‘My Worst Fear is That he Has Been Taken Back to China’

Muhetar Rouzi in an undated photo.

2017-10-03

Bumeryem Muhammed’s husband, Muhetar Rouzi, has been missing since July 16, when he attempted to travel from Egypt to Istanbul, Turkey as Egyptian secret police rounded up some 200 Uyghur holders of Chinese passports in an operation activists say was requested by Beijing. The Uyghur couple from northwest China’s Xinjiang region had lived in Egypt for years and were studying religion at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Islamic University when the crackdown began in early July. Muhammed, who arrived in Istanbul with her two children days before her husband’s disappearance, told RFA’s Uyghur Service she last heard from Rouzi as he waited to speak with Egyptian immigration officials, and said she believes his name was on a deportation list issued by Chinese authorities.

The worst is not being able to find out any information about my husband. The anxiety and the worry thinking about where he is or what has happened to him is increasing with the passing hours.

It was on July 16 … That was the last contact we had, since then there has been no news about him. No one has seen or heard of him. He was travelling with three other students, but they were let go after they were questioned and their documents checked. 

I assume it might be that my husband’s name is on a wanted return list, which was issued by the Chinese authorities … I learned from internal information, and my lawyer also said, that it is possible my husband’s name is on their list. I also heard from those who were released that they were freed because they weren’t on the return list.

One possibility is that he might have been placed in a detention center [in Egypt] where foreign students are held and forgotten about … My second guess is that the Chinese pressured Egypt to have him immediately returned to China. The most important point is that he has never done anything in violation of the Chinese constitution or broken international law, nor was he involved in any unusual activities in Egypt. So why would China want him back? Some people talk about Chinese agents working in Egypt, so it may have been because he became well known there.

'Those in need'

My husband and friends in his circle spared some money to help those who were in desperate situations. The money they gave was not much. As human being, it is difficult to watch others who are in need without helping them. All he did was collect some money and distribute it to those in need. Possibly [the Chinese] noticed that he is a man who has ability to support his own community. I only hope that he is being kept somewhere in Egypt, as my worst fear is that he has been taken back to China … We [Uyghurs studying in Egypt] were branded so-called Islamic extremists and terrorists [by the Chinese government] and I am fearful that [in China] he would be accused of crimes that he has never committed.

Having achieved degrees and developed careers, both of us wanted to improve our Islamic knowledge in the hope that we could serve our country and people better. Since the time I was at university, I dreamed of studying Islamic law. I thought that I could achieve a doctorate and become a researcher in international law.

My husband has never been involved in politics. If he is branded an extremist, I want people to know that it is a complete fabrication of the truth. Under China’s constitution, he is an innocent man. The only reason for his arrest is that he is a Uyghur and a Muslim. Above all, Egypt is responsible for all the current tragedies. Regardless of the circumstances, Egypt has the duty to protect those who are legally residing in the country who have not broken the law.

Reported by Gulchehra Hoja for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Alim Seytoff.

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