Uyghur brothers shot dead on same day in Xinjiang prison

They were involved in a scuffle with a security guard who killed them, officials and police say.
By Shohret Hoshur for RFA Uyghur
Uyghur brothers shot dead on same day in Xinjiang prison People stand in a guard tower on the perimeter wall of the Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 23, 2021.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Two Uyghur inmates — biological brothers — were working in a vegetable field  at Qarabughra Prison in Xinjiang’s Kunes county in early May, when a security guard grabbed one of them by the leg and began dragging him.

The older brother, Sidikjan Ablikim, 35, rushed over to Ablehet, 33, to free him, according to police and prison officers with knowledge of the situation.

An argument ensued, and the brothers physically clashed with the guard, while a third inmate intervened. 

The guard then pulled out his gun and shot and killed the Abilkims, the police and prison officials said.

Little is known about the brothers other than that they were from Atush, transliterated as Artux or Atush, the capital of the Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region.

RFA was unable to find out further details, the reasons for their arrest or the duration of their sentences. 

“Situations like this come up rarely,” said an officer who has worked at the Qarabughra Prison for 25 years. “There hasn’t been anyone who died in the fields [while performing labor] due to a conflict, besides them.”

Expanded to handle more inmates

Qarabughra is one of the oldest prisons and largest detention centers in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, the prison officer said.

In 2017, as Chinese authorities began detaining Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims en masse in Xinjiang in an effort to eliminate what they said was “terrorism” and “religious extremism,” Qarabughra Prison was expanded to handle inmates brought in from other parts of the region.

As part of the crackdown, Chinese authorities ordered Uyghur students studying in Egypt and other predominantly Muslim countries to return to Xinjiang where they were promptly arrested for the purported “crime” of studying abroad.

Some of the students were tried in Atush, their hometown, and sent to Qarabughra Prison in Kunes county. However, it is unknown whether the Ablikim brothers had studied abroad and were arrested upon return.

RFA contacted relevant authorities in Kunes county and Ghulja city, called Yining in Chinese and capital of Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, for more information on the brothers and their deaths. 

A Kunes county police officer, who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said the prison had released the bodies of the two inmates. 

The officer knew this because he worked as a security guard along the roads where the vehicle carrying the dead prisoners passed. 

Because the brothers died the same day, the officer said he had assumed they had been involved in a fatal accident. However, he did not ask his boss about it, because it was not his job to inquire about the identities of the dead or their cause of death. 

“Both are deceased, and they were both from Atush,” he said. “Another inmate was hospitalized from that conflict.”

Information about the incident was not reported at an official meeting, and because of the tragic nature, news of it was spread by word of mouth among the others who knew about the Ablikims’ argument with the guard and their subsequent shootings, the officer from the Kunes county police said.

Other officials contacted by RFA declined to comment, stressing that any matters related to the prison were confidential. 

Translated by RFA Uyghur. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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