By Rabie al-Sokkari
Egyptian security forces this week rounded up dozens of Uyghur students enrolled at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Egypt has disturbingly rounded up dozens of Uyghur students, apparently to deport them at the behest of the Chinese government,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, was quoted as saying in a Thursday tweet by the New York-based rights group.
She also called on the Egyptian authorities to disclose the detained students’ whereabouts, explain the grounds on which they were being held and to provide them with access to lawyers.
Nor should Egypt deport them to China, Whitson asserted, “where they face persecution and torture”.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid declined to answer Anadolu Agency’s requests for comment on the issue.
Last September, Egypt and China signed cooperation agreements in a number of different fields, including security, according to statements issued by Egypt’s Interior Ministry.
The Uyghur people of the East Turkestan region (also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region of China) are a Turkic ethnic Muslim minority.
Human rights organizations, activists and analysts have said that Uyghur have been subject to religious, cultural and language restrictions, which have led them to flee China and helped fuel their demands for a separate state.
China has controlled the East Turkestan region since 1949.