Turkey has rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghur refugees due to risks to the country’s “national security” or “social order,” Voice of America (VOA) reported on Wednesday.
Speaking to VOA, Erkin Ekrem, director of the Ankara-based Uyghur Research Institute, said Turkish Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı told him and other Uyghur representatives last year that some foreign nationals in Turkey, including Uyghurs from China, were considered risks to national security.
“All of my family’s applications were rejected, including those of my wife and children,” a Uyghur living in Turkey told VOA.
Turkey has been a destination for thousands of Uyghurs fleeing China and 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 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.
According to a report published by the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, Turkey increased deportations, detentions and surveillance of its Uyghur population and is no longer the safe haven it once was for Uyghur refugees.
The Turkish government’s Uyghur policy is widely criticized by its citizens and rights organizations. A total of 53.2 percent of Turks think the government hasn’t given an “appropriate response” to the Chinese treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in northwestern Xinjiang province, according to a survey conducted by Metropoll.
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.