Disappearances in Xinjiang, China: Uyghur woman in search of her brother Mewlan

Audio 03:26

Rizwangul Nur Muhammed, a young Uyghur woman, holds the photo of her brother Mewlan who disappeared in Xinjiang in 2017. RFI / Heike Schmidt

By: Heike Schmidt Follow

8 min

Forced sterilizations, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests - Western countries accuse China of carrying out large-scale persecution against the minority Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.

Wearing a beard or having foreign contact may be enough to be sent to jail or one of the camps where China holds nearly a million people, according to the UN.

This week, the US government, which accuses Beijing of using "forced labor", decided to block the import of cotton and other products made in Xinjiang.

The European Union, at a summit with China last Monday, called for the dispatch of international observers.


Rizwangul NurMuhammed, a Uyghur scholar exiled in New Zealand, learned in 2017 of the arrest of her brother Mewlan, who remains missing today.

Here is his testimony.

Rizwangul Nur Muhammed, hello, since when did you lose all contact with your brother


I was always in regular contact with my brother, we spoke two to three times a week.

But all of a sudden he disappeared.

He no longer called me and no longer answered my messages.

My mother didn't tell me until three days later that he had been arrested.

She didn't want to worry me.

This happened in January 2017.

What happened


I was told he was arrested during his lunch break while having lunch at a local restaurant.

Plainclothes policemen came to arrest him, without any explanation.

Last June, the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand responded to a request from the New Zealand government.

The embassy then claimed that my brother Mewlan was currently being held in Beiye Prison in Shihezi, 400 kilometers from his hometown.

They accuse him of secessionism.

Recently you learned that Mewlan was sentenced to nine years in prison for separatist activities.

Was he engaged in politics


He is a man without fuss, he has nothing to do with politics.

I am convinced that my brother is innocent.

He did nothing wrong, he did not cause any harm to the Chinese state or violate any law.

It poses no threat to the state.

He's just an ordinary family man.

He is innocent.

Beijing says we must fight extremism and separatism in Xinjiang ...

They make these kinds of arguments.

But it's just a pretext to jail people.

Mewlan had just studied from 2012 to 2014 in Turkey, I can see only that which can explain his imprisonment.

However, it is not a crime!

But so many people have been arbitrarily imprisoned.

Her son is now four years old.

He celebrated his four birthdays without his father.

He doesn't know where his father is, it's horrible to see children suffer like this.

You launched the “

free Mewlan


on the “


” site which has already collected more than 44,000


Why did you wait more than three years to break the silence, were you afraid


Yes, I was scared.

I did not fear for my own safety, but for that of my family back in China.

They could in turn disappear overnight.

But making this disappearance public is very important.

They need my help.

Hope this helps us find my brother.

This week, the United States imposed sanctions on cotton in Xinjiang - and the European Union is calling for the dispatch of international observers.

Putting Beijing under pressure like this, do you think it can help you


Whether on a personal, national or international level, we need all support.

We must help us Uighurs who are suffering so much.

It cannot continue.

The more voices that rise up to support us, the better.

It will help us.


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  • China

  • Human rights