Uyghurs in Turkey demand release of relatives held in China

Istanbul: In order to protest against the ongoing crackdown against Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang, members of Uyghur Turks living in Istanbul had staged a demonstration near China’s Consulate General demanding the whereabouts of their family members who have been held in Chinese ‘re-education’ camps.

According to Anadolu Agency, Dozens of Uyghurs including academics, business people, and children on Thursday said that they have not heard from their family members for years due to Beijing’s systematic campaign that involves confining members of the ethnic minority in concentration and forced labour camps in China.

The group’s spokesperson Salih Emin called on the global community to raise their voice against crimes against humanity and take action to stop Uyghur persecution.

“The Chinese government does not want human rights organizations to investigate [the situation] in the country because they’re afraid of [the situation there]. The massacre there is true and they [China] don’t want the world to know about it,” Emin said, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.

East Turkistan, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 per cent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious, and economic discrimination.

Emin also called on the Turkish Foreign Ministry to meet with the Chinese government to help them get in touch with their families.

Anadolu Agency further reported that during the rally, many carried East Turkistan’s flags in Uighur sky blue and held up banners reading: “Chinese Government Release My Innocent Family Members,” “China, Where is My Son?” “Where are My Brothers?” and “Uighurs Need Your Support.”

“I’ve been unable to communicate with my family since 2015. … We’ve learned that some of my family members were sent to concentration camps,” Habibe Omer, one of the protesters, told Anadolu Agency.

“Just hear our voice!” she asked in an emotional tone. “We demand those who were in the concentration camps to be released immediately,” said Abdullah Resul, another protester, who attended the rally in the hopes of getting information about his relatives’ whereabouts.

Burhan Uluyol, an academic at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, was also among the protesters. He said “Cruel China has arrested my father, mother, brothers, uncles and nephews. They’ve been under arrest for four years. We’re here to be their voice.”

The agency further reported that Last year, Uighurs held rallies for 18 days outside the Chinese Consulate General in Istanbul demanding information on their families’ well-being after not being able to contact them for years.

A 2018 Human Rights Watch report detailed a Chinese government campaign of “mass arbitrary detention, torture, forced political indoctrination, and mass surveillance of Xinjiang’s Muslims.”

Earlier, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called for a visit of the High Commissioner’s for Human Rights to the Muslim-majority Chinese region of Xinjiang, after a British media house report alleging systematic rape in so-called re-education camps.

Sputnik cited interviews that the UK media outlet conducted with former detainees and a guard, that Muslim Uyghur women in such camps are systematically subjected to rape, torture, and sexual abuse.

The US designated China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide in the last weeks of the tenure of then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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, according to a report.

Recently, a commission of the United States Congress, in a new report, said that China has possibly carried out “genocide” against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang.

The report, released by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), stated that the Chinese government and Communist Party have taken unprecedented steps to extend their repressive policies through censorship, intimidation, and the detention of people in China for exercising their fundamental human rights.

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