Erdogan Govt Cracks Down On Uyghur Activists In Turkey

Turkey has abandoned its public criticism of China’s Uyghur policies in recent years, and the Turkish government has begun cracking down on Uyghurs activists at home.

In January, after months of protests in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul by Turkey-based Uyghurs trying to find information about missing family members, police banned the gatherings over concerns about security and COVID-19, VOA reported.

Some activists then moved their protests to the Chinese embassy in Ankara, where they demonstrated for several days in early February.

Among the protestors was Jevlan Shirmemet, a 30-year-old Uyghur activist who has lived in Istanbul since 2011.

In 2018, Shirmemet lost contact with his mother, Suriye Tursun, a 57-year-old government official from Xinjiang, when she was sent to “Chinese concentration camps” that China calls “reeducation centers” in Xinjiang, he said.

“After my mother’s disappearance, I contacted the Chinese embassy for help in reaching out to my mother in 2019, but they have been ignoring my demands,” Shirmemet said.

He told VOA that police detained him and three fellow activists for five hours recently, agreeing to release them if they ended their protest outside the diplomatic mission.

A spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Ankara told VOA that the Chinese government has been helping the “Chinese compatriots from Xinjiang” contact their relatives. The embassy says the protesters are mainly demonstrating in “an attempt to smear” China.

“It’s lawful responsibility for the Turkish policemen to take proper measures to protect the Chinese Embassy and Consulate and maintain order when there is a protest or demonstration nearby,” the spokesperson said in a statement to VOA.

Turkish officials also have publicly cast doubt on some of the claims of the protesters.

After the Turkish police stopped Uyghur protesters in Ankara, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu made a statement on February 15, warning the protesters to avoid falling prey to a “planned international conflict that comes beyond the ocean.”

Additionally, Omer Celik, the spokesperson for the Turkish ruling party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), said on February 24 that his government has “high sensitivity” for Uyghurs’ living conditions in China.

China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.

Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown on the ethnic community.

In the US, the previous Trump administration determined that China has committed genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) must be held accountable for its acts against humanity.

Last month, Canada becomes the second country to declare China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority population a genocide.

Late February, the Netherlands Parliament passed a motion saying the Chinese treatment of the Uyghur minority is a “genocide”.

The Netherlands became the first European country to take such a move. The motion, which is nonbinding, could encourage other European parliaments to advance similar statements, Politico reported. (ANI)

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