Uyghur man detained at Belgrade airport and in danger of deportation to China

by Anne Kader



BELGRADE, SERBIA – On December 3rd, 2021, Uyghur News received news of a deportation threat of an Uyghur man named Qahar Héytem. While transiting via Belgrade to Europe, the Serbian police detained Mr. Héytemat at Belgrade airport on December 2nd. Mr. Héytem is a resident of Turkey. 


UPDATE (December 8th) Qahar Héytem has been able to return to Istanbul and is now reunited with his family.



UPDATE (6 Dec) :  ‘At the moment, it is not clear on what basis the Serbian authorities arrested Héytem or whether an Interpol had issued a red warrant for his arrest’ Radio Free Europe reports in Serbian.


Lawyers from the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights have located Qahar Héytem: he is safe and well at an immigration detention center in Serbia. He is currently not facing any risk of extradition to China. Lawyers are now studying his dossier and working on Héytem’s return to his family, ‘Safeguard Defenders’ tweets.



UPDATE:  Mr. Héytem’s wife told Uyghur Times that her husband had left Turkey because he felt unsafe in the country. Many Uyghurs do. They are afraid of arbitrary arrests in Turkey, and many have already disappeared. 


Mr, Héytem flew from Turkey to Serbia on December 2nd at 16:00. He got arrested at Belgrade airport upon his arrival at 18:00. He immediately contacted his wife using the phone of another passenger. He informed her that he was in grave danger. The authorities had forced him to sign a document. The wife has been unable to contact her husband since last night. The latest message she received said that the authorities would transfer him to another location. He would not be allowed to return to Turkey.


Héytem’s wife said he got arrested as he walked off aircraft. It seems as if Turkey had notified the Serbian Authorities about him. Hamutjan, a friend of Qahar’s, told Uyghur Times, that Qahar was coded “G87” by the Turkish authorities, which labels him as a dangerous person and someone that would not be allowed to leave Turkey. Interestingly, he was allowed to leave. Someone, however,  had notified the Serbian authorities about his arrival.


Héytem’s wife told UT that her husband had arrived in Turkey in 2011 to study, live with his family, and teach in a school. He has a Master’s degree in Chemical engineering, his wife said. He had never participated in any political organization.


Qahar Héytem is a father of three children aged 6, 3, and 2.


Qahar Héytem with his children: 6, 3 and 2



According to Héytem, the Chinese police arrived at Belgrade airport again on Friday evening and have talked with the Serbian police for two hours. There is a possibility of Mr. Héytem’s extradition to China instead of Turkey. 


Last night the local police brought in a Chinese translator to interrogate Mr. Héytem. They then showed him an English document about his planned deportation to Turkey.


Qahar Héytem has a wife and three children in Turkey. We urge all Uyghur NGOs around the world to take immediate action. Anyone who can help, please take all available measures to save our brother Qahar Héytem from any danger.


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