East Turkestan: First Anniversary of Rebiya Kadeer's Release
On March 17 of last year, the Rafto House in Bergen was filled with joy as the news of Kadeer's release reached us. We had made t-shirts saying: «Free Kadeer», and now, with an immense triumph, we could order new t-shirts saying «She is free! ». The «Mother of all Uyghurs» left China and was reunited with the husband and children that she had not seen for six years.
Prison has not weakened Kadeer's spirit. She is determined to speak up for her people. The Chinese gave her a clear warning upon the release: if she in any way was associated with Uyghurs in exile, her children in Xinjiang would be «finished». This has not stopped her from travelling world-wide to raise awareness of the 8 million Uyghurs, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority in the North-West of China. She visited Bergen in mid-October last year, and we experienced three fantastic days! She left us with an ever-lasting impression; the little lady with the strong voice.
In mid January 2006, Kadeer was injured in a mysterious car-accident. Her car was rammed twice by a utility-truck, and Kadeer received a blow to her head, and broke a bone in her spine. Among Uyghurs there are speculations that this was a strong warning from forces disliking her activities.
But while Kadeer is free, some of her fellow countrymen are still behind bars in Guantanamo, despite the fact that they have been acquitted of terrorist activities by a military tribunal. Even more alarming is the fact that a US district judge has deemed their continued imprisonment unlawful and un-constitutional. But he has admitted that he has no power to release them; such an act can only be taken by US President George W. Bush. US authorities do not want to give the Uyghur-prisoners admittance to US soil, and has tried to persuade other countries to accept them. All the requests have been turned down.
Last week, Norwegian news aired a story about one of the prisoners, Abdel Al Hakim. He had been caught by bounty hunters in Afghanistan in 2001, and turned over to the US Army. He is one of at least five innocent Uyghurs who are languishing behind barbed wire. His sister was interviewed. She is in exile in a country outside the US. She was not informed of his whereabouts before last summer, and thought he was dead! She said that Abdels health was deteriorating, both physically and mentally. She was crying and said that she missed him terribly.
The Rafto Foundation sincerely hopes that by the 2nd anniversary of Kadeer's release, Abdel and his fellow inmates will be free! This is not a question of bilateral responsibility, but a question of humanity.