Turkish NGOs rally for help to Uighurs in Thailand
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULJan 13, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Jan 13, 2015 12:00 am
A group of Turkish non-governmental organizations staged a rally in Istanbul on Tuesday asking the government to help the hundreds of Uighurs detained in Thailand, as well as calling on authorities to reach out to them against their deportation to China, where they would face a death sentence
Activists from 23 non-governmental organizations gathered in Istanbul in a demonstration organized by Türk Eğitim-Sen, a prominent educators' union. They called on the Turkish authorities and public to help Uighurs who are fleeing persecution in China and taking shelter in Thailand.
The group gathered outside a post office before sending a petition on the issue to the Thai embassy in Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. They unfurled the unrecognized flag of East Turkestan and chanted slogans calling for help for the 400 Uighurs held in detention centers in Thailand after illegally crossing into that country.
Speaking on behalf of the activists, lawyer Uğur Tarhan said, "Uighurs, including women and children, fled a difficult life mired with suppression in China (in March last year). Since then, they have been held in six separate prisons in Thailand and their ordeal is not over. China wants their extradition, and if Thailand consents, they will face the death sentence in China," he said.
Tarhan said the deportation of refugees was ruled out by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
"Thailand will commit a crime against humanity if it returns Uighurs to China while it is apparent that they would be executed there and while there is a request by Turkey to host the refugees," said Tarhan.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last November that the government was looking into options to bring the refugees to Turkey and a legal process was underway. He said Thai authorities were still investigating the case as Uighurs were discovered at a human smuggling camp, and said a judicial process was still underway. Çavuşoğlu said he had also raised the matter with Chinese officials.
The group, which initially claimed to be made up of Turkish nationals, turned out to be from China's autonomous northwestern province of Xinjiang, which is home to a sizable Uighur population.
The Uighur community is mainly Muslim and described as a Turkic group. They suffer from persecution by Beijing, which claims that the campaign of suppression on the community is actually a crackdown on "extremism." China has imprisoned a number of outspoken activists defending Uighurs' rights in recent years and is accused of changing the demographics of the province by resettling the ethnic Han community there.
Turkey is among the main countries hosting the Uighur diaspora along with European countries, the United States, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Canada.