(CNN) Tuhan’s family crossed the border over from western China, Xinjiang region 45 years ago to Afghanistan to escape persecution.
Now that the Taliban is in control over the country, she fears she and other ethnic Uyghurs could be sent back to China by members of the militant group with pleasure in the favor with Beijing, that’s been accused of to wear out a genocide on the Muslim minority.
Tuhan, who is using a pseudonym to protect her identity from the Taliban, is trapped between a homeland where Uyghurs are facing increasing repression and an adopted country where they are seen as outsiders.
What worries them most is that they could be deported to China.
About the past few years, the Chinese government has escalated its security and religious crackdown in Xinjiang. Up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have passed through a vast network of detention centers across the regionaccording to the United States Department of State.
Former detainees claim they were subjected to intense political indoctrination, forced labour, torture and even sexual abuse. China denies met clamp all accusations of human rights violations, die insist that the camps be voluntary “vocational training centres” designed stamping out religious extremism and terrorism.
Tuhan said she is afraid of what is met her and her will happen family if they are forced to return.
“All these past For years life was difficult… But what is happening now is the worst,” she said, referring to the Taliban takeover. just a case of time before (the Taliban) found out that we are Uyghurs. Our lives are in danger.”
Tuhan was just 7 years old when she and her parents fled from Yarkand, an oasis on the ancient Silk Road near the Chinese border with Afghanistan.
In die time, Kabul was known as the “Paris of the East,” and for ethnic Uyghurs, it was a refuge from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a decade of politics and social unrest from 1966 to 1976, in which Islam — like all other religions — became hard cracked down Bee.
Tuhan is one of up up to 3,000 Uyghurs in Afghanistan, according to Sean Roberts, a professor at George Washington University and author of “The war on the Uyghurs”, making them a small minority in the country of more then 37 million.
A lot of of they fled China after the Communist Party took check of Xinjiang in 1949. Some — like Tuhan — migrated in the mid-seventies, during the chaos of the last year of the Cultural Revolution, over the mountain passes in South of Xinjiang to seek refuge, Roberts said.
A lot of of the Uyghurs now have Afghan citizenship, but their identification cards still identify them as Chinese refugees — including second generation of immigrants, according to a shared ID photo with CNN and accounts of two Uyghurs.
Abdul Aziz Naseri, whose parents fled Xinjiang in 1976, said his ID still identifies him as a “Chinese refugee”, even though he was born in Kabul.
naseri, who lives now in Turkey, said he collected the names of more over 100 Uyghur families who want to flee Afghanistan.
“They are afraid of China because the Taliban was dealing” with China behind the door. And they’re afraid to be sent back to China,” he said.
AN “good friend”
there is reason for Uyghurs in Afghanistan is concerned, experts say.
In July, a Taliban delegation paid a high-profile visit to Tianjin, where they met with The Chinese minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi.
Wang called the Taliban “an important” military and politics force in Afghanistan” and stated that they play “an important role in country’s peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process.”
In return, the Taliban called China a “good friend” and promised “never allow some powers to use to enter into Afghan territory in harmful to China,” said a pronunciation of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the meeting.
And last week, shouted a Taliban spokesman for closer relations with Beijing in An interview with The Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.
“China is a very important and strong country” in our neighborhood, and we have very positive and good relationships with China in the past’ said Zabihullah Mujahid want to make these relationships even stronger and want to improve the level of mutual trust.”
Roberts said Uyghurs feared the Taliban could deport them to China to win more favor with Beijing were legitimate.
“(The Taliban) have many of reasons to try Beijing in to let the favor come in terms of to win international recognition, in terms of to get financial help when most of the international community don’t give them financial help,” he said.
Tuhan .’s care over potentially being forced to return to China is exacerbated by Beijing’s increasingly aggressive efforts in to bring in recent years overseas Uyghurs back to Xinjiang, also from Muslim countries.
CNN has collected more than a dozen accounts die the alleged detention and deportation of Uyghurs at the request of China in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
In a published report in In June, the Uyghur Human Rights Project said there were at least 395 cases of Uyghurs are deported, extradited of returned back to China from countries across the world since 1997.
In a statement to CNN, China’s Foreign Ministry called the Uyghur human rights project a “downright anti-Chinese separatist organization.”
“The so-called data and reports die released by them are not and are not impartial and credible worth absolutely irrefutable,” he said.
crack down on militants
The Chinese government has a long history of endearing with the Taliban, dating back until the late 1990s, when the militant group last controlled Afghanistan.
Beijing has repeatedly urged the Taliban to squat down on Uyghur militants in Afghanistan, mainly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), die she has accused for almost all terror attack of violent incident in Xinjiang and other parts: of the country.
During his meeting in July with Taliban officials in Tianjin, Wang, the Chinese foreign ministerETIM said “poses a direct threat to state security and the integrity of China’s territory.”
AN video released by state broadcaster CGTN in 2019 compared the ETIM met al-Qaeda and ISIS and said it has “tried to recruit” people on a massive scale, spreading a radical ideology die stays cause chaos in a lot of countries around the world.”
But experts say there’s little independent evidence to confirm China’s Claims of The scope, potential and influence of ETIM — and there are doubts of it still exists today.
ETIM started as a small group of Uyghurs who came to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 1998 with the intent to start a rebellion against Chinese rule, said Roberts.
The Taliban initially allowed the group to pay in Afghanistan, but in an attempt to search Chinese support amid international isolation, the Taliban assured Beijing that it wouldn’t allow each group until use its territory to carry out attacks against China.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Xinjiang saw a rise in violent attacks, which Roberts said were often spontaneous outbursts of grievances against the Chinese government repressive policies. But after the 9/11 attacks, Beijing tried reframe already die incidents are related to Islamic terrorism led by outside groups such as ETIM, he said.
Couple of people has heard of ETIM until it was designated by the US government like a terrorist organization in 2002, during a period of more cooperation on counter-terrorism with China in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. However, that decision is in doubt drawn by experts and civil servants, who see it as a return from Washington to win Beijing support for the invasion of Iraq.
Last year, as US-China relations deteriorated, the Trump administration delisted ETIM as a terrorist group, signs of the ire of Beijing. The United States Department of State said the removal was because “for more than a decade, there is no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist.”
ETIM’s founder Hasan Mahsum is killed in 2003 by troops in Pakistan, where he and his followers fled after the American bombings of Afghanistan. The group seems to have died with him, said Roberts.
But by 2008 a successor group after ETIM, called the Turkish Islamic Party (TIP), had surfaced and threatened met attack the Beijing Olympics. The group is known as affiliated with al-Qaeda and later became a key player in the Syrian civil war.
“They’ve been very productive” in terms of produce videos die Threaten Beijing, but there is no evidence of they can wear out attacks in China,” said Roberts.
But the Chinese government has continued met use the existance of the TIP — which one Beijing still refers met the name ETIM — to emphasize the threat of terrorism and justify its continued crackdown in Xinjiang, experts and Uyghur activists said.
“Why send a friend?”
utilities in her early 50s, Tuhan is alive in Northern Afghanistan, making money met customization people’s clothes, while her children doing chores, like painting neighbors houses, for whatever money they can get.
But even regular people like hair can notice they are being swept up in die from Beijing campaign against terror groups.
Roberts said it is unclear that TIP has a significant presence in Afghanistan, although a small number of its members are supposed to be alive in the country. If the Taliban deported anyone to China, they would most likely be ordinary Uyghurs in place of the TIP members die they’ve had for a long time.term relationships with, he said.
“If she want until show Beijing they were open to his demands (for repatriation), why send them a friend? know when they could just Send a random Uyghurs in Afghanistan and suggest they pose a threat to Beijing?” said Roberts.
Even though I’ve lived for decades in Afghanistan, the Uyghurs are considered outsiders, and in unlike thousands of people flown to safety by the US and their allies, they have no country to help negotiate over their departure.
“They don’t really have anyone around” advocate on on their behalf, to help they get out of the country,” said Roberts.
Tuhan said she and her family don’t even have passports so they have limited number options to leave Afghanistan, even if another country would be willing to give them in to take.
“They do not” give passport for free, and we can’t afford it. But now they have stopped anyway met issuing the passports,” she said.
“It’s been 45 years since we fled here. We’ve grown old without seeing anything.” good day,” she said. “Hopefully our children can have a better life. That’s all we want. We just want to be saved from this oppression.”
Arslan Khakiyev and James Griffiths contributed to this report.
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