Turkey Calls on China to Close Internment Camps for Uyghur Muslims

By Reuters
February 10, 2019 Updated: February 10, 2019

ISTANBUL—Turkey called on China to close its internment camps for Muslims, saying the camps, which reportedly hold a million ethnic Uyghur people, are a “great shame for humanity.”

Last week, rights activists urged European and Muslim nations to take the lead in establishing a United Nations investigation into China‘s detention and “forced indoctrination” of Uyghurs, who speak a Turkic language, and other Muslims in the far-northwestern region of China known as Xinjiang.

“The policy of systematic assimilation against the Uyghur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement on Feb. 9.

“It is no longer a secret that more than 1 million Uyghur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons,” Aksoy said.

Former detainees have recounted human-rights abuses inside the facilities, such as torture, drugging, and rape.

Turkey’s response follows the death in detention of Uyghur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit, which Aksoy said was a tragedy that had “reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion toward serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region. We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities.”

“On this occasion, we invite the Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uyghur Turks and to close the internment camps,” he said.

China‘s embassy in Ankara posted a lengthy response on its website that said Aksoy’s accusations were false and urged the government to retract them.

“Allegations that the Chinese government is attempting to ‘eliminate’ the ethnic, religious, and cultural identity of Uighurs and other Muslims are completely groundless,” it said.

Beijing faces growing international pressure as it continues to use the excuse of fighting terrorism and radicalization to persecute Uyghur Muslims.

Ankara called on the international community and the U.N. secretary-general to take action.

Most recently, Xinjiang residents have told media that some local officials were inviting Uyghurs to a Lunar New Year dinner where pork and alcohol were being served, and threatened to send the invitees to the “re-education centers” if they refused. The consumption of both are strictly forbidden in Islam.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an organization for Uyghurs in exile, recently told Radio Free Asia that the recent efforts are the Chinese regime’s latest attempts to force Uyghurs to surrender their culture and customs.

“According to our information, the Chinese government is stepping up its campaign to assimilate Uyghurs into Han Chinese culture,” he said. Han Chinese are the majority ethnic group in China.

By Ezgi Erkoyun. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.