Pakistan Uyghurs in Hiding
07 April 2010
Two prominent members of the exiled Turkic-speaking
Uyghur community in Pakistan , many of whom oppose
Chinese rule in their homeland, are on the run from the
authorities following police raids on their homes.
Below an article published by Radio Free Asia :
Omer and Akbar Khan, who co-founded a charity to teach
Pakistani Uyghurs their own language in the northern
city of Rawalpindi, said they had fled from police after
neighbors told them their close relatives had been
detained for several hours.
"We didn't do anything wrong, but we have decided to
stay away from the police for some time, because of the
unknown fate of two other guys [we know]," said Omer
Khan, 35, who recently applied for a Belgian visa to
attend a training program* for Uyghur activists outside
"A few other Uyghurs were arrested and disappeared last
year," Omer Khan said.
Police detained the Khans' 52-year-old father and
50-year-old mother, along with their two younger
brothers, aged 15 and 18, according to a Uyghur source
who asked not to be named.
According to a neighbor, the Khan family was released
after 10 hours in detention.
"The raid was so harsh," one neighbor said.
"The two brothers' faces were forcibly covered as they
were being pushed to the police car."
The brothers blame China, rather than their adopted
homeland, and say the raid came in response to pressure
from Beijing on the Pakistani authorities to step up
pressure on Uyghur exiles, many of whom are vocal
campaigners for independence for the northwestern region
"We believe that all this is happening under
instructions from the Chinese government," Akbar Khan
The brothers said Pakistani authorities also detained
Abdul Haliq, 29, on March 22, while Memet Rozi, 80, and
Eneyetullah, 28, were detained March 26.
Omer Khan, who said his house was searched March 31,
added: "They don’t like Uyghurs to undertake organized
and established activities, whether they are social,
cultural, or political."
He said the Khan brothers were in regular communication
with the president of the Munich-based World Uyghur
Congress, Rebiya Kadeer.
"Ms. Kadeer always encourages us to protect our national
identity. Maybe this also makes the Chinese government
upset," Omer Khan said.
The Khan brothers had planned to attend a meeting in
Belgium from April 25-27 which offered training for
Uyghur activists around the world*.
"This also may have made the Chinese government upset.
In short, being a Uyghur makes the Chinese government
uncomfortable," Omer Khan said.
He said those Uyghurs already detained in Pakistan had
all been close to Kadeer, whom Beijing blames for
instigating deadly ethnic riots in the regional capital
of Urumqi last July.
Pakistan is home to around 1,000 Uyghur families, mostly
those who left China during the 1950s and 60s.
Last December, Xinjiang authorities detained Pakistani
Uyghur Kamirdin Abdurahman on suspicion of "harming
public order," before asking him to infiltrate Uyghur
groups back in Pakistan.
Uyghur exiles fear surveillance once they leave China,
especially if they have left family behind, and they say
their fears have worsened since deadly ethnic riots last
July—which prompted a major security crackdown.
Xinjiang has been plagued in recent years by bombings,
attacks, and riots that Chinese authorities blame on
Cambodian authorities in December returned to China a
group of ethnic Uyghurs who had sought political asylum,
despite international concern that they could face
torture and execution for allegedly taking part in
deadly ethnic riots in China this year.
Rights groups, which urged Phnom Penh to stop the
deportations, say Cambodia is bound by a 1951 convention
on refugees pledging not to return asylum-seekers to
countries where they will face persecution.
Cambodia has already received more than U.S. $1 billion
in foreign direct investment from China, which in
October agreed to provide U.S. $853 million in loans to
the impoverished country for dams, infrastructure, and
The Chinese government has detained hundreds of Uyghurs,
and at least 43 Uyghur men have disappeared in the wake
of ethnic violence that erupted in Urumqi on July 5,
according to Human Rights Watch, which says the actual
number of disappearances is likely far higher.
Nearly 200 people were killed in the clashes, by the
Chinese government’s tally. Twelve people have since
been sentenced to death in connection with the violence.
Uyghurs, a distinct and mostly Muslim ethnic group, have
long complained of religious, political, and cultural
oppression by Chinese authorities, and tensions have
simmered in the Xinjiang region for years.