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20 Uyghur students still missing in Egypt

Image of Egyptian soldiers [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Egyptian security forces, 1 June 2017 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Around 20 Chinese Muslim Uyghur students living in Egypt's capital Cairo are still missing four months after Egyptian authorities targeted the Chinese ethnic minority at China's behest.

According to the testimonies of two men who endured regular abuse while in detention, more than 200 Uyghurs, the majority of them Muslim religious students at Cairo's Al-Azhar Islamic University, have been detained by Egyptian authorities since July.

Many have been arrested outside restaurants or at their homes or seized at airports as they tried to flee the country for their safety, Radio Free Asia's Uyghur Service reported.

Dozens of Uyghurs have been deported back to their home region of Xinjiang where they face the risk of arbitrary detention or torture at the hands of Chinese authorities.The ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly blamed a number of Uyghurs for violent attacks and clashes in China in recent years but rights groups have accused the Chinese government of exaggerating the accusations and the alleged "threats" of the ethnic groups.

This has led to hundreds being killed since 2009 with China regularly conducting campaigns in Xinjiang including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on religious practices and Uyghur cultural norms.

Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd, a tale of three mens' incredible odyssey to freedom

Last month, Egyptian authorities released the Uyghur students and their family members who had been detained in Cairo since July but 16 of them have so far remained unaccounted for.

Some of those missing include Abduweli Hesen, Muhemmet Ahmet, Nurmemet Obul, Abdureqib and Memet Hajim.

The two men, who spoke to RFA's Uyghur Service on the condition of anonymity, had travelled to Egypt last year after China relaxed its rules on Uyghur passport applications, and did not return to China when Xinjiang authorities summoned them after reports a number of Uyghurs had complied and were subsequently taken into custody.

However they were soon arrested by Egyptian State Security on 4 July while walking through a Cairo district where they were "handled roughly, as if we were criminals who came to Egypt to destroy the country," according to RFA.

Read: 'The victims of international terrorism are the Uyghurs'

They were among 70 Uyghurs as well as members from other ethnic groups who were arrested and detained in the Qismil Awal district police station for questioning by Bai Kecheng, the Beijing-appointed president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in Egypt.

They were interrogated about their beliefs by Chinese security officials and then sent to prison the following day where they were "beaten by security guards" and by "cellmates who demanded money".In the following days the detainees were transferred to different police stations and then onto the Tora prison where 94 Uyghurs were placed in two cells.

Throughout their detention, authorities failed to reveal the accusations against the Uyghurs with Egyptian authorities telling them that they could only be released "once your embassy gives us the order to release you".

Egyptian authorities have denied targeting Uyghurs and alleged that those held were arrested due to the "alleged irregularities in their residency papers." According to Uyghur exile groups and students, the detentions were ordered by China on allegations that they had "joined extremist organisations".

Being Muslims, we Uyghurs … thought all other Muslims are like us. However, to our disappointment we didn't receive kindness from them. They were good at reciting the verses from the Quran, but they were very cruel, and showed no sympathy towards the pain of fellow Muslims.

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