Four Uighurs in Saudi Arabia face 'grave risk' if extradited to China
On April 9, a video emerged showing a mother and her 13-year-old daughter in the back of a police vehicle in Saudi Arabia. The woman pleads in Uighur, "We are in a police car. Save us, we are on our way to death. They are taking us to Riyadh to send us [to China]." They are among four Uighur people who NGOs say have been arbitrarily arrested in Saudi Arabia and who now face the possibility of extradition to China.
In China, hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur Muslim minority have been locked in camps and forcibly assimilated into Chinese culture, arbitrarily imprisoned, forced to work or even tortured. The inhumane treatment has been documented by numerous testimonies, NGO reports as well as journalistic investigations. Although Beijing denies the claims, several international governments, including the French, have condemned the treatment of Uighurs in China.
It's against this backdrop that Buheliqiemu Abula, a Uighur woman, sent the video of herself and her daughter to a member of the NGO Human Rights Watch in an attempt to raise awareness of their plight.
Abula has been in Saudi Arabia for at least two years. Her ex-husband, also a Uighur, has been detained since November 2020 with a friend of his in Saudi Arabia. They had come to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in February 2020.
NGOs say that these four were arbitrarily detained in Saudi Arabia and may face "enforced disappearance, torture and forced separation if sent back to China".
'If you get arrested, the only thing I can do is I can share this information with human rights organisations and the media'
Abduweli Ayup is a Uighur living in Norway who is trying to alert members of his community, including Abula, to the dangers of travelling to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. He has documented around 30 cases of Uighurs being extradited to China from three Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia.
She sent messages and she sent videos that she is in danger, that she was on the way to deportation. At that time I said to her: "You are in danger in Saudi [Arabia] and you should leave. And if you get arrested, the only thing I can do is I can share this information with human rights organisations and the media."
But until now, I haven't saved any Uighurs.
Several other Muslim countries have been accused of being silent or even complicit in China's policy towards the Uighurs. Between 2017 and 2019, Egypt was also accused of sending nearly 20 Uighur nationals back to China. In December 2021, Morocco agreed to extradite Yidiresi Aishan, a 34-year-old Uighur arrested upon arrival in Casablanca, citing an extradition treaty between the countries.