Months of no communication, nights in vigilance, psychological torture, and insults were part of the terrible experience that Abu Bakker Qassim, a Chinese Muslim of Uyghur ethnicity lived during the four years that he was in the controversial American jail of Guantanamo until he was declared innocent and was able to take refuge in Albania.
Bakker Qassim, thirty-nine years old, arrived in Albania in May of 2006 with four other countrymen who were also imprisoned in Guantanamo for years. The time in this detention center has marked his life forever.
Today, he is not able to return to his home in Xinjiang where his wife and three children wait, two of which are seven year old twins whom he has never seen and with whom the Chinese government denies the possibility of reuniting him with in Albania.
Events began in mid-2001 when Bakker Qassim decided to abandon the Chinese province of Xinjiang, inhabited by some eight million Uyghurs, a Turkish ethnic minority of the Muslim religion, in search of a better life and to escape the repression of the Chinese government.
Awaiting a visa to Iran, he took shelter in a Uyghur village in Afghanistan until October 2001 when the American military began to bomb the Taliban, accused of having collaborated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
To save his life, Abu Bakker fled to Pakistan where he was captured by some Shiite peasants who turned him over to the American military, which paid $5,000 for each supposed Muslim terrorist.
From the Kandahar detention center in Afghanistan, the Uyghur was sent to Guantanamo in June of 2002 where he became prisoner number 283. “I had a good image of the United States as a country that carried democracy to the entire world. But there was no democracy there. Many people were innocent, like myself," tells Abu Bakker.
This ex-prisoner related that during the ten months, he lived inside an iron jail, of less than four square meters, which only had a bed, a toilet, and a washbasin. Additionally, during the first four months, he was not able to speak with anyone because he did not understand Arabic or Afghani, the languages of the other prisoners.
The only liberty that he enjoyed daily was to read the Koran, walk with his hands and feet bound for ten minutes in a bigger cage and enjoy five minutes of a fresh water shower. “They did not torture me or the other Uyghurs physically, but there was psychological pressure," he assured.
“We would spend entire nights without closing an eye because the soldiers would clean the precincts and purposely make noise. Others insulted us on purpose while we prayed," he remembers.
He also reports that although he was declared innocent by a military tribunal in 2004, he had to remain another year in the (military) camp until Albania agreed to receive five of the twenty-two Uyghurs from Guantanamo.
This is why Barack Obama’s decision to close the detention center was very well received by this Chinese Muslim of Uyghur ethnicity, sheltered now in Albania, who assured that “the sooner they close Guantanamo, the better."
“Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo is just. For eight years Bush permitted this jail to function and committed a grave error, which Obama should fix now," he assured.
Today there are two hundred and fifty prisoners in the Guantanamo Naval Base divided in nine camps with different levels of security. Since its opening in 2002, the jail has housed more than seven hundred detainees. In these seven years, the military authorities have only presented formal charges against twenty one prisoners; only three were condemned.