How do Uyghurs live in Turkey

Uighurs in TurkeyConcern for relatives in China

"Where are the human rights", around 200 men and women chant in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul. Many hold up posters with photos of relatives who are missing in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang: They are Uyghurs, members of a Muslim minority in China. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are interned there in labor and re-education camps. "China, let my parents go free," is written under the photo of an elderly couple holding up a woman - her name is Semsiye and she is 35 years old. Her parents were both civil servants in China, Semsiye reports with tears in his eyes. Because they had traveled to Turkey several times to visit their daughter, they were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

"Just because you visited me here, you are now in prison - for 20 years! And by now we all know what is happening there, how the people there are tortured. I am beside myself with despair - I cannot go on living like this. I haven't heard from my parents for four years. I don't even know if they're still alive or dead! "

(AFP / Greg Baker) Minorities in China - The situation of the Uyghurs
Millions of camps, forced labor, forced sterilization: the human rights situation in China's Uyghur province Xinjiang is becoming more and more precarious. Some researchers even speak of cultural genocide. Questions and answers about a conflict in which international companies may also be involved.

Many who came to the vigil in front of the Chinese consulate tell of similar fates - of arrested siblings, missing children, missing parents, friends and relatives. The adults are suspected in re-education camps, the children in state children's homes. Your relatives here in Turkey feel powerless. The vigil is their only hope, says Semsiye.

"Every day I leave my four children at home while my husband is at work and I come here to plead for my parents in the hope that someone will hear me. We all just want people to hear us here. "

50,000 Uyghurs lack the support of the Turkish government

As in front of the consulate in Istanbul, there is a vigil of Uyghurs in front of the Chinese embassy in Ankara, and in Kayseri in Central Anatolia they watch in front of a mosque. Around 50,000 Uighurs live in Turkey, it is the largest Uighur diaspora in the world. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that Uyghurs and Turks are culturally close - their languages ​​are related, and they are also linked by history, beliefs and customs. On the other hand, it is because Turkey generously accepted Uyghur immigrants until a few years ago - including Semsiye.

In 2012, she came to Turkey with her husband and first child, says Semsiye, so that she could live her faith and culture freely - that was already difficult in China back then.

"We thank Turkey - they accepted us and we are very grateful to them. But now we ask Turkey to stand up for us and support us."

But the Uyghurs have asked in vain for this. An appeal to China to respect the human rights of the Uyghurs was signed last autumn by 39 states from Germany to Japan - but not Turkey. The Uyghurs also lack Turkish support in other ways, says university professor Burhan Uluyol, who organized the Istanbul vigil and who himself misses relatives in the Chinese camps.

"No, we haven't received any support from Turkey for about four years. We don't know why - I keep asking myself why. Whether it's about money or what? Turkey always supported us at least verbally in the past. But against him Turkey does not commit genocide of the Uyghurs. "

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Imminent extradition to China

The Uyghurs in Turkey are worried about an extradition agreement with China that President Erdogan has already signed and is now to be ratified by the parliament in Ankara. Some Uyghurs fear that they will no longer be safe in Turkey either. The Turkish government recently had the police lift its vigils in Ankara and Kayseri. Also in front of the consulate in Istanbul, the requirements are becoming stricter. Semsiye is not deterred.

"If the Turkish government doesn't stand up for us, then at least it should let us stand up for our families ourselves and not hinder us. At first we stood here from morning to evening, but now they only let us stand here for two or three hours. Probably because of the pressure from China, we understand that. "

Semsiye still wants to stop here and hold up her parents' photo. It's the only thing she can do for the parents.