Report: Saudi Arabia Arrests American over China Genocide T-Shirt

Setiwaldi Abdukadir holds up a shirt asking Muslims to pray for Uyghur victims of genocide in China in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in October 2021.
Courtesy Salih Hudayar

Police in Saudi Arabia arrested an American citizen in Mecca on Wednesday for wearing a shirt reading, “Pray for the end of China’s genocide & occupation in East Turkistan,” denounced his son, head of the East Turkistan Government in Exile.

Prime Minister Salih Hudayar confirmed the arrest of his father, Setiwaldi Abdukadir, in the Islamic holy city on Wednesday. Police reportedly released Abdukadir after the U.S. government intervened, but as many as 22 other ethnic Uyghurs are believed to continue in Saudi custody for similar expressions of disgust with the Chinese Communist Party.

The reported arrests in Saudi Arabia mirror a similar situation in Greece two weeks ago when Athens handed the Olympic flame over to Beijing for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Greek police arrested several Tibetan activists in the city with no apparent cause. Those arrested warned that, in addition to their arrests, Greek police appeared to be rounding up people who appeared to be Asian, but had no ties to political activism, and arresting them without cause to please Beijing.

Protesters holding the Tibetan flag crash the flame lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Ancient Olympia archeological site, birthplace of the ancient Olympics in southern Greece on October 18, 2021. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Protesters holding the Tibetan flag crash the flame lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Ancient Olympia archeological site, birthplace of the ancient Olympics in southern Greece on October 18, 2021. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

East Turkistan is a Central Asian region the Chinese Communist Party has colonized and renamed Xinjiang. Extensive research by human rights organizations, foreign governments, and acclaimed journalists has documented the construction and administration of at least 1,200 concentration camps in East Turkistan housing as many as 3 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Chinese officials are also forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women in an attempt to eradicate the group.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman defended China’s genocide of Muslim groups as legitimate anti-terrorist activity.

“The reason they detained him was because he was wearing a shirt,” Hudayar confirmed to Breitbart News regarding Abdukadir’s arrest in Mecca.

“They said he was damaging Saudi Arabia’s relationship with China,” he explained, “so they tried to make him take off the shirt and prevented him from praying.”

The offending shirt contained a message of solidarity with the Uyghur victims of China’s ongoing genocide in both Arabic and English.

Hudayar’s government – which asserts that East Turkistan is not a legitimate province of China and is currently under colonialist occupation – issued a statement in response to Abdukadir’s arrest stating, “praying for the end of China’s genocide in East Turkistan is an obligation of all Muslims and is the least that Muslims can do.”

“We see this [as] a direct effort by Saudi Arabian authorities to appease China,” the group stated.

Saudi authorities reportedly released Abdukadir late Wednesday after six hours in custody and in response to intervention by the United States. The State Department confirmed to Breitbart News shortly before his release that it was aware of the situation.

“We are aware of reports of a U.S. citizen arrested in Saudi Arabia. Whenever a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services,” a State Department spokesperson told Breitbart News.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington has not returned a request for comment from Breitbart News at press time.

Hudayar denounced following his father’s release, however, that his government had received news of the arrests of 22 other Uyghur people in the past two weeks in Saudi Arabia. The 22 individuals, who he did not name, remain missing at press time. They are not believed to be American citizens; no record appears to exist that they participated in any criminal behavior.

“China is using its influence to pressure Middle Eastern countries to [detain] & deport Uyghurs,” Hudayar said.

Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s holiest Islamic sites. Visiting Mecca is a religious obligation of every Muslim. Riyadh has supported China in its genocide of Muslim people and has a record of detaining Uyghur people without a clear cause, creating the threat of state-sponsored violence for Uyghur Muslims simply for practicing their religion through visiting the country.

Human Rights Watch denounced the arrest of two Uyghur men late last year as Riyadh prepared to host the virtual G-20 Summit. One of the men, religious scholar Hemdullah Abduweli, “arrived in Saudi Arabia in February to perform a religious pilgrimage,” according to the organization.

“He had been in hiding since he gave a speech to the Uyghur community there,” Human Rights Watch noted, “in which he encouraged Uyghurs and Muslims to pray about conditions in Xinjiang and to ‘fight back the Chinese invaders … using weapons.'” The other man, Nurmemet Rozi, was described as a “friend;” it is unclear if he engaged in any anti-Chinese activity.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited Beijing in 2019 to cut a series of trade deals, including agreeing to a $10-billion petrochemical refinery project in northern China. During the visit, Bin Salman made statements supporting the Uyghur genocide.

“We respect and support China’s rights to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security. We stand ready to strengthen cooperation with China,” the crown prince said, according to Chinese government news agency Xinhua.

Communist Party authorities have insisted for years that the concentration camps are “vocational training” centers meant to help Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities find a place in the Chinese workforce – and thus become less vulnerable to jihadist propaganda. Despite claiming to take the threat of jihadist groups seriously, China sent its foreign minister to meet with senior leaders of the Taliban this week – a jihadist terrorist group that now controls Afghanistan. Taliban officials, too, have expressed support for the Uyghur genocide.

Pressure has mounted in recent months on Saudi Arabia to take a stand against the genocide of majority-Muslim ethnic groups, given its position as one of the most powerful Muslim countries in the world. Last week, Turkish basketball star Enes Kanter challenged the authenticity of the faith of the Saudi royal family given its ties to China in a video condemning the Uyghur genocide.

“It is shameful and sad how you have decided to prioritize money and business with China over human rights. You call yourself Muslims, but you are just using that for show – you simply do not care about people,” Kanter said, naming Saudi King Salman among several Muslim heads of state that have failed to defend the rights of fellow believers.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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