Tue, Feb 26, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Turkish official, US relatives speak up for detained Uighurs

Reuters and AP, GENEVA, Switzerland, and WASHINGTON

Fermat Jawdat holds a photograph of his mother during a Washington gathering on Sunday to talk about Uighurs who have disappeared in Xinjiang.

Photo: AP

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu yesterday voiced concern over China’s alleged mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, and called for authorities to protect freedom of religion and cultural identity.

Without specifically mentioning mass detention camps reported to hold 1 million Muslims, Cavusoglu told the UN Huamn Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that “reports regarding human rights violations against Uighurs and other Muslim communities in Xinjiang are serious cause for concern.”

“We encourage Chinese authorities and expect that universal human rights, including freedom of religion, are respected and full protection of the cultural identities of the Uighurs and other Muslims is ensured,” he said.

His comments came a day after relatives of some of the Uighurs, Kazakhs and others being held without charge in Xinjiang spoke out about the mass detentions at an event in Washington, hoping to raise awareness of what many are calling a human rights travesty.

“If you know someone who is missing, it is time to speak up,” said Ferkat Jawdat, a Virginia-based software engineer who has lost contact with his 52-year-old mother in Xinjiang.

Jawdat helped organize Sunday’s gathering in the basement of public library so that Uighurs in the US could start collecting information on their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even children whose whereabouts are unknown.

They plan to present the data to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the US Department of State.

Some of the attendees have confirmation that their loved ones are detained in Xinjiang. Others have simply lost contact — and fear the worst.

“We want to raise awareness about what can happen to American families — many of these people here are American citizens,” said Jawdat, who is a US citizen.

Similar gatherings took place concurrently in eight other countries, including Turkey, France, Germany, Australia and Canada, he said.

Abduwaris Ablimit, a 34-year-old chef living in Boston, Massachusetts, said his first impulse had not been to speak out, frightened of what the Chinese authorities might do in retaliation.

The last time he heard his parents’ voices was a message on WeChat in July 2017.

“Please don’t call me again, son,” his mother said through sobs, Ablimit said. “Maybe one day we will see each other again.”

China says the camps are vocational training centers to helpg those vulnerable to extremism be “cured” and learn job skills.

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