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Uighur scholar fears deportation from Saudi Arabia

Aimidoula Waili was arrested twice in China and fears he will be sent to a 're-education' camp if taken back
Waili said he was unable to fly back to Turkey where he has residency due to fears of possible deportation if taken to the airport (Supplied)

Activists fear that a Uighur religious scholar who travelled to Saudi Arabia on a year-long visa will be deported to China from the Gulf kingdom. 

Aimadoula Waili, also known as Hemdullah Abduweli, originates from the Xingjiang province in China. 

He was forced to flee China after Chinese authorities imprisoned him twice for his religious teachings. 

'My problems began when I gave a speech to brothers here in Saudi Arabia because I think the Chinese heard my speech and got angry'

- Aimadoula Waili

Speaking to Middle East Eye, Waili said he "feared for his life' after the Chinese consulate in Saudi Arabia had allegedly requested his deportation. 

Waili went to Saudi Arabia in February 2020 to perform the Umrah pilgrimage from Turkey where he has residency papers that grant him indefinite leave to remain. 

When he reached Mecca, local Uighurs asked Waili to join them in doing local missionary work or tabligh, and give a speech to other Uighurs inside the Gulf kingdom. 

Aimidoula Waili has permanent residency in Turkey but said he could not go to the airport because he fears deportation (Supplied)
Aimidoula Waili has permanent residency in Turkey but said he could not go back to Istanbul via the airport in Saudi Arabia because he fears deportation (Supplied)

"My problems began when I gave a speech to brothers here in Saudi Arabia because I think the Chinese heard my speech and got angry," Waili told MEE. 

"Afterwards I heard from one of my Uighur brothers who lives in Saudi Arabia that the police were looking for me because the Chinese consulate asked them to deport me."

Waili said that he had not been given any official warning from the Saudi government but said Uighurs housing him had warned him that police were looking for him. 

'If Saudi Arabia sends Habibullah Abduwaili it will endanger his life and be demoralising for Uighurs globally and in Saudi Arabia'

- Abduweli Ayup, Uighur activist

The warnings forced Waili to not go outside during the day and move regularly to evade local authorities catching him. 

Saudi Arabia's UK embassy was contacted for comment but did not respond at the time of writing. 

“I am afraid for my life and have not had a chance to go to the airport to flee Saudi Arabia because I keep moving from place to place to save my life,” Waili said

“I’m scared that if I go to the airport, the police will stop me and send me to China.” 

Aimidoula Waili has valid visa documents that allow him to stay in Saudi Arabia for at least a year until December 2020 (Supplied)
Aimidoula Waili has valid visa documents that allow him to stay in Saudi Arabia for at least a year until December 2020 (Supplied)

In October, BBC News reported that Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, had collaborated with Beijing to deport Uighurs back to China. 

Last year, Chinese documents leaked to the New York Times showed how China managed its re-education camps and mass surveillance of the Uighur population in the Xingjiang province. 

Excerpts from the documents showed how China identified nearly 6,000 Uighurs who were abroad or had papers to travel to be monitored by the Chinese state. 

It ordered officials to track down individuals “for whom suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out” and “individuals the moment they cross the border and placed into concentrated education and training”.

Uighur activist Abduweli Ayup fears Waili is facing threats because he is a student of a prominent Uighur Islamic scholar who has been detained in China. 

He has documented at least five incidents where Riyadh had allegedly deported Uighur Muslims from Saudi Arabia to China.

"Hemdullah Abduweli is a Uighur religious scholar, and because of his religious teachings he was arrested two times, once in 2014 and another in 2013," Ayup told MEE. 

"Religious scholars like Abduweli are always sent to imprisonment or sometimes even sentenced to death. If Saudi Arabia sends Hemdullah Abduweli it will endanger his life and be demoralising for Uighurs globally and in Saudi Arabia."