Chinese pressure upends Uighur refuge in Turkey
After 20 years in a Chinese prison, Abdullah Abdulrahman joined 50,000 other Uighurs and fled to Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had once railed against “genocide” in Xinjiang.
But Turkey is increasingly dependent on Chinese investments and coronavirus vaccines, and the 46-year-old fears being sent back to a region where China has detained at least one million people in “political education” camps.
Abdulrahman’s anxiety is aggravated by the Chinese parliament’s recent ratification of an extradition agreement with Turkey.
Turkish lawmakers are yet to debate the treaty but Uighurs already complain of escalating police raids on their homes, forcing some to once again pack up their belongings and seek sanctuary in Europe.
“We are no longer safe here,” said Abdulrahman, who has been taking part in protests outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul for the past two months.
“If Turkey sends me back, the Chinese would not leave me alive,” he told AFP. “We are scared of expulsion.”
– ‘China’s pressure’ –
Jailed in China in the 1990s over anti-Beijing protests, Abdulrahman reached Turkey in 2014 after a months-long trek that took him to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
Once in Istanbul, he found peace among one of the world’s largest Uighur diasporas, benefitting from the same Turkic language and familiar with many customs thanks to generations of cultural ties.
But since 2018, his life has been upended by a wave of interrogations over suspected links to Islamic State militants — the same extremist ties he was accused of harbouring in China.
He has spent a year at a deportation centre in the western province of Aydin and 40 more days in Mugla in the southwest.
Although acquitted in court, Abdulrahman has been denied a residence permit, which he needs to go to the hospital, use public transport or open a bank account.
“Many others like me are denied papers because of China’s pressure,” he said…..read more