Uyghur Muslims in Turkey Protest Against Chinese Minister’s Visit

Uyghur Muslims in Turkey Protest Against Chinese Minister’s Visit
Ethnic Uyghurs and activists attend a protest against the visit of China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the Turkish capital in front of the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey on March 25, 2021. (Cagla Gurdogan/Reuters)

ISTANBUL—Turkey raised the issue of Uyghur Muslims during talks with China’s foreign minister in Ankara on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, as hundreds of Uyghurs protested against the treatment of their ethnic kin in China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Cavusoglu and later President Tayyip Erdogan, as around 1,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, chanting “Dictator China” and “Stop Uighur Genocide, Close the Camps.” Some waved blue-and-white flags of the independence movement of East Turkestan, the name by which the movement refers to Xinjiang.

“We are here to ask about our families. Why can’t we get in touch with our families? Are they dead or alive? Where are they? Are they at camps or outside?” said Imam Hasan Ozturk, a Uyghur protester.

China approved an extradition treaty with Turkey in December and with the deal awaiting ratification by Ankara’s parliament, activists among some 40,000 Uyghurs living in Turkey have stepped up efforts to highlight their plight, holding regular protests in Ankara and Istanbul.

Cavusoglu has denied that the extradition accord would lead to Uyghurs being sent back to China. He said after meeting Wang that Ankara and Beijing would enhance cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic and on vaccines.

Uyghurs’ worries have been fueled by Ankara’s dependence on China for COVID-19 vaccines, having received 15 million doses from Sinovac Biotech and ordered tens of millions more. This week, Turkey received 1.4 million doses of the vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech, the first significant batch of non-Chinese vaccines.

U.N. experts estimate at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers in northwest China’s Xinjiang. The United States said in January the Chinese regime has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” by repressing Uyghurs.