Afghanistan Uighurs fear deportation to China in return for financial aid provided to the Taliban government by Beijing, The New York Times wrote. Chinese authorities have been appealing to Afghan leaders for years “to suppress and expel Uyghur fighters,” reported the New York daily.
In early September, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi pledged to donate $ 30 million to Afghanistan for food and other aid, and 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. At a meeting of G20 foreign ministers on Thursday, Wang Yi said Afghanistan’s currently frozen overseas assets should be “unblocked as soon as possible and should not be used as a means of political pressure on the country.”
For years, Chinese authorities have called on Afghan leaders to suppress and deport Uyghur militants who, according to Beijing, were allegedly hiding in Afghanistan. The Chinese authorities explained that the rebels belonged to the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, a separatist organization accused by the government of the People’s Republic of China of responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks.
The United States, under Donald Trump’s administration, removed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement from its list of terrorist organizations, but the New York Times noted that the situation of Afghan Uighurs may change now as the Taliban seek warm relations with Beijing.
It is estimated that there are between 2,000 and 3,000 Uighurs in Afghanistan. Many have virtually no relationship to China. Their ancestors have been coming to Afghanistan gradually since the 18th century, most of them in the late 1970s. Even though they have Afghan citizenship, they have written documents that they are refugees from China or representatives of an ethnic minority. The New York Times points out that if the Taliban decided to deport them, it would be easy to track them down.
Most of the Uyghurs, members of the Muslim ethnic group of Turkish origin, live in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The PRC authorities repress them, explaining that they are doing it as part of the fight against extremism. More than a million people have been imprisoned in camps which Beijing call “re-education centers”, where prisoners are tortured. Afghan Uyghurs fear the same fate awaits them if they are sent back to China.
“We are very worried and nervous,” Ibrahim, whose family arrived in Afghanistan more than 50 years ago, told reporters in the New York daily newspaper. Ever since the Taliban came to power, he and his relatives have not left home. “Our children are so concerned about our safety that they don’t let us go outside,” he added.
Main photo source: STRINGER / PAP / EPA