Uighur scholar could be deported from Saudi Arabia ‘within days’, says family

aimadoula waili
aimadoula waili
By Areeb Ullah
Daughters of Aimadoula Waili told he is at imminent risk of being sent to China after being in detention since 2020

A Uighur religious scholar detained without charge in Saudi Arabia may be deported “within days” to China, where he could face imprisonment and torture, his daughters have told Middle East Eye.

‘We have not heard our father’s voice for over a year, and it pains us knowing that he could be sent to China and be separated from him forever’

– Nurin Hemdullah, detained Uighur’s daughter

Aimadoula Waili, also known as Hemdullah Abduweli, is one of two Uighurs at risk of imminent deportation to China from the kingdom.

The scholar travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2020 on a yearlong visa from Turkey, where he is an official resident, to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca. But Waili went into hiding after the Chinese consulate in Riyadh allegedly requested his deportation.

The Chinese government is accused of detaining more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the eastern Xinjiang region, and subjecting the community to abuses that some have labelled a “genocide”. China denies the allegations of abuse.

Moving from one Uighur’s home to another, Waili relied on a network of Uighurs inside Saudi Arabia to keep him safe, fearing that going to the airport would lead to his automatic deportation.

But he was eventually caught by authorities in November 2020 and taken to Dhahban Central Maximum Security Prison in Jeddah, where he has been held without charge.

Speaking to MEE, Waili’s daughter Nurin Hemdullah and her sister said a Saudi judicial official had seen their father last week and told him to be “mentally prepared” to be deported “within days” to China.

Aimadoula Waili pictured in front of the Grand Mosque in Mecca before he was detained in Saudi Arabia (Supplied)
Aimadoula Waili pictured in front of the Grand Mosque in Mecca before he was detained in Saudi Arabia (Supplied)

The women said they had spoken to a Uighur in Saudi Arabia monitoring the case, who said the judicial official confirmed the decision despite both men being accused of no crime in China or the kingdom.

“We have not heard our father’s voice for over a year, and it pains us knowing that he could be sent to China and be separated from him forever,” said Nurin.

“Since hearing about his possible deportation, we have cried non-stop. And whenever we think about this separation, the pain is just unbearable, and our heart breaks every time.”

It remains unclear when Saudi Arabia could deport the two Uighurs. Maya Wang, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher on China, also spoke to their families and called on Saudi Arabia to halt the deportation.

“Saudi Arabia should not forcibly return these two Uighurs to China, where they are likely to disappear into a black hole,” Wang told MEE.

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia has been unwilling to criticise the Chinese government’s assault on Islam. But it’s a shocking rejection of international law to forcibly return them.”

Waili’s possible deportation comes months after a Moroccan court approved the extradition of a Uighur activist after Beijing lodged a warrant for his arrest through Interpol.

Yidiresi Aishan, a 34-year-old father of three with residency status in Turkey, was detained by Moroccan police in Rabat after fleeing to the North African country.

It remains unclear why Morocco approved Aishan’s extradition after Interpol cancelled the “red notice” arrest warrant issued against him.

Interpol cancelled the red notice in August after its general secretariat received new information about Aishan.

In October 2020, BBC News reported that Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, had collaborated with Beijing to deport Uighurs back to China.

In 2019, Chinese documents leaked to the New York Times showed how China managed its re-education camps and mass surveillance of the Uighur population in the Xingjiang province.

Excerpts from the documents showed how China identified nearly 6,000 Uighurs who were abroad or had papers to travel to be monitored by the Chinese state.

It ordered officials to track down individuals “for whom suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out” and “individuals the moment they cross the border and placed into concentrated education and training”.

 

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