A Uyghur post office retiree interned in a detention camp in China’s far-western Xinjiang region in 2018 on suspicion of religious extremism died in December 2021 following his release, Uyghurs and local officials with knowledge of the situation said.
Ghiyasidin Abla, 69, was from Suntagh village in Atush (in Chinese, Atushi), capital of the Kizilsu Kyrghiz Autonomous Prefecture, and was abducted by authorities while he attended a circumcision ceremony in his neighborhood, said a Uyghur from Atush who now lives in exile abroad.
Ghiyasidin had no health issues when he was arrested, but when he was released in September 2021, he was unable to walk. He died a month later of unknown causes, said the source who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Chinese authorities.
RFA listeners have provided many tips on Uyghurs who were arbitrarily detained in 2017 and 2018. In the past two years, reports of serious illness or death among the detainees have increased. As many as 1.8 million Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have reportedly been sent to a network of camps China built in Xinjiang.
The reports indicate that Chinese authorities have targeted ordinary Uyghurs suspected of “crimes” related to terrorism or religious extremism as well as prominent Uyghur businesspeople, cultural figures, academics and religious leaders.
At the time of Ghiyasidin’s arrest, Chinese authorities had limited the number of Uyghurs who could attend weddings, funerals and other religious ceremonies, such as circumcisions, at any one time. Ghiyasidin was detained along with other attendees of the ceremony because they had exceeded the allowed limit, the source said.
Ghiyasidin’s children had expected their father to be released after a few days but they received no information about him for three months, the source said. They eventually discovered he was sent to a detention camp.
After Ghiyasidin was released and returned to his family, authorities told his relatives that they could not discuss his health condition and that no more than 15 people would be allowed to attend his funeral if he died, the source said.
The local police department said it had no information to release about Ghiyasidin. One policeman said public servants arrested by authorities were taken to “training” in Atush and that Ghiyasidin was the most recent detainee to die after being released.
The women’s affairs director and the security director of Suntagh village both each confirmed the circumstances of Ghiyasidin’s arrest and his later death.
“He died at home,” said the security director. “He was 69. He used to work at the post office. He was a retiree from the post office.”
Besides attending the circumcision ceremony, “they arrested him for also growing a beard,” he said.
Authorities in Xinjiang have apprehended and detained Uyghurs for praying and growing beards, which are both seen as signs of extremism. Earlier reports by RFA indicated that men over 65 years old who lived in Atush were allowed to grow beards and enter a mosque, though those who were civil servants were not, regardless of their age.
Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.