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.
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.”