A Uyghur man facing deportation to China from Qatar last week has now arrived safely in the United States, RFA reports.
Ablikim Yusup, 53, landed at around 4:00 p.m. in Washington's Dulles International Airport, where he was met by his lawyers and by other ethnic Uyghurs.
Speaking to supporters following his arrival, Yusup voiced his thanks to the U.S. government for helping him to come to the U.S.
"I am starting a new life now as I arrive in America," Yusup said.
"I am thankful to the U.S. government and her diplomats for helping me and rescuing me from danger. [And] I am thankful for the rights activists and the Uyghur community who had tirelessly fought for my rescue," he said
"I am worried about my wife and five-year-old son, though. They could not come to Doha with me since they have Pakistani passports," he said.
"Chinese diplomats visited me in Doha and invited me to talk with them, but I refused to meet them," Yusup said.
Yusup, formerly a resident of Pakistan, had previously tried to enter Europe by way of Bosnia, a Muslim-majority country, but was sent back last week to Qatar, which then said it would deport him to Beijing, according to media reports.
He had then appealed for days for help on social media posts from Qatar’s Doha International Airport, saying that he feared for his safety if sent back to China.
“The United States is alarmed by China’s highly repressive campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims in Xinjiang,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday, announcing that Yusup was being flown to the U.S.
“This campaign includes mass arbitrary detentions. The Chinese government has, by our estimates, detained more than one million individuals since April 2017.”
“In these camps, there are credible reports of torture, inhumane conditions, and deaths. Individuals there are forced to renounce their ethnic identities, religious beliefs, or cultural and religious practices,” the State Department said.
“We will continue to call on China to reverse its counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with peaceful religious and political expression, to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained, and to cease efforts to coerce members of its Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, Germany-based World Uyghur Congress welcomed news of Yusup’s flight to the U.S., adding, “The international community must take steps to ensure Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are provided protection.”
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 RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.