Opposition İYİ Party asks Turkish parliament to declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs ‘genocide’

Turkey’s right-wing opposition İYİ (Good) Party has asked the Turkish parliament to declare the Chinese treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority “genocide” in accordance with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The İYİ Party motion was submitted to Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop yesterday by party deputies Lütfü Türkkan, Müsavat Dervioşoğlu and İsmail Tatlıoğlu.

China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in northwestern Xinjiang province 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.

A BBC report shows that — alongside the re-education camps built across Xinjiang in recent years – China is transferring hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to factory and manual labor jobs, often considerable distances from their homes. The Chinese policy involves a high risk of coercion and is similarly designed to assimilate minorities by changing their lifestyles and thinking, the BBC report said.

“[Passing the genocide motion] is our responsibility not only to our nation and history but also to the Turkic and Muslim people of East Turkestan,” the motion said, referring to recent resolutions passed by the Dutch and Canadian parliaments calling China’s repression of Uyghurs genocide.

As Ankara grows more economically dependent on Beijing, the Turkish government is no longer offering a safe haven or defending Uyghur rights. Genocide motions in Western parliaments have also been criticized by government and party officials.

After the approval of the Canadian genocide motion, Turkish Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Serdar Çam said on Twitter that it was a “political move” and not convincing. He added that it was only intended to gain the upper hand in the “global economic competition.”

The Uyghurs have sought refuge in Turkey for decades because of their shared cultural ties. Turkey, however, has become less vocal about the plight of Uyghurs in recent years as it has developed economic ties with China.

Uyghurs in Turkey not only worry about their families but also fear for their own safety as China recently ratified an extradition agreement with Turkey that was signed several years ago. Turkey has yet to ratify the agreement, but according to a Nordic Monitor report, the text of the treaty contains ambiguous phrases that might trigger the extradition of scores of Uyghurs from Turkey and violate extradition mechanisms regulated by the European Convention on Extradition (ECE), to which Turkey is a party.

Both Turkish and Chinese authorities insist that the extradition treaty does not aim to target Uyghurs for deportation.

However, the minds of Uyghurs in Turkey are not at rest. Some Uyghurs have said their acquaintances were deported to China. According to Uyghur asylum seeker Ihsan Yilmaz, a man named Burhan Kerim was deported in 2018. Ziynetgül Tursun was also deported with her children in 2019.

A group of Uyghurs earlier staged a demonstration in front on the Chinese Embassy, demanding information about their family members in China. While the police did not allow journalists to cover the protest, four of the protestors were escorted into a police van. The police insisted that they were not being detained.

An estimated 50,000 Uyghurs are currently living in Turkey, making it the largest Uyghur diaspora in the world.

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