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Protesters demand end to China's Uyghur persecution

Relatives of detained Muslims hold protests in Turkey and Kazakhstan on International Women's Day

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: March 09, 2021 02:47 AM GMT

Updated: March 09, 2021 02:48 AM GMT

Protesters demand end to China's Uyghur persecution

A Uyghur woman joins a protest near the Chinese consulate in Istanbul on March 8 as the Muslim minority demanded news of their relatives held in Xinjiang detention camps and expressed concern about the ratification of an extradition treaty between China and Turkey. (Photo: AFP)

Hundreds of ethnic Kazakh and Turkic Muslim protesters joined dozens of Uyghur mothers, sisters and wives in street demonstrations in front of Chinese consulates in Almaty of Kazakhstan and Istanbul of Turkey on International Women’s Day to demand an end to China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

Most of the Uyghur protesters on March 8 had either lost their loved ones or fled their homes in China’s Xinjiang region, where thousands of Uyghur Muslims are detained in so-called detention and education camps, reported Bitter Winter, a website on religious liberty and human rights.

Halida Akhytkhan said she lost her entire family in China’s crackdown on Uyghurs in 2018. She fled to Kazakhstan after Chinese authorities arrested three of her sons and their wives and put them into camps. They were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of separatism and religious extremism. 

Gulbaran Omirali said the 23-year-old son of her brother was arrested simply for performing an Islamic prayer while facing the holy shrine of Kaaba in Mecca. He was arrested in 2018 and jailed for 15 years.

Bikamal Kaken, wife of Alimhazi Mukhay, said she had not seen her husband in four years and does not know if he is alive. Mukhay was sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly planning to flee to Kazakhstan with his family.

Mukhay’s little daughter pleaded with the president of Kazakhstan to help the family to bring her father home.

Kumishan Baban, sister of popular singer and composer Kalysbek Baban, said her brother and his wife were detained in 2015 but were released later. He was again arrested in December 2019 and remains in jail.

Protests were also held in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

Gulaisha Oralbay joined the protest with her daughter Malika to call for release of two sisters and one brother imprisoned in an education camp in Xinjiang. Her brother Dilshat Oralbay, an award-winning author and translator, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Human rights groups say China’s communist government has been carrying out a genocidal pogrom to crush mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in and around Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region since 2014.

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The systematic persecution is the culmination of longstanding Chinese-Uyghur conflict amid an active insurgency.

Rights watchdogs estimate that about one million Muslims, mostly Uyghurs, are detained in secretive detention camps in Xinjiang where they face brutal oppression including forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced birth control, rape, forced labor, torture, internment, brainwashing and killings.

Various Western nations including the United States have strongly condemned China’s persecution and termed it genocide.

In his 2020 book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, Pope Francis mentioned “poor Uyghurs” as “persecuted people,” triggering a backlash from Chinese authorities.

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