A Uyghur man held in an airport in Qatar has sent out an appeal for help to avoid being deported to China, where he said he will face persecution, media reports said on Saturday.
Ablikim Yusup, 53, said in a video posted to Facebook from Doha International Airport that he fears for his safety if sent back.
“I need the world’s help,” Yusup said.
Formerly a resident of Pakistan, Yusup had tried to enter Europe by way of Bosnia, a Muslim-majority country, but had been sent back to Qatar, which now says it will deport him to Beijing, according to media reports.
Yusup had been reported earlier to have been booked on a Saturday morning flight from Qatar to Beijing, sources said.
Writing on Twitter on Saturday morning, Human Rights Watch president Kenneth Roth said that under pressure Qatar had not yet sent him back “to persecution in China.”
“The bad news: he may have only 24 hours. More pressure is needed on Qatar to respect its asylum obligations,” Roth wrote.
Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service, Dolkun Isa—president of the Germany-based exile World Uyghur Congress—said his organization has already requested U.S. and German authorities to urge Qatar not to send Yusup back.
“Many Uyghurs deported to China over the years have either disappeared or been sentenced to life [in prison] or death,” Isa said, adding, “Qatar is obligated under international law not to deport someone to a country where his life and liberty are in jeopardy.”
“I urge Qatar authorities not to deport Ablikim Yusup to China, but to allow him to leave for a safe third country,” Isa said.
Many held in camps
Authorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have held up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in internment camps since April 2017.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, China this year changed tack and started describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.
Claims by China this week that it has already released almost all of those held in the camps were met with skepticism by human rights and Uyghur exile groups, who said that China is seeking to blunt demands for accountability for its treatment of Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region.
In July, Qatar joined several other Muslim states including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in publicly supporting China’s actions in Xinjiang, telling the U.N. in a joint letter that Beijing’s policies have countered terrorism in the region.
Reported by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.