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Uyghur woman takes to social media to locate detained brother

4 Min
Uyghur woman takes to social media to locate detained brother

When Sahiba Sayramoghli, a Uyghur living in Turkey, learned that her younger brother had been arrested in July in the far-western Chinese region of Xinjiang on his way to a friend’s wedding, she took to social media for help.

Sayramoghli, 30, who learned about his arrest from her parents in Bortala, in Xinjiang, wanted to know why police had detained him along with three friends at a checkpoint and his status.

But this posed a major danger, however, in that she was putting Quddusjan Abduweli, her 23-year-old detained brother, as well as other relatives who lived in Xinjiang at risk for retribution by Chinese authorities by making his arrest public.

Nevertheless, Sayramoghli posted a message on Twitter in late August about her brother’s detention.

When Radio Free Asia saw the post and contacted her, she said her family was facing pressure from the Chinese government, with police threatening not to disclose information about Abduweli.

But after agreeing to a second interview with Radio Free Asia, Sayramoghli said her brother was detained without legal justification and had been transferred to Qumul Prison, though his relatives had no news of him since then.

RFA called all police stations in Qumul, or Hami in Chinese, to try to find out more information about Abduweli, but no one answered.

‘Well-behaved, cautious young man’

Abduweli graduated from Qaramay Technical University with a degree in petrochemistry in June. During his fourth year at the university, he went to Qumul for mandatory training, working diligently at a transportation company for about six months, Sayramaogli said.

Sayramoghli says she wants to know the reason for her brother’s detention and why he has not yet been released and the real reason for his detention.

“I have complete faith that my brother is incapable of any wrongdoing,” she said. “He’s a well-behaved, cautious young man who chooses his words carefully.”

Sayramoghli said she was always protective of Abduweli, shielding him from parental scoldings whenever he returned home late from playing soccer, didn’t finish his homework or struggled with exams. He was always well-regarded by his teachers in school, she said.

Abduweli had informed his sister that he would attend a friend’s wedding ceremony in Ghulja, known as Yining in Chinese, on July 10. When she called him two days later, he was on his way to the event and said he would return home the same day.

But police arrested him and three others at a checkpoint, though the reason remains unknown.

Three days later, Qumul police transferred Abduweli to Qumul District Prison. His family knows nothing about his current whereabouts or his condition, Sayramoghli said.

“My parents waited for his return until midnight, but he never came back or answered their calls,” she told RFA.

When they contacted the parents of his detained friends, they were informed that two had been released, but that authorities kept Abduweli and a friend named Intizar in custody. After three days, police transferred Abduwweli to Qumul for further investigation.

‘No choice but to post’

Sayramoghli said her parents had at first not been truthful with her, saying her brother had gone to the mountains for some business, and asked her not to post anything about him on social media. When she told them he was not responding to her messages, they claimed his phone was broken.

Sayramoghli contacted the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, gave them Abduweli’s name and national ID card number, and asked that they find out what had happened to him. She was told to wait about a month.

With no more information coming from the Chinese Embassy, she called again, and was told: “‘Not giving you an answer is already an answer.’”

After that, “I had no choice but to start posting on Twitter,” she said.

But once she did, police visited the home of her husband’s family in Bortala and threatened to arrest Sayramoghli’s father.

“I was on the phone with my dad while this was happening,” she told RFA. “They pressured me, insisting that I should stop posting on social media. If I didn’t comply, they threatened to arrest my parents and cut off communication from WeChat.”

One of her husband’s friends who works at a security bureau contacted them even though he previously ignored their three attempts to speak with him.

“He spoke to us in a threatening manner and told me to delete my posts,” Sayramoghli said. “He claimed that it wouldn’t be good for our parents if I didn’t comply. He also promised to provide news about my brother if I deleted the posts and assured me he would assist me to the best of his abilities.”

Her parents then said they had found out that Abduweli’s case involves 50-60 people, and the investigation is ongoing. Authorities “made it clear that they wouldn’t provide any information until the case was resolved, and they advised us to be prepared for potentially bad news,” Sayramoghli said

She called on the Chinese government to immediately release her brother.

“Even if it costs me my life, I will not waver in my belief in his innocence,” she said. “I will not abandon him in those dark cells, and for as long as I am alive, I will continue to speak out until my brother is reunited with us.”

— RFA report, Oct 6, 2023