PRESS RELEASE: Uyghur Congress Deeply Concerned Over Recently Disappeared Uyghur Students in Egypt
Egyptian authorities must immediately reveal the whereabouts of 16 Uyghur students who have been forcibly disappeared in Cairo. The recent disappearances merely exacerbate already-present violations against Uyghur students who have been arbitrarily detained since early July.
Recent reports have indicated that those disappeared, who made up a larger group of Uyghurs detained in Egypt since July 4th, were whisked away in black hoods by armed police to an unknown location. Such an action heightens fears that they may be forcibly returned to China in the coming days–a move in clear violation of international law and one that could leave the victims at serious risk of arbitrary detention and even torture.
At least 22 Uyghur students have already been forcibly deported from Egypt as 12 were returned on July 6th from the Cairo airport while attempting to flee to Turkey according to the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), and another 10 were returned between July 11 and 14, as reported by Amnesty International.
Detainees have reportedly been interrogated by Egyptian and Chinese officials while in detention, suggesting that the Chinese government has played a significant role in the actions. Family members who remain in East Turkestan have been intimidated and threatened by police and arrested in some cases in an effort to force the students home.
The detentions in Egypt come on the heels of a broader campaign targeting Uyghurs overseas in which thousands of students have been forced home by the Chinese government from Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States. Upon return to China many have been immediately arrested, with some being sent to re-education camps where they are subjected to propaganda promoting Chinese identity.
As it now stands, all those who remain in detention are at serious risk of return to China, particularly those whom the international community is unable to contact or determine their whereabouts.
Since 1997, the WUC has documented over 300 known cases of Uyghurs returned to China from 16 different countries. In 2017, Egypt became the 17th state to succumb to Chinese pressure for return and the number of cases continues to grow.
Uyghurs who have been forcibly returned in the past are very often imprisoned, tortured or disappeared with nearly no information or communication from victims. It is in this context which the WUC implores the international community to ensure that Egypt abides by international law and ensures that Uyghurs in detention are duly released.