Uyghur Muslims in Scotland: ‘Will we see families again?’

Uyghur Muslims who have fled China and are now living in Scotland have told of their plight.

Abdulehad is an Uyghur Muslim who fled China for Scotland in 2015.

He and his wife fled Xinjiang, in the north-west region, with their child, when he found out his wife was pregnant with their second baby. 

It would have not have been safe for them to remain in the country, where it’s claimed Uyghurs have been forced into detention camps.

Abdulehad is one of many Uyghur Muslims in Scotland who don’t know whether they will ever see their families again.

He told STV News: “They (Chinese government) wanted to force us to take the baby out but we did not want that.

“We could not get a passport to go out of the country. That time I got some money and spent $30,000 to get a passport and it was very hard to get.

“The second risk (of being in China) was for my wife, already she was nine months’ pregnant, we had to leave or they would have given her an injection or they would have forced medicine for us to take the baby out.”

Abdulehad’s sister had to face forced sterilisation so that she could not have any more children.

“Now still it is happening even for my other sisters it (forced sterilisation) was happening,” he said.

Human rights groups say the Uyghurs face restrictions on their religious identity. Many exiles have lost touch with their families and are unable to reach them.

“My mum, sisters, younger brothers all are in China,” Abdulehad said. “We lost contact with them for more than three years. I don’t know if my family are dead or alive or in concentration camps in Xinjiang. My wife’s brothers … we don’t know if they have killed them.

“Every day we faced discrimination by Chinese local authorities. We faced lot of racial discrimination in China. When they see us (Uyghurs) they knew that we are from Xinjiang province.

“When I was in China in 2008 my wife and sisters were not able to wear the scarf then we escaped to inland China. If we go back to that place again she would get punished.

“Even if I can see their (family) face I would be happy. I don’t think we could ever reunite”.

Ahmed is an Uyghur Muslim who fled Xinjiang with his wife and four children. Two of his kids were kept in China and he has not been able to get in contact with them.

“I have my two children one is five and another 12 they are in hiding but they are staying with someone and are safe,” he told STV News. “Someone is taking care of them without anyone knowing. Almost four years now we haven’t been able to see them.

“It is too much pressure for me and I cannot sleep well since I arrived here because of my kids in China. Every day I worry about what is going to happen to them.

“I hope the UK Government can help me to bring my children as it is hard for me.”

More than 150 MPs, including 30 members of the SNP, have signed a letter to 10 Downing Street calling for sanctions against China over treatment of its Uyghur Muslims.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “We have got a responsibility to speak out against it. We obviously want to have good relationships with China but we have to hold them to account when it comes to human rights.

“Certainly the behaviour of the Chinese against the Uyghurs is not acceptable. I think it’s fair to say that what we are seeing is the persecution of a people.

“We have seen this so many times down through history and we do have that obligation to stand up when you do see these human rights abuses, when you see people imprisoned the way they have been doing.  

“We need to make sure that the lessons that we learnt from the Holocaust are put into effect and support people when they are in need of our support”.

Parliament debated imposing sanctions on the country after a petition organised by The Jewish News garnered more than 145,000 signatures.

Rahima Mahmut, project manager of World Uyghur Congress, said: “This is genocide. The scale of the abuse and of what is happening to my people is shocking.

“We are asking the government to act accordingly and demanding them to sanction China under the Maginsky act and sanction companies involved in Uyghur slave labour.”

The UK Government has been contacted for comment.

By Tasnim Nazeer

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