Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority countries to call out China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims. A BuzzFeed News investigation finds that several Turkish nationals have also disappeared, something that has never been publicly acknowledged by Turkey.
Date: March 27, 2019
By: Megha Rajagopalan, BuzzFeed News Reporter and K. Murat Yildiz, BuzzFeed Contributor
Reporting From Istanbul, Turkey
ISTANBUL — It was supposed to be a routine business trip, so the young Turkish man was surprised when immigration officials at the Chinese airport pulled him into a room and questioned him for hours. He asked to speak to diplomats from his home country, but the Chinese officials shrugged their shoulders, telling him to take it up with police.
When police brought him in handcuffs to a jail cell on the other side of the country, so damp and dark that he immediately became sick, the man asked again. They told him his Turkish passport, whose edges had worn out from use, was fake.
A week later, with his arms and legs shackled to a chair in an underground interrogation room in the city of Ghulja in western China, where he had lived before he became a naturalized citizen of Turkey, he asked for a third time to speak to Turkish diplomats. This time the answer came sharp and clear.
“You are not a Turk,” an officer told him. “You are from here. Don’t think you are special — we kill people like you so that others can live in peace.”
“Don’t think you are special — we kill people like you so that others can live in peace.”
The young businessman said he had endured 38 days of interrogations, hunger, sleep deprivation, and abuse in Chinese custody before finally being released and deported back to Istanbul, without ever being told of any charges against him.
He is an ethnic Uighur — a religious and cultural minority group that the Chinese government views as a threat to the country’s security. The government has subjected Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the far-west region of Xinjiang to a sweeping campaign of mass surveillance and incarceration that has seen more than a million people detained in internment camps.
Despite his ordeal, the young businessman was fortunate to have been released. BuzzFeed News has found that six Turkish nationals — and possibly dozens more — have gone missing in China’s Xinjiang region, including a pair of young children. None of their cases have been publicly acknowledged by the Turkish or Chinese governments, and are being reported here for the first time. [FULL STORY]