Uyghurs are being deported from Muslim countries, raising concerns about China's growing reach
June 8, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 25.1%. 3 min read.
After reports of Uyghur disappearances in some major Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, some of China's ethnic Muslims fear they are no longer safe in parts of the Islamic world.
Istanbul, Turkey (CNN)Amannisa Abdullah and her husband Ahmad Talip were on their way to shop for baby clothes in Dubai, when the message that changed both their lives came through.
He told her he was convinced that the long reach of China had reached his Uyghur family in the United Arab Emirates.
Amannisa's testimony is one of more than a dozen accounts collected by CNN, detailing the alleged detention and deportation of Uyghurs at China's request in three major Arab countries: Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
In Egypt, rights groups have documented hundreds of detentions -- and at least 20 deportations -- of Uyghurs In 2017, the majority of them students at the prestigious Islamic university of Al-Azhar.
In Saudi Arabia between 2018 and 2020, at least one Uyghur Muslim was allegedly detained and deported after performing the Umrah pilgrimage in Islam's holiest cities.
Reports of Uyghur disappearances have unnerved the largely Muslim global diaspora from China's Xinjiang region.
The families of the deported fear their loved ones have ended up among the estimated two million Uyghurs who have been sent to internment camps in Xinjiang in recent years.
As Beijing's global influence expands, rights activists fear that even as Western nations take China to task over its treatment of Uyghurs, countries in the Middle East and beyond will increasingly be willing to acquiesce to its crackdown on members of the ethnic group at home and abroad.
A Human Rights Watch report released in April said China had tracked down hundreds of Uyghurs across the globe, forcing them to return and face persecution.
For some Uyghurs, the extraditions from Muslim countries will be especially galling, shattering notions of Islamic solidarity and deepening feelings of isolation on a world stage where China's power has grown rapidly.
Xinjiang is among China's most ethnically diverse regions, home to a variety of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups; the Uyghurs, who have their own distinct culture and language, are the largest of these.
Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur activist based in Oslo, says he has documented and confirmed at least 28 Uyghur deportations from three Muslim-majority countries between 2017 and 2019: 21 from Egypt, five from Saudi Arabia, and two, including Ahmad, from the UAE, according to Ayup.
In a 2019 open letter, more than a dozen Muslim-majority countries — including the UAE, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — publicly endorsed China's policies in Xinjiang.
For Maya Wang, Senior China Researcher at Human Rights Watch, the alleged treatment of Uyghurs by the autocratic governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt is not surprising -- despite those countries being signatories to the UN's Convention Against Torture.
China and Egypt have never officially acknowledged the alleged deportations, which occurred less than a year after the two countries signed a security cooperation agreement -- and less than three weeks after the Egyptian Interior Ministry and China's Ministry of Public Security signed a "technical cooperation document. "
Earlier that year, China had demanded that all Uyghur students studying abroad return home, according to Human Rights Watch.
Hands trembling, she holds up a placard with a message to Saudi Arabia: "Don't deport my father to China, send him to Turkey where he is a resident. "
In October, he told family members he suspected he was being trailed by "Chinese agents. " A month later, Hamdullah and his Uyghur roommate were detained by Saudi authorities.
If they don't want Uyghurs to come to perform pilgrimage just say: 'We do not want you here,'" activist Ayub told CNN.
It was only after her father's detention that Nuriman found out other Uyghurs had been arrested in Saudi Arabia and forcibly returned to China.
But in recent years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who once championed Uyghur rights — has toned down his criticism of China's Xinjiang policy, in an apparent bid to boost relations with Beijing.
"It is not right to interpret this as Turkey will hand over Uyghur Turks to China," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last December, adding that Beijing had made requests in the past, but that Turkey had not complied.
"We have not directly, or through third countries, deported any Uyghur Turks to China and Turkey does not and will not ever have such a policy," the directorate said in a written statement.