Her husband was cleared of wrongdoing at Guantanamo Bay. Now, as she fights to bring him to Canada, her health is faltering

Her husband was cleared of wrongdoing at Guantanamo Bay. Now, as she fights to bring him to Canada, her health is faltering
Amid an immigration application to allow her husband to come to Canada from Albania, Aierken was last week admitted to hospital in Montreal. She has thyroid problems and must wait an indeterminate amount of time for the results of a biopsy on her liver.

Until her release Thursday, her two children, ages four and nine, were staying with a friend in lieu of any family in the city. Her medical troubles are not over and the stress of another hospital stint with no firm options to care for her children weighs heavily on her, as does the lack of a regular presence of a father in her children’s lives.

“The kids miss their father,” she told the Star through a translator in a video interview in which she frequently fought back tears. “Their father misses the kids.”

It’s a difficult story — and one that’s unfolding in the lingering shadow of America’s military prison, Guantanamo Bay , where years ago Aierken’s husband was once held.

Originally from China’s far-western Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Aierken moved to Canada with the help of her father more than a decade ago. Shortly after coming to Canada, she met Ayub Mohammed online, a Uighur living in Albania. The two eventually married and started a family.

For the next few years, Aierken lived in both Canada, where she gave birth to her daughter, and Albania, where she gave birth to her son. Both children are Canadian citizens.

In 2014, they decided to move to Canada for good and began the immigration process for Mohammed. Aierken came back for good in 2016, though she has made two short visits to see her husband since then.

But the family hit a snag that year when Mohammed’s application was denied by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, leaving Aierken with the lingering worry her family might never be reunited.

The denial was quashed in federal court and is being reassessed by the government department.

Mohammed’s PR bid was rejected on security concerns labelling him a possible member of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a terrorist organization with the stated aim to establish Xinjiang as a sovereign state.

He said he was kidnapped in Pakistan while there for a short time waiting to continue on to the U.S. shortly after 9/11 and sold to the U.S. military to collect a bounty and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Mohammed was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal and released in 2006 to Albania, because international legal non-refoulement principles prevented his return to China where he faced persecution.

Currently, oppression of the Uighur minority in the country has escalated into internment camps, forced sterilization and forced labour, according to reports from newspapers and research institutions.

“They let him go because he was innocent,” Aierken said of her husband. “If he was guilty, they never would have let him go.”

Aierken nonetheless thinks it was time Mohammed spent in Guantanamo Bay that’s keeping her husband out of Canada.

Mohammed’s case is one of a few in which Uighurs who were held in Guantanamo Bay, and cleared of wrongdoing, are trying to reunite with family in Canada.

Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uighur Rights Advocacy Project, said in three such cases the men are being victimized a second time by not being granted permanent residency. He believes it is due to the spectre of their Guantanamo Bay detentions.
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