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04 Apr 2022

SAUDI ARABIA: Uyghur girl, 13, among four facing deportation to China

We call on Saudi authorities to immediately release four Uyghurs – including a 13-year-old girl and her mother – who are at grave risk of enforced disappearance, torture and forced separation if sent back to China.

Abula Buheliqiemu and her teenage daughter were detained near Mecca on Thursday and told by police they faced deportation to China along with two Uyghur men already held, according to messages received by Abula’s friends.

Abula is the former wife of Nurmemet Rozi (Nuermeiti Ruze), who with Hemdullah Abduweli (Aimidoula Waili) has been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia since November 2020. 

Abduweli and Rozi, two men of Uyghur Muslim ethnicity originally from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, were both arrested on November 20, 2020 by the Saudi local police, while they were in Saudi Arabia for religious reasons. The arrest was allegedly carried out after the Chinese Embassy in Saudi Arabia had requested their extradition.



On February 3, 2020, Abduweli arrived in Saudi Arabia on a year-long tourist visa from Turkey, where he was permanently residing since 2017, to perform the Umrah pilgrimage. Similarly, in 2020, Rozi travelled to Saudi Arabia from Turkey, where he was residing since 2016, for religious reasons.

On November 20, 2020, local Saudi police, assisted by Chinese nationals, possibly members of the Chinese consular corps, arrested Abduweli and Rozi in Al Masfalah, a village in Mecca province. They were staying in the same house at the time. They were first brought to the police station to be interrogated before being transferred to Dhahban prison in Jeddah, where they are still detained. So far, both, Abduweli and Rozi, have not been brought before a judicial authority or charged.

On January 3, 2022, a Saudi official told him that he “should be mentally prepared to be deported to China in a few days.

Given the well-documented and extreme risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region at the hand of the Chinese authorities, on January 17, 2022, Safeguard Defenders, MENA Rights Group and World Uyghur Congress sent an urgent appeal on their behalf to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.


Latest developments

In March 2022, new developments indicated that deportation of Rozi and Abduweli was imminent, as they were reportedly moved from the detention center and their whereabouts became unknown.

Abula had been able to maintain regular contact with her ex-husband Rozi until two weeks ago. The last time Abula received a phone call from Rozi was on March 20th, when he recounted he had told the Saudi authorities he and Abduweli “would rather die here than be sent back to China”.

On Thursday, March 31st, friends informed a coordinating group of NGOs that Abula Buheliqiemu, who had complained of persistent surveillance and harassment throughout the ordeal, had been taken into detention together with her 13-year old daughter and that their passports had been confiscated. Before communications were interrupted as her phone was taken away, she stated she had been informed they would be imminently deported to China alongside the two men.

Global Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China wrote to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal urging the Government to halt the forceful return of the four to China, where the government “is carrying out a global campaign of threats and intimidation against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Chinese dissidents and other activists abroad.”

Up to today, no judicial or formal expulsion proceedings have been initiated against the four Uyghurs. On Friday, April 1st, UN Experts issued a press release stating they should not be extradited to China:

“The prohibition of refoulement is absolute and non-derogable under international human rights and refugee law. States are obliged not to remove any individual from their territory when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person could be subjected to serious human rights violations in the State of destination, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

“In view of the credible risk of grave violations, both for their membership of an ethnic and religious minority, Saudi Arabia is required to undertake an individual, impartial and independent assessment of risks, and provide prompt and transparent access to safeguards, including the ability to challenge the deportation decision,” the experts said.

They said that any derogation from the principle of non-refoulement would constitute a severe violation of international human rights and refugee law, regardless of the existence of a bilateral agreement on extradition, or diplomatic assurances.”

As denounced by the UN Special Rapporteurs, incommunicado detention and risk of forced deportation constitute a severe violation of the international rules-based order. In March, we reported on the announced expansion of PRC SkyNet operations to forcefully return “fugitives” by any means possible, including the entrapment and deportation from third countries.

If Governments do not stay vigilant and take immediate actions to tackle this, the official launch of the 2022 Sky Net campaign and the reopening of borders around the world may well mark a new and increasingly frightening beginning for China’s global hunt of dissidents, and religious and ethnic minorities.