MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Two former Guantanamo Bay detainees are planning to tie the knot with women from their adopted home of Uruguay.
Imam Samir Selim told The Associated Press on Thursday that he would officiate at the ceremony for both men June 6 at the Egyptian Islamic Center in Montevideo.
“This is great. It’s beautiful,” Selim said during a phone interview. “These men want to make their lives here in Uruguay. They want to work and live like other men, and that means getting married.”
Selim said Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi of Tunisia and Omar Abdelhadi Faraj of Syria are marrying Uruguayan women who have converted to Islam. He said the men met the women at the center, but declined to provide more details.
Calls to El Ouerghi and Faraj were not answered.
Mauricio Pigola, a lawyer who represents the men in Uruguay, said the two had requested marriage licenses. He said that as refugees, their permanent residence status permits them to marry like any other Uruguayan.
The men are part of a group of six former detainees — four Syrians, one Tunisian and one Palestinian — who were resettled in Uruguay in December, invited by then President Jose Mujica as a humanitarian gesture. All were detained in Afghanistan in 2002 for alleged ties to al-Qaida.
By their own admission, they have struggled to adapt in this small, poor South American nation of 3.3 million people. They have frequently complained that the Uruguayan government hasn’t helped them enough financially.
Four of them, including the husbands-to-be, recently ended a nearly monthlong protest in front of the U.S. Embassy to demand that America compensate them for nearly 13 years in Guantanamo.
Problems aside, since their arrival, several of the men have spoken about their hopes of starting families. In February, El Ouerghi, 50, told the AP that he had been married to a Pakistani woman when he was detained by American forces in Afghanistan in 2002. During his time in Guantanamo, she divorced him, he said.
Faraj, 34, also expressed a desire to wed and have children, saying the demands for more financial help were in large part to make having a family possible.
Associated Press writer Leonardo Haberkorn reported this story in Montevideo and Peter Prengaman reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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