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More Than 200 Uyghur Students Detained in Egypt


Muslims attend Friday prayers in Al-Azhar mosque, in Islamic Cairo, one of the oldest mosques in the country and an attraction for many students and scholars interested in Islam, in Cairo, Egypt.

Officials in Egypt continue to detain and send ethnic Uyghur students to China.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports the students were studying at Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo.

RFA and VOA are each part of the United States government-supported Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Uyghurs are a mostly Muslim ethnic group in China and Central Asia. Most live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China.

RFA reported in May that Chinese officials had begun ordering Uyghurs studying outside of China to return to their hometowns.

A Uyghur student at Al-Azhar told RFA at the time that classmates who had returned to China seem to have disappeared.

“We haven’t been able to contact any of them,” the student said.

More than 200 Uyghurs, many of them religious students, have been detained in Egypt since July 4. Some were seized in restaurants or at their homes. Others were stopped at airports while trying to flee to safer countries, sources told RFA.

The Middle East Monitor reported that as many as 80 Uyghur students may have been seized on Wednesday. They were arrested for alleged problems with their Egyptian residency papers, the Monitor said in its report.

Criticism of China's treatment of Uyghurs

Human rights and Uyghur exile groups have condemned China for violating the rights of the Uyghurs and for breaking a United Nations treaty.

The agreement bars forced repatriations.

Sandra Jolley is with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms. She told RFA that the Egyptian government’s actions violate international rules against torture.

Such rules protect people who may face “imprisonment, torture and death should they be deported to their homes,” Jolley said.

She and others are urging the Grand Imam at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Islamic University to help stop the forced repatriations of Uyghurs.

Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb currently serves as the school’s Grand Imam.

“He has a powerful voice. He leads Al-Azhar, and he should accept some role in protecting the students who attend this very prestigious university,” Jolley said.

Call for protection

A group of Uyghur students living in Cairo have also appealed to El-Tayeb. In a letter, they asked him to prevent future deportations.

“Our only sin is that we want to learn and study religion,” the students said.

The Arabic-language news service HuffPost Arabi received a copy of the letter.
Last week, Al-Azhar said in a statement that no Uyghur students had been arrested on the university’s grounds or while in any buildings connected with the school.

I'm John Russell.

Radio Free Asia reported this story, and VOA Learning English adapted it. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

source - n. a person, book, etc., that gives information

alleged - adj. said to have happened but not yet proven

repatriation - n. the return of (someone) to his or her own country

sin - n. an action that is considered to be wrong according to religious or moral law

residency - n. the state or fact of living in a place

prestigious - adj. respected and admired

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