Freed from Guantanamo, Uighur makes pizzas in Tirana

Published: January 10, 2012
Abu Bakker, a Chinese Muslim freed from Guantanamo and granted asylum in Albania, has no hopes of returning to China. PHOTO: AFP

Abu Bakker, a Chinese Muslim freed from Guantanamo and granted asylum in Albania, has no hopes of returning to China. PHOTO: AFP

TIRANA: Abu Bakker Qassim, a Chinese Muslim freed from Guantanamo and granted asylum in Albania, now makes pizzas in Tirana as he looks forward to being a father again, but with no hope of returning to China.

“I started a new life in Albania, I cannot return to China and the Chinese authorities will not allow my family to leave the country and come to Albania,” Qassim said.

He works in a small pizzeria across the street from a technical school, something very different from the job in a leather factory that he held in China.

Every afternoon he comes in at 4:00 pm and works until closing time.

“I had to learn how to make pizzas in Tirana, which was not easy because it’s not exactly a speciality of my country,” he told AFP, flashing a smile.

Although Albania pays his rent and an additional 300 euros ($382) a month allowance, Qassim said he had to work to earn enough money to support his family.

“The competition is fierce and I try to make my own recipes with ingredients that will please my clients who are mostly young students,” he said.

Qassim, 43, is one of five Chinese ethnic Uighurs resettled in Albania after being released from the US detention camp in Cuba in 2006.

He was among several Uighurs captured in Afghanistan when the United States launched its “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

He says he went to Afghanistan to escape the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang province by Chinese authorities.

China accuses him of having links with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) fighting to re-establish the independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang since the province became an autonomous region in 1955.

Qassim spent four and a half years in Guantanamo but was finally declared innocent by a US federal court and sent to Albania.

“(US President Barack) Obama understood that Guantanamo was a huge mistake which should be corrected but China still considers us terrorists,” Qassim said.

The United States had asked several countries to take in the Uighurs but only Albania accepted in the face of  from China.

“For years I hoped in vain that either the United States or the United Nations or Albania would help me join my (first) wife and three children whom I’ve not seen for 12 years,” Qassim said, speaking in Albanian.

After much agonising he remarried but keeps in regular contact with his first wife and children in China through the Internet.

“I decided to remarry. My wife is pregnant and in two weeks we will have a baby girl.”

His second wife is also Uighur. She was living with her family in another European country, that Qassim will not name for security reasons, and has since obtained political asylum in Albania.

“We will call the baby Zejnep (desert flower) she will be the crowning jewel in this new life in Albania,” Qassim said.

Faced with the same problems as Qassim, two of his four fellow Uighur ex-Guantanamo detainees have brought Uighur women to Tirana to remarry.

A third is hoping to find an Albanian wife while the fourth has asked for political asylum in Sweden.

“In Guantanamo we kept our beards, because it was part of our customs but in Tirana I shaved it off because there are still people … who think that there is a terrorist lurking behind every beard,” Qassim said.

“I was declared innocent. I was never a member of a terrorist group .. My greatest desire is the independence of my province and to return to my country when it will be independent from China,” he insisted.

His time in Guantanamo has left deep scars. He still has nightmares and hears the screams of fellow prisoners.

“In Guantanamo the law did not exist and people were only numbers … I should not complain about my new life in Albania,” he said.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Jan 10, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Why is europe sending islam terriost onto albanian land ? ALL tell you why because these men that are set free will preach to the people of albanian then europe will have somthing to attack albania after so they can get the oil in albania this my friend is the truth its not like albanian volunter to take these people in it dont make sense


  • Khan Bhai
    Jan 10, 2012 - 11:53PM

    @PATRIOT ALBANIAN: Are you blind? He was innocent and wrongly convicted!

    USA should have taken him in after ruining his life.


  • Jan 11, 2012 - 12:41AM

    Yes usa should take them in why dump the garbage on albanian land then when some albanian gets some crazy idea about killing usa soilder or usa people then who do you blame us why because you drop people that usa said where terriost on albanian land wake up usa who do you think bomb the towers nwo free masons roschild jews run usa not the usa people wake up


  • You Said It
    Jan 11, 2012 - 9:02AM

    Yes usa should take them in why dump the garbage on albanian land

    I can’t believe you are calling a fellow muslim as “garbage” – so much for all the empty talk about muslim brotherhood and the ummah.


  • shazada zahid mahmoud loan
    Jan 12, 2012 - 9:45AM

    Patriot Albanian you need to understand that Albania is a Muslim country and no one is going to attack it. The Muslims everywhere are peaceful and the Western worl and the Jews need to recognise that. The so called Uighar terrorist was innocent and fled to Afghanistan for his own saftery and was unfortunately catch in the prevailing situation. When the Albainans were persecuted by that Jew Hodja they were given refuge in many of the muslim lands.Recommend

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