DUSHANBE/JULY 26 (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan is acting as a secret channel for Turkey to deport Uighurs to China where they are interned in so-called re-education camps, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The newspaper quoted lawyers in Turkey and family members of deported Uighurs who said that China was making hundreds of demands on Turkish authorities to deport Uighurs and that they were now using third countries, such as Tajikistan, to deport them.
The Telegraph documented how 59-year-old Uighur widow Aimuzi Kuwanhan, who had fled China for Turkey, had disappeared suddenly.
“A lawyer hired by her family subsequently discovered that she had been extradited to Tajikistan, despite having never lived there or having held Tajik citizenship. Sources who knew Kuwanhan say from there she was sent to China,” the Telegraph reported.
Turkey has denied the reports and Tajikistan has not commented but there has been an increase in the number of media and online reports from Istanbul of Turkish police and authorities detaining known Uighur activists this year.
Turkey, like Tajikistan’s neighbours — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan — has a sizeable ethnic Uighur population and it would have been politically impossible to deport them directly to China. Tajikistan, though, has close connections with China but no ethnic Uighur population. The plight of the Uighurs, and other Muslim minorities, in China’s Xinjiang province is not a major discussion point in Tajikistan.
This means that while Turkey has a policy of not sending Uighurs back to China, under pressure from various bilateral agreements that it has signed with Beijing, it could send them to Tajikistan. The authorities there would be able to send them on to China.
Over the past decade, Tajikistan has developed close relations with China relying on cheap loans from Beijing to upgrade its Soviet-era infrastructure and give its towns and cities facelifts. These loans have come with major political influence too and Tajikistan can now be relied upon by China to act as a loyal ally.
— This story was published in issue 455 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 31 2020.
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020