China’s Embassy in Pakistan has failed to assist a Chinese national of Uyghur ethnicity who says she is being held against her will with her four children and beaten by her Pakistani brothers-in-law, while her husband is serving a prison sentence.
Asiye Kerim, 48, married Pakistani businessman Abduljalil Abdulwahab in 1995 in Korla, in the Bayin’gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The couple had two children in Xinjiang before moving to Peshawar in northern Pakistan, near Abdulwahab’s family, where they had another two.
In 2010, while traveling in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi, Abdulwahab was arrested and handed an 18-year jail sentence by a Chinese court for drug trafficking. Kerim told RFA’s Uyghur Service that she was forced to flee Peshawar for Korla with her four children a year later when Abdulwahab’s four brothers demanded that she stay until he was released from prison.
After visiting Abdulwahab in prison in 2013, he convinced Kerim to send their two children with Pakistani citizenship back to Peshawar to continue their schooling, but when they complained about their treatment at the hands of their local family members earlier this year, she and her two other children traveled to Pakistan to bring them home to Korla.
Kerim kept her plan a secret from her brothers-in-law, renewing the expired passports of her two Pakistani children and submitting them to the Chinese Embassy in the capital Islamabad for visas to bring them back to Xinjiang.
But late one evening at the end of August, Abdulwahab’s brothers burst into Kerim’s home in Peshawar’s Hajiabad township demanding the passports and her cell phone, and when she refused, they beat her and threatened to kill her if she left the house.
“They insulted me and beat me severely, knocking out four of my teeth and injure my right arm,” she said, adding that her elder son and daughter were also hurt in the confrontation when they attempted to protect her.
“Since then … we are scared to leave—even to go into the yard—because they warned us not to go outside until I had recovered from my injuries. If I leave, they might shoot me dead.”
Kerim said that her son secretly took her to the doctor two days after the incident, using a neighbor’s motorcycle, but otherwise, they have been too afraid to leave.
She said the Chinese Embassy had been of little help when she called to report what had happened and to ask for assistance in leaving the country.
“I called the [Chinese] embassy in Islamabad and asked for their help to rescue us, but they were not interested in our case, saying only ‘let us see what we can do’,” she said.
“Later when I called the embassy again, the staff hung up the phone without any explanation.”
Kerim said that she hadn’t bothered reporting her situation to the local authorities because she didn’t believe they would help her, as “they know my brothers-in-law, but they don’t know me.”
With no one else to turn to, Kerim had called for assistance from the Omer Uyghur Trust—a Uyghur rights group based in northern Pakistan’s Rawalpindi city—whose members had since cared for her family, though they had been unable to help them return to China “because of their limited ability to engage in such cases.”
She also called on Uyghurs from the international community to “help rescue us from this dangerous situation.”
Omer Khan, an ethnic Uyghur Pakistani and founder of the Omer Uyghur Trust, confirmed that the Chinese Embassy had not acted to assist Kerim and her family.
“I called the Chinese Embassy through a translator, reported the situation and conveyed Asiye’s request for help,” he told RFA.
“They recorded our report and only answered by saying ‘we may call you back.’ But so far, they haven’t returned our call or spoken with Asiye.”
Khan said he had recently traveled to the village in Hajiabad where Kerim and her children are staying to speak with her brothers-in-law, but neighbors advised them to “avoid contacting them directly,” saying they could become angered and attack the family again.
He said his group then spoke with members of the village police department, who he said treated them kindly and acknowledged Kerim’s right to return to Xinjiang as a Chinese citizen and to take her children with her.
But the police told them that they could not act hastily, as they were understaffed and, knowing the background of her brothers-in-law, would have to visit their home with “at least 20 officers.”
Khan said he has since been in frequent contact with Kerim, telling her to remain calm.
But he called on the police to help her as soon as possible, as “Asiye and her children are in an extremely dangerous situation.”
Repeated calls to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad by RFA reporters were disconnected by staff members.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.