Uyghurs in Turkey file charges against China and demand Olympics boycott
Ethnic Uyghur Muslims in Turkey are calling for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which opened today (Friday), although the event is already taking place with almost no spectators due to Covid restrictions.
Protesters in Istanbul were blocked from reaching the Chinese consulate by Turkish riot police.
The US, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Japan have not sent diplomatic delegates to the games in protest against China’s human rights record.
Protesters waved the blue-and-white flags of the East Turkestan independence movement.
“These Olympics are being held not on snow but on blood,” said 26-year-old student Abdullah Mudinoglu.
Around 50,000 Uyghurs are thought to live in Turkey, the largest Uyghur community outside Central Asia, and the group has close ethnic, religious and linguistic ties with Turkey.
Nineteen Uyghurs filed a criminal complaint with Istanbul’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office and the Chinese embassy this week alleging China is committing genocide, torture, rape and crimes against humanity.
Their lawyer, Gulden Sonmez, said international institutions like the United Nations had taken no action against the Chinese authorities over issues like forced labour through the detention of around 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims in camps since 2016.
China claims the camps are vocational centres designed to tackle Islamist extremism and denies the claims of abuse.
“The international criminal court should have already started this trial, but China is a member of the Security Council and it does not seem possible within this dynamic,” Sonmez said outside Istanbul’s main court.
Protesters held photos of missing people.
The complaint names 116 people who it says are being held in China and targets 112 Chinese government figures, including labour camp staff.
One complainant, Medine Nazimi, said her sister had been missing since 2017.
“My sister and I are Turkish citizens so I want my government to rescue my sister,” she said.
Turkey has agreed an extradition treaty with China although Turkey’s foreign minister said it would not lead to Uyghurs being sent to China.
Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur-American activist from the Campaign for Uyghurs rights group, wrote in The Hill in late January that the Olympics should be boycotted.
“When future generations look back on our world today, will they learn that America acted with moral clarity?” Abbas argued. “Our nation often repeats the rallying cry ‘Never again!’ Yet, it’s happening again. We have a chance to correct history in the making. What will we decide?”