A Uyghur student in Egypt- Photo courtesy of Mohamed al-Amin Uyghuri's Facebook page
CAIRO – 9 July 2017: A number of Uyghur Muslim students in Egypt have been released after being investigated over their residential papers, Al-Azhar Media Center stated on Saturday, following reports saying that a big number of the students were detained at Al-Azhar and deported back to China.
However, other students are still being under investigations, the statement added. In another statement on Saturday, Al-Azhar denied media reports, which claim that the students were arrested at the University campus, adding that the detention did not take place at the University campus or in other associated buildings.
Uyghur people are ethnic minority group who live in Xinjiang region, autonomous territory in northwest China. The region known as Xinjian under the Chinese ruling in 18th Century; it announced its independence in 1949 as Eastern Turkestan, but a year later, Beijing announced that the region is under the Communist China, according to the BBC.
Three days ago, reports went viral on social media saying that a number of Uyghur Muslim students from East Turkestan, which comes under the Communist China’s control, were detained and deported back to China on Thursday evening.
Head of the Congress of the Expatriate Students at Al-Azhar University Adam Younis told Youm7 on Thursday that the students were arrested and deported back home over violating their residential papers, denying the circulated reports regarding the number of the detained students.
“Deporting students from Turkestan is not clear yet. The Chinese Embassy is responsible for this issue. We have been informed that the Embassy prevents them from obtaining papers that will enable them to reside in Egypt; the matter, which would expose them to violate the Egyptian law,” he added.
However, a media officer at the Chinese Embassy in Cairo told Egypt Today on Sunday that she had no information on this issue.
Few hours after deporting the students, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has denied the reports although the New York Times reported three anonymous officials at the Cairo International Airport that 12 students were deported while 22 others under investigations and will be deported.
Amr Ezzat, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights posted Friday on his Facebook page that he contacted with officials at Al-Azhar Sheikhdom to follow up the situation of the arrested students.
Al-Azhar officials said they have been informed that thee month ago the Chinese authorities asked some Uyghur students to come back home to be investigated before giving them permits to complete their studies at the University, Ezzat’s post added.
The officials added that the Chinese authorities warned the students that they will be deported, in cooperation with the Egyptian government, in case that the students refused to return home, Ezzat continued.
Ezzat added that the officials said that some students got approval from the university and went back home, adding that some already returned from China after being investigated over terrorism-related charges to Egypt; others were kept there and reportedly were tortured and killed inside the Chinese prisons.
A big number of Chinese students are studying at Al-Azhar per an approval from the Chinese government, in accordance with protocols signed between the two sides. However, the problem relates with the Uyghur students, the officials said.
The Uyghur is a Sunni Muslim group suffers religious suppression by Chinese authorities. In 2016, Beijing has banned them from fasting their holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Colander, when the Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset; then, Al-Azhar condemned the Chinese decision, according to The Independent.
In July 2015, a total of 100 Uyghur students were deported from Thailand; the deportation was slammed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).