Turkish gov’t bars family of Uighur internment camp critic in China from entry to Turkey

A critic of China’s Xinjiang internment camps who lives in Turkey has said his wife faces deportation to China after she and her son were barred from entering Turkey, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Tuesday.

Omir Bekali, a Kazakh national, said Turkish authorities had detained his family at an airport in İstanbul, accusing them of trying to enter the country using fake passports.

Bekali told the AP earlier this year that he and other Muslim minority Kazakh, as well as Uighur detainees, had been held in Chinese camps for months. Following his release, he returned to Kazakhstan, but moved to Turkey this year, fearing for his safety. His wife and son had flown from Kazakhstan to join him on Sunday but were detained at the airport.

If they are sent back to Kazakhstan, Bekali said his wife ― Ruxianguli Taximaimaiti, a Chinese ethnic minority Uighur ― would likely be deported back to China where she may face punishment for her husband’s criticism of the internment camps.

According to the AP report, it was not clear if they been deported by Tuesday, while attempts on Monday to contact Turkish airport police for comment were unsuccessful.

Until recently, Turkish authorities were openly critical of state repression of China’s Uighur Turks, yet their plight seems to have fallen from the Turkish government’s agenda, suggesting Turkish attempts to strengthen trade relations between the two countries have pushed concerns about the Uighurs’ fate onto the back-burner.

Silent on the plight of Uighurs, Turkey eyeing benefits from China

Meanwhile, Thomas Seibert wrote in an article in Arab Weekly that the Turkish government is keeping silent on the treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in China despite its vocal stance against the oppression of Muslims internationally, in an effort to avoid offending Beijing amid a financial crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Seibert said, is hoping that Turkey can reap benefits from a Chinese plan to develop overland, sea and air export routes to Europe.

The state repression of China’s 11-15 million Uighur Turks has fallen off the agenda of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), he noted, pointing to Turkey’s isolation stemming from an ongoing diplomatic row with the United States.

A UN rights panel in August shared credible reports of up to 1 million ethnic Uighurs being held in extra-legal detention in the Xinjiang region, while Human Rights Watch said they faced arbitrary detention, daily curbs on religious practice and “forced political indoctrination” in a massive security crackdown.

Erdoğan, known for sharp criticism of Israel and his stance against Myanmar committing “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority, has yet to comment on the issue, Seibert noted.

This time around, it’s Turkey’s economic problems that are Erdoğan’s main concern, Seibert quoted Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at Washington think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as saying.

“Although Erdoğan has presented himself as a champion of Turkey’s ethnic and religious brethren globally, in relations with both Russia and China, Erdogan has chosen to turn a blind eye to the plight of Turkic and Muslim victims,” Erdemir said.

Noting that China could play an important role in helping Turkey overcome its economic crisis, the Arab Weekly contributor recalled that The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in August provided a $3,6 billion loan package to the Turkish energy and transportation sector and that close to 1,000 Chinese companies are active in Turkey.

According to experts, Erdoğan’s silence could backfire as he may be faced with a loss of domestic support if he remains silent on the issue, which tugs at the heartstrings of Turks. (SCF with Ahval)

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