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Life After Guantanamo: Why the Media's Happy-Ending Narrative Is Totally Bankrupt

The transfer of four Uighur prisoners to Bermuda has been treated like a happy human-interest story, but the truth is far darker.

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"Ablikim Turahun, one of the freed Uighurs, endured such an interrogation. He said that after six hours, he was sent back to his room to eat, but before the meal came, he was taken back to the Chinese for another six hours. He was then sent back to his room and given a meal. Just as he was falling asleep, he was brought back again for a third straight six-hour session in extremely cold temperatures."

"When the Chinese delegation came, we didn't really want to meet with them and answer their questions. They brought us out anyway. They made threats, turned down the temperature in the room, made the room very cold."

The interrogation of the Uighurs by Chinese officials has been an open (if underreported) secret for years. In 2008, a report was released by  Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine that confirmed that, according to a footnote on Page 183:

While the Uighurs were detained at Camp X-Ray, some Chinese officials visited GTMO and were granted access to these detainees for interrogation purposes. The agent stated that he understood that the treatment of the Uighur detainees was either carried out by the Chinese interrogators or was carried out by U.S. military personnel at the behest of the Chinese interrogators.

Susan Manning, an attorney representing a number of Uighur prisoners, told ABC News that the report proved U.S. personnel "are engaging in abusive tactics on behalf of the Chinese."

"Why are we doing China's dirty work?" Manning said. "Surely we're better than that."

The plight of the Uighurs has become an issue on Capitol Hill. This week, Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., along with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., held a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight Subcommittee on the persecution of the Uighurs by the Chinese government. According to a staffer in Delahunt's office, more hearings are on the way, including on the question of why the Chinese government was allowed to visit the Uighurs at Guantanamo at a time when nobody but the Red Cross had ever been allowed in.

Life After Gitmo

News of the Uighurs' release to Bermuda arrived at the same time that it was revealed that the Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to take in the remaining Uighurs -- 17 total -- at Guantanamo. As the Obama administration continues its negotiations with other countries trying to get them to take in the rest of the prisoners who have been cleared for release, major questions remain about what will await them when they arrive.

In 2007, the New York Times painted a grim portrait of the life of five Uighur prisoners who were resettled in Albania, only to arrive to a "squalid government refugee center on the grubby outskirts of Tirana, guarded by armed policemen."

The men have been told that they will need to get work to move out of the center, they said, but that they must learn the Albanian language to get work permits. For now, they subsist on free meals heavy with macaroni and rice and monthly stipends of about $67, which they spend mostly on brief telephone calls to their families. But some of the men have already lost hope of ever seeing their wives and children again.

"We suffered very much at Guantánamo, but we continue to suffer here," Ahktar Qassim Basit said. "The other prisoners had their countries, but we are like orphans: We have no place to go."

If the Uighurs in Bermuda harbor no ill will toward the country that imprisoned them all these years, the difficulty of adjusting to a new life in a place so foreign and distant from their homeland might change down the line.