Interview: ‘They Detained Her Because She Had Studied Islam in a Foreign Country’


Sevirdin, a Kazakh national, married an ethnic Uyghur Chinese national named Muyesser in 2007 after the two of them completed their studies at Al-Azhar Islamic University in Egypt’s capital Cairo. The couple moved to Kazakhstan shortly afterwards, started a family, and applied for Muyesser to obtain Kazakh citizenship. But despite paying more than 14,600,000 Kazakh tenge (U.S. $40,000) to various authorities over the span of nearly 10 years, the government refused to grant her Kazakh nationality. Muyesser returned to her hometown in Kizilsu Kirghiz (in Chinese, Kezileisu Keerkezi) Autonomous Prefecture’s Atush (Atushi)—a city in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)—in August 2016, after immigration officials in Kazakhstan told her to renew her passport and track down documentation from local authorities to complete her citizenship application. But after arriving in Atush, authorities seized her passport, and three months later she was sent to a political ‘re-education camp’—one of a network of facilities in the XUAR in which Chinese authorities began detaining Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017. Sevirdin recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service about his efforts to locate Muyesser and the difficulties he and his three children have faced since her arrest.

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