At least three ethnic Uyghurs have recently been deported to China from Turkey via Tajikistan, according to sources, and now face persecution from authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
Zinnetgul Tursun and her two toddler daughters, Hilal Shehinur and Banu Abdullah, were first sent from Istanbul, Turkey to Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, and then taken by Chinese police officers on a June 31 flight from Dushanbe to the XUAR capital Urumqi, Tursun’s sister, Jennetgul Tursun, recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
Jennetgul Tursun, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, said she had learned that her sister, her sister’s husband Abdullah Ahmedov, and their two children were held at an immigration detention center in the Turkish city of Izmir and declared Tajik nationals before being given Tajik passports and sent against their will to Tajikistan in late June, despite being legal Turkish residents.
Jennetgul Tursun said that two Tajik passengers on the June 31 flight had seen Zinnetgul Tursun and her children detained by Chinese police at Dushanbe International Airport and taken onto the plane to Urumqi, and sent text messages about the incident to a Uyghur exile group in Turkey, which forwarded the information to her. No information was provided about Abdullah Ahmedov.
“I know my sister very well, and she would never have boarded that flight [to Urumqi],” Jennetgul Tursun told RFA.
“I learned that they were given drugs that knocked them unconscious prior to being placed on the plane, and on the flight they regained consciousness. The two Tajik passengers witnessed what had happened, so they sent messages revealing what they had seen.”
The Tajik passengers said that they saw five other people—four women and a man—they identified as Uyghurs on the flight, suggesting that they had also been deported to China against their will.
“When my sister called me the last time from the Izmir detention center, she said there was a 22-year-old [Uyghur man] from Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture [in the XUAR] who had been helping her,” she said, adding that she believed he could be the young man the Tajik passengers said was on the flight.
Jennetgul Tursun told RFA that she spoke with her mother in Ghulja (Yining), in the XUAR’s Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture, on July 25, who confirmed Zinnetgul Tursun and her children had been brought home, but said her sister had “disappeared” and that the family had no information about what had happened to her, before warning her to end further communication.
No mention was made of Abdullah Ahmedov’s situation, and Jennetgul Tursun suggested that he might still be in Tajikistan.