Watch the birdies: The four Uyghurs take a break from tending a bunker at Port Royal, where they are groundskeepers. *Photo by James Whittaker
Watch the birdies: The four Uyghurs take a break from tending a bunker at Port Royal, where they are groundskeepers. *Photo by James Whittaker
Bermuda's ­Guantanamo refugees are quickly getting to grips with three staples of island life - prayer, work and football.

They have a new home in Paget, become active ­members of the Mosque, got jobs as groundskeepers at Port Royal golf course and signed up for First ­Division soccer team

X-Roads Warriors.

Before coming here, the Uyghurs - who spent seven years in the notorious ­terror jail in Cuba - had never seen a golf course.

Their only experience of the sport was playing on a Wii games console at the low-security Iguana Camp in Gitmo, where they were transferred after being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Now they are raking the bunkers and tending the grounds at Port Royal, which will welcome the world's best players at next month's PGA Grand Slam.

From behind the wheel of his maintenance truck, dark shades protecting him from the afternoon sun, Khalil Mamut struggled to find the words to describe his new life.

"It's beautiful," he said. "It feels like we are working in a garden.


"Everywhere is so green, everywhere there are trees. We even have some ducks."

There is one golf course in Xinjiang, the mountainous region of North West China where the were born.

Mr. Mamut has seen golf on television and has heard of Tiger Woods but this is the extent of his expertise.

He said: "We are learning what we have to do. Maybe one day we will learn to play but right now we are still learning the work."

Salahidin Abdulahad was the best player on the Wii and hopes to master the real game. "I think I could be a good player," he joked.

The Uyghurs work as a four-man maintenance crew from 7.30am until 3.30pm, Monday to Friday.

"We know there is a big tournament soon and if we have to work more for that it is no problem," said Mr. Mamut, who ran a candy-making business in China.

"For now, for us, this is a very good job. Every day at work the players recognise us and say hello and tell us you are welcome here."

The Uyghurs, once teachers, bakers and ­merchants, were offered work in a warehouse or on the golf course. They took the latter on their lawyer's advice.

They are settling quickly into Bermudian culture.

Mr. Mamut and ­Abdullah Abdulqadir train three times a week with X-Roads Warriors, who they hope to represent in the First Division next season.


Mr. Mamut said: "I am a central attacker. He plays defence or in goal.

"Right now we are training but in October we will play in the competition."

They were ­recruited by X-Roads ­manager Saleem ­Talbot, a local imam.

Ablikim Turahan, who taught boxing in Xinjiang, says he and Mr Abdulahat prefer fishing to soccer.

They also spend their spare time studying English from a textbook.

The four men were ­granted asylum in Bermuda in June this year.

They spent seven years in Guantanamo Bay after ­being captured in Afghan-istan by bounty hunters and sold to U.S. forces.

They were cleared of any wrongdoing by the U.S. but no country was willing to take them in and risk ­upsetting China, which considers them ­terrorists due to their pro-independence views.