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Report: Turkey Denying Uyghur Refugees Fleeing Chinese Citizenship over ‘National Security’

By Gabrielle Reyes

Mar 21, 2022

Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang rejected the notion Uyghurs are suffering “human rights abuses” in China’s western Xinjiang region on Sunday during a live interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.

“There’s no such … human rights violation in Xinjiang,” Qin said on March 20.

The Chinese diplomat’s remark came less than one week after Voice of America (VOA) reported Turkish government authorities denied the citizenship applications of Uyghur refugees fleeing genocide by China in Xinjiang last year on the grounds they allegedly posed risks to Turkey’s “national security.”

VOA, a U.S. government-funded broadcaster, did not specify precisely when the citizenship rejections occurred but claimed they took place sometime in 2021. The news service likewise did not disclose exactly how many Uyghurs — members of a Turkic-speaking, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic group — were denied Turkish citizenship in the cases it referenced on March 16.

VOA spoke to one anonymous Uyghur refugee in Turkey who claimed Ankara rejected his citizenship application last year on “national security” grounds. He said Turkish government officials told him they rejected his citizenship application and those of his entire family due, at least in part, to “phone communication.”

“[R]ights organizations say the term could mean that the person applying for citizenship has communicated with someone connected to an extremist organization in another country, such as Syria,” VOA noted on Wednesday.

A protester from the Uyghur community living in Turkey holds an anti-China placard during a protest in Istanbul Thursday, March 25. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

To further explain the Turkish government’s reference to alleged links between Uyghurs and terror organizations operating in Syria, VOA wrote on March 16:

Uyghur foreign fighters have been known to operate throughout Central Asia and the Middle East, although the exact number has been difficult to pin down. In Syria alone, Uyghurs fighting for militant groups range in number from the hundreds to the thousands. Uyghurs have also carried out terror attacks in China in the past 20 years, according to a 2017 report from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism report cited by VOA alleged the following:

Uighur jihadists first came to the world’s attention when the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. While continuing their cooperation with the Taliban under the banner of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Uighur jihadists have now spread to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. ETIM’s members are part of the Turkestan Islamic Party fighting with the Al-Qaeda umbrella group in Syria, but other Uighurs have joined IS in Syria and Iraq, and still others have joined local terror groups in Indonesia.

The U.S. State Department included ETIM on its “U.S. Terrorist Exclusion List” from September 2002 to November 2020. Any terrorist individuals or groups on the list are prohibited from entering or remaining in the United States.

The U.S. State Department announced plans in October 2020 to remove ETIM from its “U.S. Terrorist Exclusion List.” A U.S. State Department spokesman said the delisting was ordered “because, for more than a decade, there has been no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist.”

The United Nations (U.N.) claimed in July 2021 ETIM remained “active in Afghanistan in areas including the northeastern province of Badakshan, where China and Afghanistan share a remote 76 km [47-mile-long] border.”

The U.N. has continued to promote the Chinese government’s unsubstantiated position that ETIM remains an active terror organization since then. As recently as February, the official U.N. website published statements to this effect made by Zhang Jun, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Summarizing various speeches made by participants of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject of “the very real threat still posed by Da’esh [Islamic State], Al-Qaida and their spin-off groups” on February 9, the U.N. website quoted Zhang as saying:

All efforts must be made to prevent Da’esh from colluding with other terrorist groups, including the Turkestan Islamic Movement, known as ETIM, — designated by the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) — that currently operates and trains recruits in Syria to launch attacks in Asian countries, including China.

The Chinese Communist Party has cited its designation of ETIM as a terror group as one of several reasons why it has detained Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities within China — including Kazakh and Kyrgyz people — in state-run detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017.

“At their peak, according to the U.S. government, the camps housed up to 3 million people.

Survivors of the camps say they experienced extreme torture, systematic rape, communist indoctrination, and medical testing consistent with live organ harvesting,” Breitbart News reported on March 17.

China’s genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority ethnic groups in East Turkistan has spurred thousands of members of the group to flee to Turkey and other countries in recent years. VOA reported on March 16 an estimated 8,000 Uyghurs gained Turkish citizenship in 2021.

The Associated Press (AP) published a report in June 2020 detailing different techniques — including forced sterilization and forced birth control — used by the Chinese government to keep Uyghur births down in Xinjiang.

“The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang,” the AP revealed.

The news agency said it based its report on interviews with 30 ex-detainees of Xinjiang detention camps, Chinese government statistics, and state documents.


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