Uyghur refugees threatened with deportation

China ratifies extradition treaty with Turkey (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has warned of an imminent deportation of Uyghur refugees from Turkey to China. Last weekend, China ratified an extradition agreement with Turkey, signed in 2017. "If the Turkish Parliament ratifies the controversial agreement as well, refugees from Xinjiang/East Turkestan will no longer be safe in Turkey. The economic crisis in Turkey, which drives the country more and more into China's arms, must not turn into a threat for the Uyghurs," stated Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Monday. Around 50,000 Muslim Uyghurs who fled persecution in the People's Republic have found refuge in Turkey.  

"Now, the Uyghur diaspora will live in even more fear than before – due to Turkey's rapprochement with China, and due to the increasing attacks on members of the Turkic people," Delius said. According to the human rights organization, many refugees will now be trying to find shelter in other countries because they are no longer safe in Turkey – as shown by an assassination attempt on the Uyghur Ysusufjan Amet in Istanbul on November 2, 2020. In an interview with BBC Radio, the victim stated that he is sure that the assassination attempt was ordered by China in order to intimidate him. In the interview, he reported how China's state security tried to get him to spy on his compatriots living in exile in Turkey. Thus, according to his own account, his mother was arrested and tortured in China to force him to spy in Turkey.  

The Turkish police arrested hundreds of Uyghurs since 2016, and the Uyghur diaspora in the country is already living in fear. The arrested are regularly threatened with deportation to China. They are arbitrarily detained, and some are released without further explanations after a certain time. "With these arbitrary arrests, President Erdogan is complying with China's request that leading Uyghur human rights activists should be expelled," Delius explained.

The STP emphasized that the days in which Erdogan dared to publicly accused China of genocide in Xinjiang – as in 2009 – are long gone. "Since 2016, at the latest, Turkey has been expanding its economic and political relations with the People's Republic. The two countries have signed ten bilateral agreements since 2016 alone. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and an even closer cooperation can be expected. Erdogan needs China to help get a grip on the dramatic economic situation. Thus, China invested about three billion USD in Turkey between the years 2016 and 2019. "Turkey's high debt to the People's Republic also makes the country more and more dependent on China. However, if Erdogan were to betray another Turkic community, this would cost him many sympathies – even among his conservative followers," Delius said.