USCIRF Condemns Egypt’s Deportation of Uighur Muslims to China

USCIRF, 3 August 2017

USCIRF – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the irresponsible and hostile actions taken against Uighurs Muslims in Egypt. The government of Egypt continues a campaign of rounding up and deporting these individuals back to China, a country with a record of harsh repression of the Uighur community. Egypt began this campaign of arrests and deportations in early July and they continue today.

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark stated that, “In USCIRF’s 2017 Annual Report, we did not recommend Egypt be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) – designating them, instead, as Tier 2 — because we had seen some good faith efforts by the government toward religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians. But these latest moves show a calculated indifference to the Uighur Muslim community. These forced deportations cast the government’s efforts in an unfavorable light.”

Amid a growing domestic crackdown on Uighur Muslims, as USCIRF outlined in its July 5 press release, China is reaching outside its territories for them as well.  These repressive moves continue now as far away as Egypt and Italy. Reports indicate that the Egyptian government’s actions were taken in response to Chinese government requests and that Chinese security personnel have been present at some arrests. Civil society reports indicate that as many as 200 Uighurs have been arrested in Egypt with some already forcibly deported to China. Similar arrests and forced repatriations of Uighurs have occurred in the past in other countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia. In the past week, Reuters reported that Italian authorities detained a prominent Uighur, allegedly at the request of Chinese authorities.

USCIRF Vice Chair Sandra Jolley, who traveled to Egypt with USCIRF in early 2017, said, “The Egyptian government should be put on notice that the world is watching. I am an advocate for Gulmira Imin, a Uighur Muslim in China sentenced to life in prison because she was a peaceful Uighur activist. We have seen what China does to Uighurs. No one should have any illusions about the fate of those forcibly returned to China. They, and quite possibly their families and loved ones, will be subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and even torture or death.”

When asked what the next steps should be, USCIRF Chairman Mark said, “We call on the Egyptian government to cease detentions of Uighur Muslims and deportations to China, and we call on the Chinese government to end the persecution of Uighurs, including releasing all innocent Uighurs and allowing them to live in peace under their internationally protected rights.”