Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Ankara is thinking of sending an observation group to China’s Xinjiang region, where Uighurs are reportedly facing human rights violations, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remarks were announced following a discussion with his Chinese counterpart about the Uighurs’ situation.
Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group, who are predominantly Muslim and live in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.
Following the 2019 ethnic riots in Xinjiang against China’s oppression, the country has increased a security clampdown on the Uighurs which caused many to flee the region, with most of them travelling to Turkey due to close ethnic relations. Around 35,000 Uighurs live in Turkey.
Besides increasing the police presence in the region, China established “re-education camps” or “vocation training centers” for detained Uighurs in a bid to combat extremism in Xinjiang, a remote western region of China.
The camps, which first began operating in 2014, have been labeled “cultural genocide” by international academic journals.
Many Western countries deem them internment camps in which one to three million Muslims are detained, according to numerous international media reports.
China denies the accusations of mistreatment and views the camps as “training facilities” designed to stamp out extremist tendencies among the Uighurs.
In February, after years of silence, Turkey’s foreign ministry released a statement and called on the Asian nation to close the camps, defining China’s treatment of Uighurs as “a great cause of shame for humanity.”
“It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighurs, who have been arbitrarily arrested are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in the internment camps and prisons,” the statement read.
Later, Turkey and Britain raised the issue in the 40th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, advocating against the camps in Xinjiang.
However, during an official visit to China in early July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Chinese state television as saying “people in China’s Xinjiang region live happily in China’s development and prosperity.”
Similarly, during a meeting with his counterpart in Beijing in July 2015, Erdogan had shocked Uighurs, saying, “I condemn terrorist activities in East Turkestan [Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region].”
“Sorry, but no European country, excluding Turkey, the country we know as our second homeland, recognizes Uighurs as terrorists. Turkey’s president remarks made us our very upset,” said Vice President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) at the time.