Jun 29, 2015

East Turkestan: Turkish Intellectuals Take a Stand against China

The month of Ramadan saw the continuation of China's state policy in targeting Uyghurs in East Turkestan, as a result of which several individuals have already lost their lives. The civil unrest in the region has prompted Turkish actors, politicians and academics to stand against the Chinese government and its systematic abuses of human rights.


Below is an article by Todays Zaman

After 28 people were killed in East Turkestan during the holy month of Ramadan, actorsacademics and politicians in Turkey have raised their voices criticizing the Chinese government and calling for the freedom of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

According to a report in the Aktuel magazine on Thursday [25th June 2015], the killings in East Turkestan took place after a car failed to stop at a checkpoint within the region. Two Chinese police officers reportedly followed the car and were fatally stabbed by the occupants of the vehicle. Then backup police officers came and began shooting suspects on sight, according to the publication, with 28 people killed in the ensuing violence.

In Ankara, the Ülkü Ocakları, a youth organization affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), prayed at a funeral procession for those killed in East Turkestan, at the Mustafa Asım Köksal Mosque in Keçiören. Speaking after the prayer, Olcay Kılavuz, the head of the youth movement, gave a press statement where he declared that the red flag of Turkey and the blue flag of East Turkestan were equal.

Kılavuz also said that members of Ülkü Ocakları would resume their struggle in favour of their brothers in East Turkestan, until their last breath. He added that the government was keeping silent about the killings and ongoing oppression in East Turkestan.

Associate Professor Savaş Eğilmez from the history department of Atatürk University in Erzurum joined other academics in criticizing the current ban against Uyghur citizens fasting in East Turkestan, according to the Anadolu news agency. "We must do all that we can for this oppression to stop," he said.

Observant Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan. However, fasting is forbidden in East Turkestan by the authorities in China, as the ruling Communist party is officially atheist.

In another instance, Turkish actor Şahan Gökbakar shared a picture on his social media account of an East Turkestan flag, with blood splattered on it in the form of the flag of the People's Republic of China. Gökbakar's Instagram post reads, “Freedom to Eastern Turkestan.”

Over the past few years, hundreds have been killed in the unrest in Xinjiang prompting even hasher crackdowns by authorities. Exiled Uyghur groups and human rights activists say China's repressive policies have provoked the violence, but Beijing denies this. China blames attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere on Islamist militants from the region, saying those with ties to overseas groups want to set up a separate state called East Turkestan.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where East Turkestan is located, borders seven countries and is China's largest province. It covers one-sixth of China's surface area. The total population of Xinjiang is about 20 million, and it was decided that the four developed provinces in the south should lend support to Xinjiang, with a view to promoting the economic development of Xinjiang.

China's relationship with Xinjiang's predominantly Muslim Uyghur people has long been fraught due to the strategic significance of Xinjiang on the Chinese border. After riots broke out in 2009 between Uyghurs and ethnic Han Chinese in Urumqi, the Chinese government cracked down on the Uyghur minority. Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the situation as “almost genocide,” while then-Trade and Industry Minister Nihat Ergun called for a boycott of Chinese goods. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun rebuffed Erdogan's remark as “irresponsible,” and relations between Ankara and Beijing soured.


Photo Courtesy: Gusjer @ Flickr