Mepa News had an exclusive interview with Uyghur activist Arslan Hidayat about the latest situation in East Turkistan.
Mepa News had an exclusive interview with Uyghur activist about the latest situation in East Turkistan.
Hidayat answer our questions about the situation in the region and also mentioned the extradition agreement between China and Turkey.
There are significiant Muslim population in the East Turkistan. Apart from the Uyghurs, which Muslim ethnicities present in the East Turkistan? How is the situation of the Muslims who are Kazakh, Tajik, Hui etc.?
Yes. Besides of Uyghurs, there are small populations of Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik Muslims. Hui Muslims as well. All the Muslim groups are targeted. But predominantly the Uyghurs are targeted. The Huis have also being targeted especially if they are living in the East Turkistan. Generally speaking, Huis are living in the other parts of China have been quite free. But generally speaking, all Muslims are targeted by the Chinese government and putted in the camps. But predominantly, mainly it is the Uyghurs. And the Kazakh situation has been covered in Kazakhstan, there is a human rights group called 'Atajurt'. They covered the case of Serikzhan Bilash.
Atajurt Kazakh Human Rights members
– As we know, there are millions of Uyghurs in the East Turkistan jailed in the concentration camps and the prisons. And the levels of the oppression in the area increasing day by day. Can you describe us the latest situation in the East Turkistan?
Well, it is hard to describe the latest situation. What seems to be coming out is the number of forced labor camps or the factories where Uyghur are made to work next to nothing have increased. There was a BuzzFeed article yesterday showing 135 new camps have factories next to them, covering 21 million square feet. Which is a massive amount.
And we also have been hearing that most likely the China's Covid-19 vaccine was tested on Uyghurs. Because there was a lot of footage the whole region put into lockdown many times, a lot of footage of people being tested, being vaccinated. There is a lot of footage of that.
Myself speak to former concentration camp detainees. When before they enter the camps, they have a full body test. Skin, blood, voice, DNA, everything is tested. And we know that, in the camps people are on very low calorie diets. 400-500 calories on a day. They given something in the morning like steamed bun and soupy substance. Their blood is drawn everyday. And they injected with certain fluids which basically turn them into zombies, give them a feeling whatsoever. That is what has been happening. But the latest is the vast growing of forced labor camps.
In the recent years, Chinese government demolished numerous historical mosques in the region
– In the recent days, some countries making political moves against the policy of the China in the East Turkistan. But nearly all of the Muslim countries are either choose to be quiet or side by China. Main reason for this fact is the economic relations between them and China. What is your assessment about that?
Yes, you are right. Generally speaking, a lot of the non Muslim countries are sticking up for the Uyghurs when the Muslims countries are not. And obviously the economy plays a big part. And it is very sad because we saw the leaders of the Turkey and Pakistan are criticize the French government about cartoons of our Prophet Muhammad. You know, French President Macron said he want to protect 'freedom of speech.'
You know, we are linked religiously and ethnically with the Turks. You heard about recent extradition treaty with China. China really pushing forward, they are using Chinese vaccine as a trump. Surprisingly, Turkey have bought this vaccine. China using this vaccine as a soft power instrument. They saying "if you not ratify the treaty then we will not give you the vaccine."
The Uyghurs are very very sold out about the whole situation. But you are right, the economy plays a huge role. Obviously when we are talking about Turkey. They have cut off their ties with the US and they had to rely an another superpower for economic benefit and this is unfortunately China.
"Muslim countries must take a stand against China"
– Last month, some Muslim states normalized their relations with the Israel. And this normalization got negative reactions. But although that states have very good ties with the China, people don't criticize this situation publicly. What is your opinion about that?
A lot of Muslim countries normalized their relations with Israel. And if you remember, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said few day ago, he wanted better ties with Israel. But he said that the Palestinian rights is a 'red line'.
I was really upset at that. Why he couldn't use the same rhetoric against China? He could have to say same thing against China. "Look. China, we want a better relationship with you. But our red line is Uyghur rights, rights of Muslims." He could have say this, but he hasn't. And a lot of leaders of Muslim countries didn't say this as well.
I personally, you know, I don't have a really deep opinion about Muslim countries normalizing their ties with Israel, my focus is on the Uyghurs. But I do like the Turkish President's stance on the issue. "I want to increase ties with Israel but my red line is Palestinian rights." I think that was a good thing to say. But it is hypocritical when he don't use the same tone with China.
– Western world which leaded by the USA and the Europe criticize China's policies in the East Turkistan mostly with the political aims, not the humanitarian causes. US's this criticization mostly arise from their political rivalry with China, not because they are very thoughtful about Uyghur's rights. But for this reason, some circles claiming that "East Turkistan cause is a cause which is provocation-agitation of the West." What is your opinion about these claims?
Well, you have the understand that, obviously the USA and Europe are using this for political aims. And we say, why doesn't the Muslim world using this for political aims as well? The oppression in the East Turkistan is not as you think. It hasn't been going on for 3 or 4 years. It's been going on since China's occupation in 1949. The Turkish people, the Muslim world are well aware what has been happening in East Turkestan for decades. And to claim that is a provocation-agitation of the West, is o completely lie.
Because the oppression is not new. Yes, it's going worse recent years but the oppression is not new. You know, repression of Islamic activities, cultural genocide, people being locked up for religious reasons… This has been happening for a very long time and the Muslim world very aware about that. It's not new.
– Many Uyghurs living in the various parts of the world and there is an important Uyghur diaspora through the world. How are their living conditions? Are there any deportation risks about them and how they are treated?
There are many Uyghurs living around the world. Generally they are living in Europe, UK, Australia, Canada, United States. Uyghurs living in these countries tend to be well off. There is no threat of deportation. We know that the Uyghurs have been deported from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, all of the Central Asian Turkic countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan. All of these countries regularly deport Uyghurs back. We know a one confirmed case of deportation from Turkey. This was the case of Zinnetgul Tursun and her children. They were given fake Tajik passports and they deported to Tajikistan, and from Tajikistan back to China. And there are unofficial claims about their death in the concentration camps.
Now, you heard that there is a extradition treaty. Many Uyghurs saying that this agreement not going to ratified by Turkey. But I feel it will. Because I don't see the Turkish people putting pressure on the government not to do so. Turkish government have done very well in covering this up form the main Turkish public. But then again, I have seen some popular religious figures go out and support the protestors in front of the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul. With that, they may organize a massive rally against this. The agreement is very risky for Uyghurs.
Residence permit card of the extradited Uyghur Zinetgul Tursun
– There are serious reports that, an extradition agreement between China and Turkey will come into force soon. Can you describe us detailedly, what is that agreement and how it is endangering Uyghurs?
I'm not a lawyer, but in the agreement, it says any Chinese citizen that in convicted of a crime should be deported back to China at China's whim. You can normally say that any two countries could make an agreement like that. But the timing of the extradition treaty is very interesting. I could understand if this treaty was set up 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago which a lot of countries do have. But for this extradition treaty set up in 2017 then signed by the president himself in 2019.
About the time, the concentration camps were really hitting the media in 2017, also. The concentration camps were started to built in middle and the end of the 2016. And really hit the media in March-April 2017. And this extradition treaty is initially introduced in April 2017.
And another thing we have to remember, Turkey is not an hotspot for Chinese criminals. Chinese criminals are generally flee and escape to Western Europe, to the UK, Canada, America, Australia. They escape to the developed countries. Or they escape to some East Asian countries. They don't escape to Turkey. So even though on paper it doesn't say this extradition treaty specifically targeting Uyghurs, it is targeting Uyghurs. You have got to read between the lines. So the timing of it all, and the fact that China decided to do this in 2017, and there isn't any Han Chinese who seek refugee in Turkey are showing that this is a devious treaty.
– Some circles are claiming that, although agreement, Turkey is free to decide if it will deport Uyghurs to China or not. And they claimed that Turkey could easily refuse China's extradition requests. What are Uyghurs thinking about this situation and are you worried?
Yes, some people are saying that. But, on paper, that is not the case.
I highly doubt that Turkey would be in a position to refuse China's extradition requests. If they are, why are they going to signed it? It clearly put Uyghurs on danger.
Right now many Uyghurs are being detained. We just of heard someone being detained today (December 30, 2020) at 13.00. His name is Abdulkahhar Abdulaziz. He was detained in Zeytinburnu. We don't know where he is now. He is detained and most likely he putted in a deportation center.
The reason why the Uyghurs are being putted in the deportation center is because as I mentioned above. They are Chinese citizens but China doesn't renew their passport. Because they don't have valid passports, they can't renew their residence permit. And therefore they walk around without permit, the police catch them. The police normally would let them go. A few years ago they understanding the situation. But now, they are not just randomly catching them.
The whole time I have been in Turkey, the police have never checked my ID.
I believe that is happening on China's orders. There are thousand of Uyghurs right now in the deportation centers. Many Uyghurs have received papers saying that they should be deported within 10 days. I have seen this paper myself. It's a very worrying time.
– Are there any Uyghurs who extradited from Turkey to China before?
As I mention before, there is one confirmed case, this is Zinnetgul Tursun and her baby girls. They are given fake Tajik passports in Turkey and deported to Tajikistan. We believe that this happened within the knowledge of Turkish government.
First they sent to Tajikistan then China. Turkey denied this, because they didn't extradite her directly to China. And to this day, they are still denying such a deportation. But the Uyghurs are admitted that is happened. Her sister confirming that. And Tursun and her children are killed in China according to unofficial reports.
– There are serious reports about Chinese government is putting strain on Uyghur diaspora through the world. Can you tell us about this situation?
China put strain on Uyghur diaspora by threatening them. Chinese police regularly threaten certain Uyghur across the world through WeChat. Telling them to be quiet, not to testify. And if they do, they threaten their loved ones who are still living in the East Turkestan.
Some Uyghur are followed, some are receive deaths threat on social media. And obviously the threat of extradition is continue in the countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We know one Uyghur scholar is detained in Saudi Arabia. He is at risk to being deported.
Muslims Uyghurs being held in the concentration camps
– Some circles in the Islamic countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have a different point of view about Uyghur issue. They are opposing to human rights violations against Uyghurs. But they are stating that their countries' relations with China must continue, so some steps like extradition of Uyghurs are imperative. What do you want to say about it?
These things is very hypocritical.
Other Turkic nations like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan deport Uyghurs back to China on a daily basis. But we are not upset at them. You know why? Because we know the system, we know their leaders, they are Communist in nature. There are nothing Turkish about them.
But when you have someone like Recep Tayyip Erdogan who people claim that he is the unofficial leader of the Muslim Ummah. It is claimed that he is the voice of the oppressed. And he says "Our red line is Palestine, our red line is Masjid al Aqsa." He saying things like this, right?
And whenever he talks in the UN, he mentions every single oppressed Muslim nation in the world, besides Uyghurs. He has opened the doors to 4-5 million Syrians, which he should. We praise him for this.
When he claims all of these thing, when Imran Khan claims similar things like him, and in Saudi Arabia… You know, Ibrahim alayhissalam said Mecca is a place that any people could seek refuge. But now, the Uyghurs in here living with the risk of being deported or they have already been deported.
It is this hypocrisy making us angry.
If someone like Recep Tayyip Erdogan says "We are not the voice of oppressed people. We don't care about these things." then OK, fine. We will understand. But claim that you are something and making opposite is making us angry.
He heard him saying "One Minute", he is looking as hero of Muslims, "next Mahdi", but…
Generally speaking, Uyghurs have a love of Turkey. They love the language, the culture, the people. We are related in language, in culture, in religion. You know, we are related in many different ways.
So, we find this situation as a backstabbing. It is like a backstabbing for us.
*Yayınlanan haberlerde yer alan düşünceler ve ortaya konulan fikirler veya kişiler Mira Haber’in editöryel politikasını yansıtmayabilir.