Turkey’s Islamist President Endorses China’s Muslim Concentration Camps

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a referendum victory speech to his supporters at the Presidential Palace on April 17, 2017 in Ankara Turkey. Erdogan declared victory in Sunday's historic referendum that will grant sweeping powers to the presidency, hailing the result as a 'historic decision. 51.4 per cent per cent …
Elif Sogut/Getty

Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a trip to Beijing on Tuesday, reportedly struck a more positive note about China’s concentration camps for Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group, and other Muslims in Xinjiang province a decade after denouncing attacks on Uighurs as “genocide.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration joined the Muslim-majority governments of Pakistan and Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country in the world, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia in defending China’s repression of its Muslim minority.

Beijing has repeatedly claimed its crackdown is aimed at combating religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism in Muslim Uighur-majority Xinjiang province, but many countries point to the ample evidence that it is instead using the alleged terror threat to violate the human rights of its Muslims citizens.

On Monday, Adrian Zenz, an independent German researcher, reported that Chinese government documents “refute” Beijing’s “propaganda claims” that its “concentration camps” in Xinjiang are vocational and training centers, according to the Journal on Political Risk (JPR).

China’s state-run Global Times paraphrased Erdogan as saying during a meeting with Communist Party chief Xi Jinping on Tuesday that “it is a fact that the residents of various ethnic groups in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are living happily under China’s development and prosperity.”

Erdogan further indicated that “Turkey does not allow anyone to provoke the relationship between the two countries,” the Global Times adds.

In response, Xi indicated:

China appreciates the fact that Erdogan has repeatedly reiterated that any anti-China separatist activities are not allowed in Turkey as well as its strong support to China’s anti-terrorist operations … adding that China is willing to enhance international cooperation on counter-terrorism with Turkey.

Erdogan’s position is a far cry from the criticism he leveled against Beijing when he served as Turkey’s prime minister a decade ago.

Referring to China’s long-standing and at times allegedly deadly oppression of its Uighur ethnic minority, then-PM Erdogan declared in July 2009, “The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide. There’s no point in interpreting this otherwise,” Reuters reported.

Turkey, however, appears to have changed its tune, even from as early as February of this year when it expressed concerns about the situation in Xinjiang at the United Nations Human Rights Council to China’s dismay.

Erdogan’s foreign ministry issued a stern condemnation of China’s internment camps.

“The reintroduction of internment camps in the [21st] century and the policy of systematic assimilation against the Uighur Turks carried out by the authorities of China is a great shame for humanity,” the statement proclaimed.

Turkey’s foreign ministry called on the U.N. to “take effective measures in order to bring to an end this human tragedy in Xinjiang.”

Uighurs belong to a Turkic group that shares cultural and linguistic similarities with similar ethnic groups in the Asian region.

On Tuesday, Reuters noted that Turkey is the only Muslim nation “to have regularly expressed concern about” China’s activities in Xinjiang.

This year, the United States accused China of forcing up to three million predominantly Uighur Muslim minorities into hundreds of “concentration camps” where prisoners face extrajudicial incarceration, torture, communist indoctrination, forced labor, and the renunciation of their faith and native language, among other human rights abuses.

Several news outlets have noted that Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan have turned a blind eye to the mistreatment of predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other Islam adherents in China out of concern for their economic relationship with Beijing.

Erdogan reportedly traveled to China to boost the Turkish economy. Except for a few Islamic countries, the Muslim world has stayed silent about China’s oppression of Islam adherent within its borders.

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