Saudi Arabia detains two Uyghur Muslims during pilgrimage

Watchdogs fear their deportation to China

Jerusalem24 – According to Human Rights Watch Saudi authorities, on Friday the eve of the G20 Summit, detained two Uyghur Muslims.  In a statement, Human Rights Watch called on Saudi Authorities to disclose the reasons for these men’s detentions and not forcibly return them to China; where they may face further arbitrary detention and torture.

Hemdullah Abduweli and Nurmemet Rozi were detained by Saudi Authorities as they were performing Islamic pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. The men who are residents of Turkey are being held in Bureiman prison. According to Uyghur activist Abduweli Ayup, Rozi, who managed to contact his family had said they are both in danger.

Ayup has documented five different cases of Uyghurs forcibly deported by Saudi Arabia back to China between 2017 and 2018.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, during a visit to China in February 2019, supported Chinese policies in Xinjiang where the Uyghur Muslims live. China’s official news agency Xinhua, quoted the bin Salman who said, “We respect and support China’s rights to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security.” Saudi Arabia also endorsed joint letters in support of China’s policies at the United Nations in 2019 and again in 2020.

Saudi Arabia is no stranger to criticism on its Human Rights record. Several organizations have called on Saudi Arabia to put a stop to its assault on fundamental freedoms, including the jailing and harassment of public dissidents and human rights activists, its attacks against Yemeni civilians as well calling for accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by state agents.

Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims, most of whom live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest. The Chinese government has long been hostile to many expressions of Uyghur identity, and imposed wide-ranging controls (including religious restrictions) over daily life in Xinjiang. Since late 2016, the Chinese government has dramatically escalated repression in Xinjiang as part of ostensible counterterrorism efforts, subjecting the region’s 13 million Uyghurs to forced political indoctrination, mass surveillance, and severe movement restrictions. An estimated one million of them have been held in “political education” camps.

Much of this repression targets Uyghurs’ religious practices. Uyghurs are imprisoned and detained for studying the Quran, going on pilgrimages without state approval, wearing religious clothing, and other “abnormal” thoughts or behavior that express “excessive religious fervor.” An estimated 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang, or 65 percent of the total, have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies since 2017.

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