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Uighur arrested in UAE for no clear reason, family fears deportation to China

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Abudujilili Supi
Abudujilili
Supi, a Chinese Muslim Uighur who was arrested in the United Arab
Emirates and whose family fears will be deported to
China.

Courtesy of Mijiti
Yisake


  • Abudujilili Supi, a Chinese Muslim of the persecuted
    Uighur ethnic minority, was arrested for no clear reason in the
    United Arab Emirates last week.
  • His family fears that he was arrested for being Uighur,
    and that he will be deported to China and imprisoned
    there.
  • His wife witnessed the entire arrest, and has since fled to
    Turkey. Supi’s brother, who is currently with her, told Business
    Insider what happened.
  • This is one of the first cases of a Uighur family in
    the Gulf region speaking out about an arrest and potential
    deportation to China.

A man belonging to China’s persecuted Muslim Uighur community was
arrested for no apparent reason last week, an act which his
family fears is down to his ethnicity and could see him deported
to China and punished.

Abudujilili Supi, a Chinese citizen living and working in the
United Arab Emirates, was arrested by four men outside his local
mosque last Thursday, Supi’s brother Mijiti Yisake told Business
Insider in a series of WhatsApp messages.

He says Supi’s captors — it is not clear whether they are police
— told him he will be taken to China. Yisake fears that if his
brother is deported to China, he will be imprisoned in a
detention center or re-education camp.

Rights groups have accused China of
imprisoning up to 1 million Uighurs in such camps
in the
western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where some 8 million Uighurs
live.

This is one of the first cases of a Uighur family in the Gulf
region speaking out about an arrest and potential deportation to
China.

Dozens of Uighurs in other countries have already been deported
to China, according to experts and families, who fear they have
been held in degrading re-education camps.


Abudujilili Supi china passport redacted
Abudujilili
Supi’s passport photo, as supplied by his brother Mijiti Yisake.
Business Insider has redacted some of the personal
information.

Courtesy of Mijiti
Yisake; Business Insider


The arrest

Supi’s wife, a Muslim Uighur named Mayila Xianmuxiding,
witnessed the arrest from their apartment, which overlooked the
mosque. She described the incident to Yisake, who relayed details
to Business Insider.

According to Xianmuxiding, Supi entered the Abdullah Bin Rawahah
Mosque in Sharjah, a city northwest of Dubai, for daily prayers
around 4 p.m. and left around 4:20 p.m.

While Supi was praying, his wife said four men who looked Emirati
were waiting outside the mosque for prayers to end. Xianmuxiding
doesn’t know how long they were waiting there — she said she had
been praying at home around the same time her husband was at the
mosque, and only looked out when she was done.

After Supi exited the mosque, she said the four men approached
her husband, grabbed his arms, and bundled him into a small white
car. It all happened quickly, Yisake said, citing his
sister-in-law.

Xianmuxiding thought the four men who approached her husband were
fellow worshippers at the mosque at first, she said. She said she
didn’t realise who they were until the mosque’s cleaner told her
the four men were Emirati police.

Business Insider has not been able to establish who the men were,
and the Emirati government has not responded to questions.



sharjah mosque arrest
The
Abdullah Bin Rawahah Mosque in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates,
where Abudujilili Supi was arrested, according to his
family.

Google Maps/Business
Insider



“I am going with people”

Supi called Xianmuxiding three days after the arrest, on Monday.

“Please travel to another country,” he told his wife, according
to Yisake. “I am going with people. I don’t know where I am
going. They said to me, ‘You will be returned to China.'”

Supi didn’t specify who the “people” were — his family thinks he
meant the police.

That was the last time Supi and his wife spoke.

Xianmuxiding has since fled to Istanbul, Turkey, where she
remains with her brother-in-law Yisake. “She is feeling very sad
about her husband,” Yisake told Business Insider.


Read more:

What it’s like inside the internment camps China uses to oppress
its Muslim minority, according to people who’ve been
there


istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey, where Supi’s wife fled after the
arrest.

Dmitry
Polonskiy/Shutterstock


Supi, 27, was born in Xinjiang, and studied in Egypt before
traveling to the UAE to learn English. After his studies, he
found a job as a muezzin — who leads and recites the daily call
to prayer — for the local government in Sharjah.

Although he remained a Chinese citizen, he lives and works
legally in the UAE, Yisake said. Business Insider has seen copies
of two legal documents confirming Supi’s employment, his UAE
residency card, and Chinese citizenship.

Yisake and Supi both left China in 2012, but have returned every
year to visit. Their last visit was in 2016, Yisaki said.

They still have about 30 relatives still in Xinjiang, but Yisake
doesn’t know where they are — he thinks they have all been
locked up in prison camps.

There’s no way of finding out, he says. If he tries to contact
them on WhatsApp or WeChat — the popular Chinese messaging app

monitored by the Chinese government
— the state will come for
his family, Yisake said.

“If we call them from abroad, Chinese police will torment our
family members in East Turkestan,” Yisake told Business Insider,
“and put them in prison.” East Turkestan is the name many Uighurs
use for Xinjiang

“Everything and everyone’s phones are controlled by the
government.”


Read more:

Barging into your home, threatening your family, or making you
disappear: Here’s what China does to people who speak out against
them


Xinjiang
A Uighur woman holds her
child in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in June 2017.


Kevin
Frayer/Getty Images




Why this family is speaking out

The UAE government has not responded to Business Insider’s
numerous requests for confirmation on Supi’s case.

Two experts have independently told Business Insider that they
are aware of it.

Both say that this is the first case in which a Uighur has
publicly spoken out about an impending deportation to China from
the UAE.

Yisake told Business Insider: “If I don’t mention this story, he
will be deported to China.”

“We understand every country’s laws and we obey the laws of all
countries we live in,” he added. “Why does the Chinese government
speak about us like all Uighur people are criminals?”

Beijing has repeatedly justified its surveillance and
crackdown in Xinjiang as preventing terrorism, and insisted that
detaining Uighurs was
“not mistreatment,”
but “to establish professional training
centers, educational centers.”

Read more: How
a Chinese region that accounts for just 1.5% of the population
became one of the most intrusive police states in the
world


xinjiang uighur security
A
police officer stops and checks the identity of a Uighur man in
Kashgar, Xinjiang, in March 2017.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

Rian Thum, an historian on Islam in China at Loyola University
New Orleans, told Business Insider:

“Uighur exiles in the Middle East often feel that they remain
there at the whim of their host governments, and that if they
make any public complaints they themselves risk deportation to
China and near-certain confinement in mass-internment camps.

“It’s difficult to know whether the lack of public complaint
about incidents in the Gulf states is a reflection of these fears
or of a low incidence of actual threats.”

Egypt, one of China’s economic partners, deported at least 12
Uighurs back to China last summer, with at least 22 more detained
for no reason,
according to The New York Times
. Statistics on other Muslim
countries’ record on Uighur arrests and deportations are not
clear.

Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch,
also told Business Insider:

“On the chances for deportation or the UAE releasing him: We just
don’t know.

“But if he is returned to China we share his family’s concerns
that he is at high risk of ill-treatment, arbitrary detention,
and/or other human rights abuses.”


xinjiang uighur pray
Uighur
men pray before a holiday meal in Turpan, Xinjiang, in September
2016.

Kevin
Frayer/Getty



Leaders of Muslim countries have been silent
over China’s
repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, with some experts attributing
this to their reluctance to anger Beijing and risk losing its
economic investment.

Last week officials in Pakistan, China’s largest Muslim ally,

broke ranks to criticize China’s treatment of the Uighurs
.
Muslim groups across southeast Asia protested against the Chinese
camps this month, with activists in Pakistan accusing its
government of betraying Muslims for economic benefit,
the Wall Street Journal reported
.

Some Western countries, however, have spoken up. Earlier this
month the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, called for
international monitors to be let into Xinjiang. (Beijing told her
to
back off and “respect China’s sovereignty”
in response.)

The Swedish government also halted the deportation of an
unspecified number of Uighurs to China due to concerns over their
treatment,
according to Agence-France Presse
. Germany also halted the
deportations of all Uighurs to China,
citing the same concern
, last month.

Richardson said: “The UAE would do well to examine the recent
decisions made by Germany and Sweden to not forcibly return
Uighurs or other Turkic Muslims to China.”

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