MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi looked out his apartment window Friday and smiled as he showed off his wedding ring to a handful of cheering onlookers below.
The 50-year-old Tunisian married Roma Blanco, a 24-year-old Uruguayan who converted to Islam. The union was the first of two weddings being organized by men resettled in the South American country.
“Adel is humble, respectful, nice and very gentlemanly,” Blanco said. “He is everything that a woman can expect from a man.”
Blanco added that she liked her husband’s sincerity, and how he treated her 5-year-old son from a previous relationship.
She said she converted to Islam four months ago and planned to take the name Samira. She and El Ouerghi met a month ago at a mosque.
From the balcony, Blanco could be seen wearing a light purple scarf and a violet jacket with gold-colored lacing. She also had henna designs on her hands, customary for Muslim women for the marriage ceremony.
The wedding took place in the two-bedroom apartment where the couple plans to live. Samir Selim, an imam and director of the Egyptian Islamic Center in Montevideo, officiated at the ceremony.
In a phone interview before the ceremony, Blanco said the couple would take out a wedding license next week.
Having a license is required in Uruguay for a union to be recognized. Also, according to the law, a priest or other person officiating can be fined or even jailed for overseeing a ceremony if a license hasn’t been obtained.
The two men and four other former detainees were resettled in Uruguay in December after spending nearly 13 years in Guantanamo. All were detained in Afghanistan in 2002 with alleged ties to al-Qaida. They were invited to resettle in Uruguay as a humanitarian gesture by former President Jose Mujica, himself a prisoner for 13 years.
Irina Posadas, another Uruguayan woman who converted to Islam, told the AP that she and 34-year-old husband-to-be Omar Abdelhadi Faraj, from Syria, planned to wed on Saturday. She said they also had yet to obtain a license, and planned to get it next week.
“I believe in Islam and I’m going to marry (by the rules of) Islam,” she said.
Posadas, who began presenting herself as Fatima after converting to Islam a year and a half ago, said she met Faraj in February. Posadas, a Chinese teacher who declined to give her age, would go to the house where the men were living to help them with Spanish.
The native Uruguayan said she lived in Taiwan 26 years, and has a child from a previous relationship.
“Omar is very intelligent and a good communicator,” she said. “I don’t want him to be seen as a former prisoner, but rather a regular person.”
By their own admission, the men have struggled to adjust in Uruguay, a nation of 3.3 million people. They have frequently complained that their adopted home hasn’t done enough to help.
Meanwhile, they have drawn the ire of many locals because they have refused jobs offered to them. The men have said they do want to work, but first must address health issues, like anxiety and digestive problems, from their time in Guantanamo.
Four of them recently staged a nearly monthlong protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo to demand that the American government compensate them for their years in prison.
Problems aside, Faraj and El Ouerghi have frequently expressed a desire to wed and start families in Uruguay.
El Ouerghi, who has declined to talk about his wedding, told the AP in February thathe had been married to a Pakistani woman while living in Afghanistan. He said she divorced him when he was in Guantanamo.
Roma said she was not interested in El Ouerghi’s past, before Guantanamo or during his time there.
“I know that he was tortured, but I haven’t wanted to dig in his wounds,” she said. “I’ve told him that when he wants to, he can tell me about, and he has said he would.”
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