Turkey concerned by China's Ramadan restrictions on Uighur Muslims

Published 30.06.2015 14:01
emReuters Photo/em
Reuters Photo

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it has expressed "deep concern" to China about reports that the country has instilled a fasting ban on segments of its Uighur Muslim population during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

In a statement released Tuesday the ministry said that it had informed the Chinese ambassador to Ankara of its worries.

"It has been publicly heard with sorrow that there are reports on Uighur Turks' fasting and fulfilling their religious duties was banned," the statement said.

The statement offered no explanation as to what it wanted China to do about the reported ban.

The expression of concern is reflective of the sentiment that many Turks have with regard to the Uighur issue.

A photo posted June 28 to a Facebook account dated named "Dogu Turkistan İcin" (For East Turkestan) shows a group of Turkish nationalists gathered outside a Chinese restaurant in Istanbul daubed with graffiti.

A caption underneath reads "Today, Grey wolves who took to the streets in Istanbul for East Turkestan, scattered a Chinese Restaurant and painted the restaurant sky blue."

Sympathisers have called for Marches July 4 and 5 in Istanbul to protest China's alleged religious restrictions.

Many Turks refer to China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region - the home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uighur people - as East Turkestan.

They believe that Uighur are among a number of Turkic tribes that inhabit the region, and consider it to be part of Central Asia, not China.

In mid-June it was widely reported that China has banned Ramadan in parts of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for Party members, civil servants, students and teachers.

In 2014, the government issued warnings to employees and students not to fast during the holy month.

It is also reported to have restricted men from having long beards, clamped down on religious education activities, and acted to control the entrances and exits to mosques.

In January 2015, the ban was extended to wearing burqas in public places.

Turkey has accepted over 500 Uighur Turks, who sought refuge in the country at the beginning of 2015.

East Turkistan, known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, is located in northwest China. Uighurs have long suffered from human rights abuses, with 26.3 million people being killed between 1949 and 1965 and 8.7 million people since 1965.

About 35 million people have died because of the Chinese army's oppression or famine. Wearing a headscarf in public, including on public transportation and when getting married in a religious ceremony, were banned in 2014, with fines of about $353 for wearing a headscarf in public.

Radical behavior is banned and the Chinese define not drinking alcohol, not smoking and avoiding eating non-halal food as radical behavior.

According to a Uighur Human Rights Project report, 700 people were killed due to political activities last year. The number of those arrests increased 95 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 27,000.

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