A Uyghur educator and high school principal in Ghulja in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region who went missing nearly a year ago is being detained in the city, municipal education officials told RFA.
Dilmurat Abdurehim has been missing since the Eid al-Fitr Muslim religious holiday on May 13, 2021, that marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan. He left his home in the city’s Dongmehelle area but never returned, said a source with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) is the third-largest city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) after Urumqi (Wulumuqi) and Korla (Kuerle) and the seat of the Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture.
Abdurehim’s family members did not give any information to their friends and neighbors about the principal’s disappearance, the source said. Nevertheless, friends and neighbors began to suspect he had been abducted by police, who warned his family not to disclose his whereabouts, the source added.
Abdurehim graduated with a degree in history from Xinjiang University in 1990. He began teaching at Ghulja’s No. 7 high school and later became a principal at the Nos. 3, 8 and 9 high schools, the source said.
A staff member at the No. 3 High School told RFA that Abdurehim had worked at the school but moved to another school years ago. The official also said he was aware that Abdurehim was in custody.
An official at No. 8 High School, where Abdurehim had his longest tenure, said the educator had been detained while he was working at the No. 9 High School. He did not mention the reason for Abdurehim’s arrest and suggested that RFA contact officials at the No. 9 High School for more information.
“I don’t know how long has it been since he was detained,” he said. “I don’t know the reason behind his arrest since he was not detained while he was in our school.”
After calls to No. 9 High School went unanswered, RFA again contacted the No. 8 High School and asked whether Abdurehim was being held in a prison or an internment camp.
The official said the information was a “state secret” and that the school was not authorized to comment.
Authorities have targeted teachers and intellectuals in Xinjiang as part of an effort to weaken Uyghur culture and identity, Abdureshid Niyaz, an independent Uyghur researcher based in Turkey, told RFA in a 2021 report.
More than 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities are believed to have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing has said that the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has violated the human rights of Muslims living in in the region.
The United States and the legislatures of some Western countries have said Chinese policies toward the Uyghurs constitute a genocide and crime against humanity.