Several hundred Muslim Uighur women in Turkey staged an International Women’s Day march along the Bosphorus on Monday demanding the closure of mass incarceration camps in China’s Xinjiang region.
The protesters chanted ‘stop the genocide’ and ‘close the camps’ as they marched within a few hundred metre’s of China’s walled-off consulate in Istanbul.
‘Rape is a crime against humanity,’ said one poster, in reference to a BBC report alleging systemic rape and forced sterilisation of women at the camps — which China says are vocational training centres designed to counter extremism.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps spread out across the vast northwestern region.
Most of the demonstrators held up sky blue flags of Uighur separatists’ self-proclaimed state of East Turkestan.
Uighurs speak a Turkic language and have cultural ties with Turkey that make it a favoured destination for avoiding persecution in Xinjiang.
But many in the 5,00,000-strong community fear that Ankara’s dependence on Chinese investments and coronavirus vaccines could jeopardise their future status in Turkey.
Dozens of Uighurs have been protesting outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul for weeks, urging Turkey not to ratify an extradition agreement with China.
The Chinese parliament ratified the 2017 treaty in December.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that China’s ratification of the pact did not mean ‘Turkey will release Uighurs to China’.
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