Turkey tells China to close Muslim camps
ISTANBUL: Turkey has called China’s treatment of its minority Uighurs “a great cause of shame for humanity.”
In a statement on Saturday, foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said it’s “no longer a secret” that China has arbitrarily detained more than a million Uighurs i n “concentration camps.” He said the Turkic Muslim population faced pressure and “systematic assimilation” in western China. Aksoy said Turkey has shared with China its position on “all levels” and urged authorities to close the detention facilities and respect human rights. The minister said Turkey had also learned of the death in prison of famed Uighur musician and poet Abdurehim Heyit, who had been sentenced to eight years over one of his songs. “This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion toward serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region,” Aksoy said.
“We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities. We respectfully commemorate Abdurehim Heyit and all our kinsmen who lost their lives defending their Turkish and Muslim identity,” Aksoy said.
Heyit was a master of the dutar, a type of two-stringed instrument with a long neck that is found in Iran and throughout Central Asia. His detention was considered indicative of China’s determination to crack down on Uighur intellectuals and cultural figures in an effort some say to eradicate a separate Uighur language and identity.
Heyit’s death could not be independently confirmed.
China’s Embassy in Ankara called Aksoy’s comments “completely unacceptable” in a lengthy response posted on its website that defended its policies in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the Uighur homeland.
Strong winds on Sunday fanned forest fires that have been burning for a week through New Zealand’s South Island, forcing thousands of people from their homes, with more residents expected to flee. The Pigeon Valley fire covered 5,700 acres with a 25 km perimeter.