with a prisoner’s release.

Of the 729 men — and boys — released from Guantánamo since it opened (532 under George W. Bush, 196 under Barack Obama, and just one under Donald Trump), most have been sent back to their home countries, where, fundamentally, they have no protection from their home governments if, for example, their countries’ leaders decide that they should be imprisoned, or have their lives disrupted in any way, either sporadically, or even on a permanent basis.

For around 130 of these former prisoners, however, new homes had to be found for them in third countries — in most cases, because the US government accepted that it was unsafe for them to be returned to their home countries. In the cases of the majority of the Yemenis freed, for example, the US government regarded it as unsafe to repatriate them because of the security situation in Yemen, while in other cases — Syria, for example — the US accepted that the government could not be trusted to treat them humanely. This was also the case for 22 Uighurs — Turkic-speaking Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province — whose lives were in danger from the Chinese government.

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The Taint of Guantánamo: Uighurs in Albania and Bermuda Seek Permission to Join Their Families in Canada

Former Guantánamo prisoner Salahadin Abdulahad, a Uighur (one of 22 Uighurs mistakenly held at the prison), with his three children in Bermuda, where he was resettled after being freed from Guantánamo in 2009. His wife and children are Canadian citizens, and he is seeking permission to join them in Canada. Two other Uighurs are also seeking to join their families in Canada.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.


I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Two months ago, in an article about how former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi was being prevented from having a passport, two and a half years after he was freed from Guantánamo, despite being promised that it would be returned after two years, I wrote about the scandal of how everyone released from the prison “will continue to be branded as ‘enemy combatants’ for the rest of their lives — unless, eventually, concerted action is taken by those who respect the law to hold the US to account.” As I also put it, “The status of the ‘un-people’ of Guantánamo is a peculiarly aberrant post-9/11 creation, and one that cannot be allowed to stand forever.”

I also explained that, although it is reasonable to assume that all kinds of deals were made between the US government and the prisoners’ home governments, details of these deals have never been made public — and even if they were, of course, we shouldn’t forget that whatever deals were arranged have absolutely no basis in international law.

I had reason to think yet again about this enduring injustice just last week, when the National Post, in Canada, published an article by reporter Tom Blackwell looking at the case of former Guantánamo prisoner Ayub Mohammed, a Uighur, part of an oppressed Turkic minority from north western China, also known as the Uyghurs.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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