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March of the Uyghurs

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"Yes, because in Izmir and Hatay, Uyghurs are taken care of by the Turkish government. There are always, exclusively, women and children, but no men."

On June 2019, I went back to both Hatay and Izmir, just to confirm what I was told in Zeitinburnu.

But before that, we traveled to Aksaray in Istanbul; to one of the notorious Uyghur restaurants, owned by an AKP member. Uyghurs are managing the place. It is the place where separatist leaders meet, regularly; every month, or at least every second month. The former boss of this place was arrested on charges of human trafficking. My colleagues explain: "We have no idea what charges, exactly, or what happened to him? If he was still in prison, we would definitely know."

office of Uyghurs in Istanbul
office of Uyghurs in Istanbul
(Image by Andre Vltchek)
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The Police HQ is very close to this eatery, which I do not want to identify by name, at least not for this report; not yet. Paradoxically, some members of the police force who are supposed to be tracking down human trafficking, regularly gather here. So too, naïve Chinese tourists in search of good spicy Chinese food from the Northwest of their country.

I am told:

"According to my source here, police once spotted a human trafficking cell here, but did nothing" Police is actually controlling these cells, even giving new names to those who are supposed to be sent to Syria. Police is in charge, and the government officials actually know who is going to Syria, name by name. Some profits from this, and from other restaurants like this one, are going directly to the Uyghur separatist association."

Actually, there are many restaurants like this, but this one is the HQ for the Istanbul area. It tries to stay humble, not flashy, with hardly any signs in Arabic."

I am also explained to:

"All of our sources confirm the same: 'Police and the state/government know everything, and they make sure to control the action."

Governing and mainly right-wing nationalist and pro-Western opposition parties in Turkey are all supporting the Uyghurs. The Opposition even more than the ruling AKP, so there is very little chance that the policy will get reversed anytime soon.

Most of the Turkish media outlets echo Western sources, and are openly hostile towards China.

However, the government does not want to antagonize China, openly. It has some cooperation, at least when it comes to the tracking of criminal activities.

One thing has changed, I was told by Abdulkadir Yapcan, who covers legal issues related to Uyghurs:

"If China provides IDs and names, Turkey will investigate and press charges. If China fails to provide detailed information, Turkey will do absolutely nothing. This is at least some change, since 2016. Although, so far, there was only one case""

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