Issue 2: Uyghurs Prevented From Performing the Hajj
World Uyghur Congress, 16 May 2018
Uyghurs have been routinely prevented from travelling to Mecca to perform the Hajj. Strict regulations exists that prohibit independent travel to Saudi Arabia, leaving only the possibility of applying through the Chinese government, who now now control the process and carefully monitor those who are lucky enough to be accepted.
Only limited spaces for state-controlled tours are possible and are very expensive, as in some cases costs reach over 10,000 USD. Article 21 of the “26 Forms of Illegal Religious Activity” reportedly forbids anyone from traveling overseas on pilgrimage with companies not endorsed by China’s religious affairs authorities.
State authorities reportedly travel with those on the Hajj itself to monitor activities and in some cases, Uyghurs have been arrested upon return. In August 2017, hundreds of Uyghurs who recently returned were detained for “illegal religious activity” and held for “investigation and screening”. In May 2016, nearly 100 Uyghurs were also detained in Turkey who were on their way to perform the Hajj on fake passports.
In October 2016, notices were posted in East Turkistan stating that all Uyghurs must turn in their passports to authorities for “safe keeping”, effective prohibiting any kind of travel outside the country without prior permission. Without travel documents, Uyghurs are mostly unable to perform the Hajj in 2018.
The use of internment or ‘re-education’ camps in 2017 and 2018 will also likely inhibit the pilgrimage in the coming years, as many Uyghurs are becoming wary of being arrested for even tiny infractions.