Abdulla Abdulqadir
Abdulla Abdulqadir
The four freed Guantanamo Bay prisoners said today they hope to stay in Bermuda forever and lead 'peaceful, prosperous and beautiful lives'.
The quartet - facing the media at their Hamilton Parish guest house - insisted they were not and had never been members of any political or terrorist group.
They said they had never even heard of Al Qaeda and knew nothing of the September 11 attacks on New York until they were captured by the Americans.
And they urged the people of Bermuda to 'get to know us', promising that they were peaceful, hard working people who just wanted to lead normal lives after almost eight years of wrongful imprisonment.
Speaking through an interppreter they said they were looking forward to getting to work - most likely as manual labourers, groundskeepers or in construction - and dream of one day running their own restaurant.
Describing Bermuda as the most beautiful place he had ever seen, Abdulla Abdulqadir said: "This place was the one and only country to open their arms to us and give us the opportunity to be free.
"This country showed the courage to accept us and we never want to leave. We want to stay here and live peaceful, prosperous lives."


Three of the four outside their guest house. *Photo by James Whittaker

Another of the four, Khalil Manut added that they wanted to become part of the community and ultimately raise families here.
"I am not a terrorist, I never have been a terrorist and I never will be a terrorist. I want to live in peace," he added.
Mr Abdulqadir - the most talkative of the four - said he understood why people might be concerned about their arrival but insisted that once the Bermudian people got to know them they would see that they were friendly, peaceful people.
"We have experienced a lot of ups and downs but we always knew the truth about ourselves. People don't know us - we have to prove that we are peaceful people "We want to do this every day. From now through to our future we want to talk to people, let them get to know us and see who we are."
He also confirmed a rumour that the four men hoped, one day, to open their own restaurant in Bermuda.
"If we had the opportunity to open a Uighur restaurant, we would. Uighur food is delicious and we would like to share it with the generous, friendly people of Bermuda."
He said they were extremely grateful to the Government of Bermuda and felt bad that their arrival had caused political represcussions.
The view from their guest house - a cluster of salmon coloured cottages overlooking the North Shore - is strangely similar to the views of the Caribbean sea they were afforded from the low-security Camp Iguana, where they spent their last few years at Guantanamo.
"The view (of the sea) is the same but the feeling is totally different because there we were not free to go by it and to touch it," he added.
The quartet, who arrived in secrecy early Thursday morning, have been given only a brief tour of the island but say they are keen to get out on the water fishing and boating and start to enjoy their freedom.
They said they had no hard feelings towards the US and simply wanted to forget about their time in Guantanamo and move on with their lives.
Mr Abdulqadir added: "We are extremely pleased to be here, we are very happy, our feelings are incredible.
"We had heard the name of this place Bermuda before but other than that we didn't have any information. "When we came here we were very pleasantly surprised - everything we have seen has been wonderful."
The quartet also insist that they were never part of any political or revolutionary group in China, denying rumours that they were members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement - an extremist group agitating for independence for the Xinjiang region in the north west of the country.
Describing life in communist China as 'worse than Guantanamo', Salahidin Abdulahad said they had fled religious persecution to live in a small village of abandoned buildings in neighbouring Afghanistan.
He admitted that there were a few guns in the village for security but said they had received no military training and emphasized that seven years of interrogation in Guantanamo had proved them to be innocent men.
"If you could see this place for yourself you would see it is not any type of training camp."
He blamed pressure applied by the Chinese Government, which considers them terrorists, for the fact that they had not been released sooner.
"It is very interesting that the Communist dictatorship government in China labels us terrorists because we are the people who faced suppression, we are actually the victims of the Government - we only try to get away from that suppression and they turn around and call us terrorists.
"(In China) there is no respect for human rights or dignity, basic human rights are being abused there - there is no religious freedom therefore we left from there - you judge yourself if what they are calling us is fair or not."


Abdulla Abdulqadir talks to reporters on Saturday. *Photo by James Whittaker