July 21, 2017
Photo Courtesy of MEMO
In response to the Chinese government’s call for Uyghurs studying abroad to return to East Turkestan (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), Egyptian security forces are rounding up Uyghur students in an attempt to deport them to China. At least 12 students were deported on Thursday, 6 July 2017, and around 150 have been detained since 4 July 2017, facing immediate deportation. Uyghur students throughout Egypt are afraid to sleep in their own beds out of fear of being arrested in their homes. This fear also plagues Uyghur families who have been living in Egypt for a while, but were unable to renew legal documents allowing them to stay in the country.
It has been confirmed that many of the students who were deported or left preemptively so as to stop harassment of their families at home were arrested immediately upon their arrival in China. These students are then either imprisoned or sent to re-education camps. They are not able to see their family members and no information is given to their families about their whereabouts. A recent report further indicated that the dead bodies of two young Uyghur men – Abdureshit (18) and Arafat (21) – were returned to their families from a re-education camp with no information as to why and how they died.
On July 19 lawyers who are following the case on the ground stated that that sixteen students were transferred from Borg El Arab airport to Tora prison in Cairo, where they faced interrogation by both Egyptian and Chinese officials. The Chinese Embassy in Cairo denies these claims. Four students were arrested yesterday, 19 July 2017, at the port of Nuweiba. While three of them were released and allowed to travel, one of them remains in detention. The four students who were detained on in Samangan were released and allowed to travel, while the student detained in Hurghada on remains in custody. Another 80 Uyghur students remain detained in police stations in Cairo. While it is really difficult to obtain reliable information on the exact developments seeing how both Uyghurs and potential informants are scared of the Egyptian and Chinese authorities, it is strikingly obvious that the Chinese government is using increasingly violent means to enforce Uyghur students’ return to China.
Thanks to donations from a numbers of Uyghurs in Europe and elsewhere, plane tickets have been purchased that enabled around 400 Uyghurs in Egypt to flee to Turkey to safety. UNPO urges the Chinese government to end the persecution of Uyghurs, both at home and abroad, and to stop this violent campaign that deprives Uyghur students of their lives abroad and virtually forces them into re-education camps in China.