Family fears deportation to China of Uyghur detained in İstanbul

The family of Kurban Tohtiniyaz, a Uighur who was detained in İstanbul on September 6, fears his deportation to China.

According to a video posted on social media by his family, Tohtiniyaz is being held at the Sirkeci police station in İstanbul, and they have not been allowed to visit him.

In a parliamentary question submitted to the Interior Ministry, Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu asked if Tohtiniyaz will be deported to China, the Artı Gerçek website reported.

China’s treatment of the Uyghurs has drawn international condemnation, with human rights groups estimating that some 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily incarcerated in a network of prison camps. There have also been reports of forced sterilization, systematic torture and rape.

Turkey has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China and is home to a sizable Uyghur diaspora. But a Turkey-China extradition treaty signed in 2017 that is still awaiting ratification by the Turkish parliament led to fears that it could be used to target Uyghurs living in Turkey.

An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs are currently living in Turkey, making it the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world. The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey because of their shared cultural ties. Turkey, however, has become less vocal about the plight of the Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.

Yet, as Ankara grows more economically dependent on Beijing, the Turkish government is no longer offering a safe haven or defending Uyghur rights.

In January Turkish police raided the homes of some Uyghur refugees and detained between 10 and 15 of them. According to the members of the Uyghur diaspora, they were detained for their alleged ties to terrorist groups but have never been involved in terrorist activities.

On March 10 a motion calling the Chinese treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in northwestern Xinjiang province “genocide” was voted down by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

report released by Human Rights Watch in April identified a range of abuses against Uyghurs that amount to offenses committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a population: mass arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, mass surveillance, cultural and religious erasure, separation of families, forced returns to China, forced labor and sexual violence and violations of reproductive rights.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) denies committing atrocities and abuses against the Uyghurs despite a growing body of evidence. The Chinese government has steadfastly resisted calls to admit independent monitors into the region, allowing only carefully stage-managed tours for select journalists and diplomats.

Resolutions passed by the Dutch, Canadian and British parliaments called China’s repression of Uyghurs “genocide.”

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada in March imposed sanctions on several Chinese officials for human rights abuses against the Uyghurs.

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