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HRW calls on Saudi Arabia to reveal status of detained Uyghurs

November 26, 2020 at 11:35 am

Uyghur Turks living in Istanbul gather to protest China for their family members, who have been held in Chinese camps on 27 July 2020 [Erhan Elaldı/Anadolu Agency]

Human Rights Watch has called on the Saudi authorities to “clarify immediately” the status of two Chinese Muslims from the Uyghur minority who were apparently “arrested” in the Kingdom on 20 November. The rights watchdog has also asked the Saudis to “disclose the basis” for their detention.

“If returned to China, they will face a real risk of arbitrary arrest and torture,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Joe Stork. “Saudi Arabia’s attempts to seek positive publicity through hosting the G20 summit would be severely undercut if it detains and forcibly returns fellow Muslims to unbridled persecution in China.”

According to Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur activist in contact with the community in Saudi Arabia, the authorities there have detained Hemdullah Abduweli, 52, a Uyghur Muslim religious scholar, and his friend Nurmemet Rozi. The men were said to have been arrested in Makkah.

Ayup said that Rozi had managed to contact a family member to say that they are being held in Jeddah’s Bureiman Prison and are “in danger”. Both Ayup and Rozi are residents of Turkey.

READ: Man ‘forced’ to inform on fellow Uyghurs for China shot in Turkey, report says

HRW quoted another source who spoke to Hemdullah Abduweli, who said that he has been in hiding since he gave a speech to the Uyghur community in Saudi Arabia. In the speech he apparently encouraged Uyghurs and Muslims to pray about conditions in Xinjiang and to “fight back against the Chinese invaders… using weapons.”

In early November, Hemdullah Abduweli spoke to Middle East Eye and explained that he feared that the Chinese authorities had sent a request to Saudi Arabia to detain and deport him. Middle East Eye posted photos of his Chinese passport, Turkish residency card and Saudi visa.