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Uyghurs in Saudi Arabia facing an impossible choice

January 27, 2020 at 4:43 am

People gather to stage a demonstration in support of Uyghur Turks against human rights violations of China, at Orhangazi Park in Bursa, Turkey on 20 December 2019 [Ali Atmaca / Anadolu Agency]

With tears in his eyes, a student from the Uyghur Muslim minority, residing in Saudi Arabia, held his long-ago expired Chinese passport, making him face a mysterious fate, with the increasing rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Beijing.

The Chinese consulate in the Kingdom suspended the renewal the passports of the Muslim ethnic minority for more than two years, in a procedure that activists described as a pressure tactic that Beijing is practising in several countries to compel the Uyghurs expatriates to return to their homeland.

About six Uyghur families in Saudi presented their passports, some of which were expired, and they all confirmed that they are afraid to return to China, where more than a million Uyghurs are believed to be held in concentration camps.

“Even animals in other countries are allowed to obtain passports,” said a 30-year-old Chinese religion student in Medina, whose passport expired in 2018, with sorrow.

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He added: “Either they renew my passport or they allow me to give up my nationality. They make us feel as worthless human beings.”

This Chinese Muslim community is facing an impossible choice between returning to their homes, and facing the risk of arrest, or staying illegally in Saudi Arabia and facing a constant fear of deportation.

“The refusal to renew the passports is part of China’s strategy to get rid of the Uyghur expatriates, forcing them to return to China,” said Abdulwali Ayoub, an Uyghur linguistics scholar living in Norway.

He stressed that “detention is the fate awaiting Uyghur at the other side (China).”