“They Sent Her to a Concentration Camp Because She Came to Turkey”: The Persecution of Uyghurs Based on their Turkic and Muslim Identity

September 24, 2021

[Read the full report here]

Executive Summary

The human rights atrocities against Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government has generated outrage among people of conscience around the world. For Turks and Muslims in particular, who are connected to Uyghurs by ethnic and religious bonds, their suffering is a cause of particular concern.

In the past year, while the international community has been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the suffering of the Uyghurs has continued unabated. The entire Uyghur population is subject to unrelenting government surveillance. Over one million people have been sent to “re-education camps”—in reality, mass prisons where inmates are held in overcrowded and squalid conditions for indefinite periods of time on spurious charges. Those who have been released tell horrifying stories of brainwashing, beatings, torture, rape, and forced sterilization.

This report brings together firsthand testimony and investigative reporting on the situation in the Uyghur Region, particularly as it relates to Turkey. It draws on reporting in the Uyghur, Turkish, and international press, verified by interviews with Uyghurs and their families in Turkey. To further confirm the evidence related by these witnesses, this report examines leaked Chinese government documents that outline in chilling detail the treatment of the country’s Uyghur population. Finally, the report concludes with an examination of several high-profile Chinese and international companies that have ties to the persecution of Uyghurs and are active in Turkey.

Turkey has long provided a haven for Uyghur refugees and activists. Estimates of the size of the Uyghur population in Turkey range from 30,000 to 50,000 people, including people who have moved to Turkey to study at university, to conduct business, to marry and start families, or simply to flee the persecution they face in the Uyghur Region. Living in Istanbul and other smaller cities, Uyghurs have used the freedom Turkey provides to ask “Where is my family” and speak out in defense of their rights. Yet as China intensifies its crackdown, this community has come under increased threat. The Chinese government has sent agents to conduct surveillance on Uyghurs in Turkey and regularly uses their family members as hostages to pressure them to stay silent or return home. Worse, Beijing has become ever more insistent in demanding the extradition of politically active Uyghurs to China, where they face arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture, forced renunciation of Islam, and forced labor, among other gross human rights violations.

Governments around the world have the responsibility to protect vulnerable refugees and uphold international human rights norms. The business sector, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, also has the obligation to sure that commercial activities respect core human rights. The report concludes with recommendations for both government and corporate actors to protect vulnerable Uyghur refugees and end complicity with the Chinese government’s atrocity crimes.


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No Space Left to Run: China’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs

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Islam Dispossessed: China’s Persecution of Uyghur Imams and Religious Figures

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“The Government Never Oppresses Us”: China’s proof-of-life videos as intimidation and a violation of Uyghur family unity

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Book Talk with Darren Byler

Watch the UHRP event in conversation with anthropologist Dr. Darren Byler, a leading expert on the Uyghur crisis, about his new book In the Camps: China's High-Tech Penal Colony.

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