Turkey’s silence on Uighur issue ringing alarm bells for China’s Muslims - Business Insider

Turkey, the last major opponent of China's Muslim oppression, has done a u-turn to change its tune, leaving the Uighurs uncertain about their future, Business Insider reported.

Since ethnic riots in Xinjiang in 2009, China has increased the police presence in the region and established what it calls re-education camps for detained Uighurs. In these prison-like camps, guards reportedly force Uighur inmates to sing patriotic hymns in order to get food, and subject them to physical and mental torture, among other violations.

Turkey was quick to criticise China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs as “genocide.” And up until February, Ankara condemned China's "reintroduction of internment camps in the 21st century," the article said. Ankara had described China’s "policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks" as "a great shame for humanity."

Fast-forward to a few months later and Chinese state-media reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says Uighurs lead happy lives in China, during an official visit to the country in July.

Erdoğan even went on to say some were seeking to "abuse" the Xinjiang crisis to jeopardize Turkey and China's economic relationship.

Turkey’s retreat into silence, may be  largely due to fear of Beijing's economic vengeance, the article noted, adding that Turkey's apparent capitulation compared to other Muslim countries is most threatening to Uighurs.

Turkey, the only Muslim country to criticize Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim population, is host to some 35,000 Uighurs and draws in the population due to similarities between the Turkish and Uighur languages and cultures, it said. 

The article highlighted that many Uighurs in Turkey still have relatives living in Xinjiang and regularly stage large-scale protests calling for the release of their loved ones.

Turkey’s currency collapse and a recession last year have made it increasingly reliant on Chinese economic aid in recent years, according to Business Insider, and projects such as Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative,  looking to link China to dozens of countries through infrastructure, are enticing for Ankara. 

Pointing out that many Uighurs in Turkey have had their Chinese passports revoked on their way out, or are unable to renew them at Beijing's embassy in Turkey, Business Insider underlined that this has prevented from filing for work permits or legal residency in Turkey. 

"Erdogan's conspicuous silence in Beijing is making Uighurs even more uncertain about their future,’’ the article said, going on to quote Alip Erkin, an activist who runs the Uyghur Bulletin network as stressing Beijing’s economic influence over Ankara.

"Wary of growing Chinese economic influence in Turkey and its increasingly cozy relations with China, Uighurs fear for even more restrictions on political activities and media coverage of what is going on in East Turkestan," Erkin said.