The countdown to Bush’s exit is on — and it has special meaning to a group of 17 Uyghur men who have been incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay detention facilities since 2001 –despite having been cleared of enemy combatant status as as early as 2003. If soon to be-President Obama closes Guantánamo, the Uyghurs will finally be released — but the question then is, where will they go?
The Uyghurs are Turkic Muslims from the far West of China, but the US refuses to return them to China for fear of the abuse and execution they would face there. China and the Uyghurs are locked in a long-standing low-level conflict, like that of China and the Tibetans.
But even though it doesn’t want to give China the Uyghur detainees, the Bush administration won’t admit them to the US, and it hasn’t been able to persuade European, Canadian, or Australian governments to resettle them either. If the Guantánamo system is finally closed in the coming weeks, the question of ‘what next’ for the detainees may prove just as Kafkaesque as their past seven years.
Ahmad Seyar Zia is, as he has proclaimed himself to be, the King of Love. He is a young Afghan man, studying abroad in India now. Born in Kabul, raised in different places around Afghanistan and Pakistan, he has developed his own life philosophies that, he finds, hold him apart from most other young people around him.
In today’s interview, Ahmad talks about growing up in the tumultuous past decades of Aghanistan, of the religious and philosophical system he’s developed, of taking up Tae Kwan Do after his brother lost his leg in a mine explosion, and why he’s intent on returning to his country.
Ian Knox is one of Northern Ireland’s premier political cartoonists. After studying for a career in architecture, he made his way into the world of cartooning and now contributes to a whole array of outlets – including The Irish News, Hearts & Minds, Sky News, and The Guardian. He talks about why he likes to annoy people, how he knows if his cartoons succeed in their attempts to shove his opinions down the audience’s throats, which politicians he most likes to draw, and how he survives his daily threat of a heart attack.
Michael Mahadeo has lived in Northern Ireland since the mid 1980s, when he moved here from British Guyana. He speaks about growing up in Guyana during its decolonization, and about the most notorious part of the country’s recent history — the Jonestown massacre, in which hundreds of American citizens killed themselves on a compound in rural Guyana. Michael also discusses being an ethnic minority in Northern Ireland, adjusting to the Troubles, and whether it’s ever possible to become a local here.
Back briefly in Belfast, Michael Semple speaks about his experiences in Afghanistan, including those which recently put him in the headlines. Semple was expelled from the country on Christmas last year, after the Afghan President alleged that he engaged in unauthorized activity in the country. He works for the EU’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, focusing on reconciliation and democratization processes in the country. Semple speaks about his past decades of work in Afghanistan, the expulsion, and the notoriety that came with it.