Turkish envoy rebukes U.S. senators over ‘biased’ statements on Uighurs

Turkish Ambassador to the United States Serdar Kılıç on Friday hit back at two U.S. senators over their statements on Turkey’s stance on China’s Muslim Uighur minority.

Kılıç called statements by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Jim Risch and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Markey on Ankara’s treatment of Uighurs "unsubstantiated and biased.’’

Since ethnic riots in Xinjiang in 2009, China has increased police presence in the region and established what it calls re-education camps for some 1 million Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim people. In these prison-like camps, Uighur inmates are subject to physical and mental torture, among other violations.

Once a vocal critic of Beijing over their treatment of the minority, Turkey in recent years toned down its criticism of China’s treatment of Uighurs. Turkey’s shift has been attributed to its troubled economy, and an effort to take advantage of China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure development plan that includes new land and sea routes to Europe.

Risch shared a report by Axios news site on Twitter on Wednesday, which claimed Ankara had reversed some of its support for Uighurs and Turkish police were questioning refugees fleeing China's crackdown.

"It's shameful that Turkey assists China in violating Uyghur human rights," Risch said.

"What (is) really shameful is to see the Chairman of such an important Committee subscribe to unsubstantiated and biased allegations incriminating a key Ally, without even questioning whether there is any truth to them," Kılıç said in response on Twitter.

Markey, sharing the same report on Thursday, accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of "abusing extradition requests to target his critics around the world."

"As Beijing pushes its own extradition and intimidation campaign against minorities, Turkey should rededicate itself to the protection of persecuted Uyghurs," Senator Markey said.

Kılıç accused Markey of being quick to appeal to biased allegations against Turkey.

"Believe me Mr Senator, nothing can match the level of abuse Turkey and Turkish authorities are subjected to by some members on the Hill. This tweet clearly displays yet again that some of them don’t even hesitate to subscribe to unsubstantiated and biased allegations to that end," the Turkish envoy said.

Kılıç has penned a separate letter to both senators, where he said allegations concerning the extradition of Uighur Turks to third countries are "mere fabrication and as such are far from reflecting the truth," state-run Anadolu news agency said.

"Given our historical background and the fact that we share a common language, religion and culture with the Uighur Turks, any issue pertaining to their well-being holds a special place on our agenda," the letter said.

Extradition and judicial requests by China are examined in accordance with international law based on "full respect to human rights and within the framework of established practice," the Turkish envoy said.