Uighurs in Turkey fear sold out to China in exchange for vaccines

Beijing (AP) — Turkish Uighur Abdullah Messedi heard the turmoil and was preparing her bed and knocked on the door last month. “Police! Open the door!”

More than a dozen police officers poured in, many with guns and wore camouflage of Turkish counter-terrorism forces. They asked if Messedi had participated in any movement against China and threatened to deport him and his wife. They took him to a deportation facility, where he is now sitting at the center of the political controversy of brewing.

Turkish opposition lawmakers have accused Ankara leaders of secretly selling Uighurs to China in exchange for the coronavirus vaccine. Tens of millions of vials of the promised Chinese vaccine have not yet been delivered. Meanwhile, in recent months, Turkish police have attacked and detained about 50 Uighurs at a deportation center, lawyers say. This is a sharp increase from last year.

There is no solid evidence of quid pro quo yet, but these legislators and Uighurs are afraid that Beijing is using vaccines as a means to win extradition treaties. The treaty was signed a few years ago, but was suddenly ratified by China in December and could come to Turkish parliamentarians soon this month.

Uighurs say that once the bill becomes law, it can lead to their ultimate life-threatening nightmares: deportation to the country they fled to avoid mass detention. Over a million Uighurs and other predominantly Islamic minorities have been swept into Chinese prisons and detention centers. This is what China calls anti-terrorism, but the United States has declared a genocide.

“I’m afraid of being deported,” said Messedi’s wife, Melaik, in tears, refusing to reveal her name for fear of retaliation. “I’m worried about my husband’s mental health.”

Suspicions of the deal surfaced when the first shipment of Chinese vaccines was postponed for several weeks in December. Authorities blamed the permit issue.

But even now, Turkey’s main opposition lawmaker, Yıldırım Kaya, said China has provided only one-third of the 30 million doses promised by the end of January. Turkey relies heavily on China’s Sinovac vaccine for the virus, which infects about 2.5 million people and kills more than 26,000.

“Such delays are not normal. We paid for these vaccines,” Kaya said. “Is China threatening Turkey?”

Mr Kaya formally asked the Turkish government about pressure from China, but said he had not yet received a response.

Both Turkish and Chinese officials argue that the expulsion bill was not intended to deport Uighurs. Chinese mass media called such concerns “smearing,” and Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin denied the link between the vaccine and the treaty.

“I don’t think your speculation is grounded,” the king said at a press conference Thursday.

Foreign Minister Mebrut Chabsogur said in December that vaccine delays had nothing to do with Uighur problems.

“We don’t use Uighurs for political purposes, we defend their human rights,” said Kabsoguru.

However, while few have actually been deported so far, recent detentions have caused chills in Turkey’s estimated 50,000 Uighur community. And in recent weeks, the Turkish ambassador to Beijing has praised China’s vaccine, adding that Ankara attaches great importance to “judicial cooperation” with China. Many Uighurs are afraid of possible crackdowns.

In the past, a few Uighurs traveled to Syria to train with militants. However, most Uighurs in Turkey avoid jihad and are worried that they may hurt the Uighur cause.

Uighur lawyers in custody say that in most cases Turkish police have no evidence of ties to terrorist groups. Ilyas Dogan, a law professor in Ankara, believes that detention is a political motive.

“They have no concrete evidence,” said Dogan, who currently represents six Uighurs at deportation centers, including Messedi. “They are not serious.”

Even if the bill is ratified, Dogan suspects there may be a large amount of deportation given the widespread public sympathy for Turkish Uighurs. But he believes that individuals are much more likely to be deported.

Due to their shared cultural ties, Turkey has long been a safe haven for Uighurs, a group of Turks native to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the westernmost part of China. Turkish President Recep Erdogan accused China of treating the “genocide” of Uighurs more than a decade ago.

It all changed with a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016. This resulted in a large amount of purges and alienated Prime Minister Erdogan from the Western government. Waiting to fill the void was China, which has lent and invested billions of dollars in Turkey.

There are many signs of strong economic relations, big and small. An exporter doing business in China has been appointed as Turkey’s Ambassador to Beijing. A $ 1.7 billion coal-fired power plant funded by China rises on the shores of Turkey’s Mediterranean Sea. The Istanbul airport has secured a check-in counter to accommodate thousands of tourists from Shanghai and Beijing and has been certified as the world’s first “China-friendly airport”. And President Erdogan’s once fierce rhetoric became dull and diplomatic, praising the support of Chinese leaders.

China has also begun demanding the delivery of more Uighurs from Turkey. In one of the 2016 extradition requests first reported by Axiosand, independently obtained by the Associated Press, Chinese authorities demanded extradition of a former Uighur mobile phone vendor and brought an Islamic State terrorist group online. I accused him of advertising in. Bender was arrested, but was eventually released and the charges dropped.

Uighur poet Abdulehim Parak has been detained twice in the last few years, but even detention in Turkey is “like a hotel” compared to the “hellish” situation he received in a Chinese prison for three years. “It was.” Imim was finally released after the judge cleared his name. However, he struggled to sleep at night, fearing that the Extradition Ordinance would be ratified, and called the pressure “unbearable.”

“Death is waiting for me in China,” he said.

Growing fear has already fueled the influx of Uighurs moving to Germany, the Netherlands, and other European countries. Ali Kutad, who fled from China to Turkey in 2016, says some people are very desperate and even sneaking up illegally across national borders.

“Turkey is our second home,” said Kudat. “We are really afraid.”


Mehmet Guzel of Istanbul contributed to this report. Fraser reported from Ankara.

Uighurs in Turkey fear sold out to China in exchange for vaccines

Source link Uighurs in Turkey fear sold out to China in exchange for vaccines

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