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Turkey Criticizes China Over Treatment Of Muslim Minorities


Let's go overseas now where China faces new criticism for the treatment of its people. The country already faced worldwide questions for the arrest, torture and political brainwashing of members of its Uighur minority. Most Uighurs are traditionally Muslim, and a majority Muslim nation has risen to their defense. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Turkey.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning what it called the violation of the Uighur's fundamental human rights. The statement says, quote, "the reintroduction of internment camps in the 21st century and the policy of systematic assimilation is a great shame for humanity."


ABDUREHIM HEYIT: (Singing in foreign language).

KENYON: Turkey singled out a Uighur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit who had reportedly passed away in prison. That assertion drew a quick response from China. Beijing released a video showing a man who identified himself as Heyit.


HEYIT: (Foreign language spoken).

KENYON: In the video, Heyit gives the date, February 10, and declares that while he's under investigation by Chinese authorities, he hasn't been abused. A social media campaign using the hashtag #MeTooUyghur! sprang up after the release of that video with Uighur activists demanding videos of their own missing relatives. The Uighurs are one of the oldest Turkic-speaking ethnic groups from Central Asia. Many are now living in Xinjiang, called the Uighur autonomous region of China. The Uighurs complain that an influx of Han Chinese to the area is an effort to make Uighurs a minority there. For its part, China accuses Uighur activists of pursuing a violent campaign for autonomy. Turkey's Foreign Ministry is calling on Beijing to close the internment camps and respect the fundamental human rights of the Uighurs. The head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, praised Turkey for its criticism of Beijing and called on other countries to do likewise. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.