I was locked up and mistreated for being in the wrong place at the wrong time during America’s war in Afghanistan. Like hundreds of Guantánamo detainees, I was never a terrorist or a soldier. I was never even on a battlefield. Pakistani bounty hunters sold me and 17 other Uighurs to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.
It was only the country’s centuries-old commitment to allowing habeas corpus challenges that put that mistake right — or began to. In May, on the eve of a court hearing in my case, the military relented, and I was sent to Albania along with four other Uighurs. But 12 of my Uighur brothers remain in Guantánamo today. Will they be stranded there forever?
Like my fellow Uighurs, I am a great admirer of the American legal and political systems. I have the utmost respect for the United States Congress. So I respectfully ask American lawmakers to protect habeas corpus and let justice prevail. Continuing to permit habeas rights to the detainees in Guantánamo will not set the guilty free. It will prove to the world that American democracy is safe and well.
I am from East Turkestan on the northwest edge of China. Communist China cynically calls my homeland “Xinjiang,” which means “new dominion” or “new frontier.” My people want only to be treated with respect and dignity. But China uses the American war on terrorism as a pretext to punish those who peacefully dissent from its oppressive policies. They brand as “terrorism” all political opposition from the Uighurs.