The Al-Azhar Media Centre denied on Friday circulated news about the arrest of Uyghur students from Al-Azhar University, according to a statement.
“The Al-Azhar Media Centre watched closely the news circulated on social media websites of arrests of Turkestani students, and denied the arrest of any students inside the Al-Azhar University campus, or any of the Al-Azhar institutes,” the statement read.
The statement also explained that Al-Azhar was studying the situation, adding that the concerned authorities have the right to examine the safety of residents of different nationalities in Egypt; however, Al-Azhar neither denied nor confirmed the arrests.
An alleged video of about 30 seconds showing Uyghur students from Al-Azhar arrested and handcuffed has been circulated on social media since 6 July.
“What some websites and channels are publishing of news and numbers regarding this issue are not accurate at all,” the statement read, adding that the news were rumors published by the Qatari network Al-Jazeera to insult Egypt and Al-Azhar.
Head of the research unit of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) Mohammed Abdelsalam told Daily News Egypt that Al-Azhar acknowledged the arrests by releasing statements saying that the arrest numbers were inaccurate, and that authorities were studying the situation.
Abdelsalam explained that AFTE knew of the arrested students from statements of their colleagues, as well as some of Turkestani students who are hiding in fear of arrests and deportation, saying that several Uyghur students were arrested for an “unknown reason”.
“They [the students] were not allowed to contact any lawyers, nor the commission of refugees. It is clear that this will escalate to deportation to China,” he said, adding that they “would face imprisonment and/or torture in China.”
Turkestan, also known as Uyghur, is part of the Chinese territory Xinjiang, where the government has reportedly oppressed several Muslim practices.
In May, Chinese authorities ordered Uyghur students residing outside China to return to their hometowns, in fear that students would engage in “anti-China activities”, reported Radio Free Asia
Egypt’s Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar met in June with the Chinese Minister of Public Security, where they signed a “technical cooperation document”, according to an official statement. However, the statement did not clarify any further details of “cooperation”.
Turkestani media published on June 4 that Egyptian authorities detained about 500 Turkestani Azhar students to deport them back to Turkestan.
Another video circulated on social media websites showed locals of the areas where the students lived saying that groups of them were arrested, adding that they did not know to where they were taken.
The students were arrested from their residence places in Egypt, as well as public places they visit, such as restaurants, according to the Times of Turkestan.
Turkestan media also speculated that the incident indicated a request by Chinese authorities for such action; however, Egyptian authorities have not yet commented on such statements.
The Chinese government initiated a campaign to repress Uyghurs “in the name of countering terrorism” and has ordered the deportation of Uyghurs from several countries over the past years, as the Chinese government perceives the Uyghur Muslims as a national threat, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.