By Aqil Abdullah
Jan 24, 2021
The China-Turkey extradition treaty, signed in 2017, was ratified by the National People’s Congress of China at the end of last year. It raised great concern among the Uyghur diaspora and other Uyghur rights supporters. if the treaty is adopted by Ankara it would put all Uyghurs seeking refuge in Turkey in risk of being extradited to China. Undoubtedly, Uyghurs believe the treaty targets Uyghurs in Turkey who fled China’s persecution and sought shelter in Turkey from East Turkistan and other countries including Egypt, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, most of the Uyghurs seeking refuge in Turkey have no Turkish citizenship. If they were to be extradited to China, they would be taken to internment camps directly, face severe persecution and receive long term prison sentences without due legal process.
When the extradition treaty was signed between Egypt and China, no Uyghur thought that Egypt would repatriate the Uyghur Muslims to China for they believed in their religious brothers. To their surprise, the unbelievable tragedy happened and thousands of Uyghurs were arrested and handed over to China in Cairo in summer 2017. But now, it is hard for Uyghurs to believe that the tragedy happened in Egypt could repeat in Turkey, a country they share strong cultural and linguistic ties with. However, extradition has been happening secretly in small numbers according to Axios news. No one is very sure that it would not happen in large numbers shortly. Therefore, China’s forcing Turkey to ratify the treaty caused great worry in the Uyghur diaspora.
China’s persecution of Uyghurs has escalated in the last four years and millions of Uyghurs have been arbitrarily detained. The Uyghurs who fled to Turkey are still struggling to overcome financial hardship and psychological distress because of having lost everything when they left East Turkistan including family members. Imagine losing contact with your loved ones for four years in today’s high-tech world living the reality that some of your family members are locked in concentration camps and even died due to torture. This unimaginable genocide is happening to every Uyghur in the world by Chinese authorities. Uyghurs abroad are extremely depressed for they are so powerless and helpless to resist China’s atrocities except attending few protests held by Uyghur human rights activists. Recently, tens of Uyghurs holding pictures of their disappeared parents and siblings demonstrated in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul to ask China about the whereabouts of their family members in East Turkistan. Meanwhile, they want to show their fear about the Turkey-China extradition treaty. Similar protests are being held by Uyghur activists in the rest of the world to express their opposition to the treaty and to tell the world the atrocities inflicted on Uyghurs.
In a long history, Turkey welcomed Uyghurs from all around the world, offered asylum for them, and provided long-term residence permit to majority of Uyghurs last year. Uyghur people appreciate Turkey for their aid and consider Turkey as their second home believing that they would never be sent back to China by their brothers, which is a great sin in Islam. The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “Until now, there have been requests for returns from China related to Uyghurs in Turkey. Turkey hasn’t taken steps like this.” “This is a great injustice, and we will work hard in the Republican People’s Party to block this agreement from being ratified by the National Assembly,” said Yurter Ozcan, CHP representative to the United States, according to RFA news.
“We call on the Turkish government to prevent this treaty from becoming an instrument of persecution,” said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Uyghur World Congress, in the report of Agence France-Presse. Uyghurs hope that Turkey will give a clear statement that it refuses to extradite Uyghurs to China as Swedish, German and Malaysian governments did in previous years.
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