Exiled Uighurs in Turkey fear sellout to China in exchange for vaccine

WION Web Team
NEW DELHI Published: Feb 05, 2021, 02:46 PM(IST)

Muslim people protesting against China's treatment of Uighurs Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Rights activists say Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps that have imprisoned at least one million people.

Turkey has been accused of agreeing to hand over Uighur Muslims to China in exchange for access to its COVID-19 vaccines.

In recent years, China has forcefully cracked down on Uighurs around the world, using their religion to cite a national security threat. Turkey is home to the largest number of diasporic Uighurs in the world.

Opposition legislators in Turkey are accusing Ankara’s leaders of secretly selling out Uighurs to China in exchange for coronavirus vaccines. Tens of millions of vials of promised Chinese vaccines have not yet been delivered. Meanwhile, in recent months, Turkish police have raided and detained around 50 Uighurs in deportation centres, lawyers say — a sharp uptick from last year.

Also read | Why Erdogan has decided to extradite Uighurs to China

Although no hard evidence has yet emerged for a quid pro quo, these legislators and the Uighurs fear that Beijing is using the vaccines as leverage to win passage of an extradition treaty. The treaty was signed years ago but suddenly ratified by China in December, and could come before Turkish lawmakers as soon as this month.

Also read | Turkey brushes aside fears of Uighur deportations to China

Uighurs speak a Turkic language and have cultural ties with Turkey that make it a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang. But news reports have accused Turkey of covertly returning Uighurs to China via third countries.

Rights activists say Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps that have imprisoned at least one million people.

China says these are vocational training centres to counter extremism.

Ethnic Uighurs rallied for the ninth day running Wednesday to express their fears about the extradition treaty.

"God willing, we hope our state will not approve such a thing," said Omer Farah, a Uighur with Turkish citizenship who said his children are detained in China.

"But if it does, we are really worried. Because for China, all 50,000 Uighurs who live here are criminals."

(With inputs from agencies)

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