A little one from the Uyghur community residing in Turkey participates in a protest in Istanbul on November 6, 2018, in opposition to oppression by the Chinese federal government of Muslim Uyghurs in the significantly-western Xinjiang province.

Credit: AP Photograph/Lefteris Pitarakis


Though the United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and providers complicit in the abuse of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, Beijing can make use of its deep pockets to buy the silence of majority Muslim international locations close to the earth. The most surprising among these is Turkey, which shares not only spiritual but also ethnic affinity with China’s much more than 12 million Uyghurs.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sees himself as a winner of Muslims all around the world, has been uncharacteristically demure when it will come to the Uyghur situation. In July 2019, when a team of 22 states, which include 14 of Turkey’s NATO allies, issued a joint letter to the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn China’s “mass arbitrary detentions and linked violations” of Uyghurs and other minorities, Ankara appeared the other way. Equally, when a Turkish opposition occasion launched a movement on July 10 to build an ad hoc committee in parliament to examine “the complications of Uyghur Turks uncovered to China’s oppressive methods,” Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Enhancement Get together (AKP) and his ultranationalist associates in the Nationalist Action Occasion (MHP) voted in unison to eliminate the initiative. Even though talking on behalf of the motion, an opposition lawmaker accused the Turkish governing administration of abandoning the Uyghurs and additional, “I obviously state that the AKP and the MHP have marketed out [the Uyghurs] for $50 billion.”

Back in 2012, Nury Turkel, a former president of the Uyghur American Affiliation and a distinguished human legal rights activist, claimed in a Wall Road Journal piece that Turkey presented “a model for other democratic international locations on how to solution minority troubles in China.” Turkel’s tone has modified markedly eight a long time afterwards. Now a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on Worldwide Religious Independence (USCIRF), Turkel tweeted on July 27, “It is unconscionable that #Turkey, after viewed as a safe haven for #Uyghurs, has caved to CCP tension & deported Uyghurs to 3rd international locations that send out them on to China. Turkey need to end this kind of deportations & safeguard all Uyghurs seeking refuge.”

What prompted Turkel’s tweet was an explosive report printed by The Telegraph, a British every day, on July 26, detailing Ankara’s acquiescence to Beijing’s extradition requests concentrating on Chinese Uyghur dissidents. A month before, information website Axios similarly exposed a cache of Chinese files proving Beijing experienced secretly requested the extradition of Uyghur dissident Enver Turdi in 2016 and Turkish authorities subsequently harassed him. NPR also claimed in March on “China’s extensive arm” in Turkey and how Turkish authorities urged a Uyghur activist “not to communicate out versus China.” These exposés suit the general pattern of Erdogan’s Uyghur policy, which is at odds with the Turkish public’s frustrating sympathy towards the Uyghurs.

By all accounts, Turkey would seem to be a pure ally in the struggle for Uyghur legal rights. Sharing the similar religion and a comparable language, Turkey has made available a purely natural harbor for 50,000 Uyghurs who managed to escape China over the decades. Istanbul neighborhoods this kind of as Aksaray and Zeytinburnu have become Uyghur cultural hotspots as perfectly as centers of Uyghur activism. Turkish citizens often protest China’s Uyghur guidelines.

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Erdogan’s compliance with Beijing’s demands is pushed by his expanding need for Chinese expenditure at a time when Western funds is fleeing Turkish markets. Turkey suffers from a serious existing account deficit and the ongoing Western exodus from Turkish bonds and equities has exacerbated the difficulty, putting further pressure on Turkey’s nosediving forex. China and Turkey have a yuan-lira swap deal courting back again to 2012. The first time Beijing transferred cash to Ankara less than the terms of this deal was for the duration of an election month in 2019. This June, Turkey once again manufactured use of the swap offer to pay out for a batch of Chinese imports. Erdogan, who — irrespective of recurring tries in 2020 — has failed to protected any swap promotions with Western central banks, hopes that China will sign up for his closest ally Qatar to provide bigger capital injections by expense and swap promotions to assistance bail out Turkey’s flailing overall economy.

In addition to getting Turkey’s silence, China is making an attempt to make the place a critical piece in its Belt and Highway Initiative (BRI). China now has a massive existence in Turkey’s infrastructure improvement, investing seriously in assignments around Istanbul. In a city that backlinks Europe with Asia, this kind of investments could show to be essential to China’s trade routes to the West. Chinese freight trains now make their way throughout the Bosporus through the Marmaray railway tunnel and into Europe, though China retains a 65 % stake in Turkey’s third major container port, Kumport, on the European side of Istanbul. As Beijing continues to pour assets into Turkey’s economic system and infrastructure, Erdogan will be even significantly less very likely to heed well known pro-Uyghur sentiments.

All of this is to say that Turkey now joins the list of greater part Muslim nations around the world that have opted for silence in working with the a single of the most pressing human legal rights difficulties of our time. Saudi Arabia, keen for China to spend $10 billion in its oil large, Aramco, pledged its silence and guidance. In the same way, in Pakistan, the place China’s $62 billion financial commitment has enticed Islamabad with desires of turning its coastline into the upcoming Dubai, Primary Minister Imran Khan pled ignorance and refused to even consider criticizing the Chinese govt, which he credits with rescuing Pakistan when it was at “rock bottom.” Iran way too, no stranger to waving the banner of Islam to further more its political agenda, is now firmly on China’s aspect and in its pocket.


While Turkey is not the only the vast majority Muslim region to appear the other way when it comes to the plight of the Uyghurs, Erdogan’s complicity is the most shocking, offered the deep historical and cultural ties in between Turks and Uyghurs. The Turkish president’s hypocrisy in supplying China carte blanche to commit atrocities against fellow Muslims in return for economic positive aspects demonstrates but again that self-interest trumps the significant beliefs to which authoritarian leaders fork out lip service.

Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish parliament and the senior director of the Turkey plan at the Basis for Defense of Democracies. @aykan_erdemir

Philip Kowalski is a investigate associate of the Turkey method at the Basis for Defense of Democracies. @philip_kowalski

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