Cries of our Brothers
Many Turks feel historic bonds with the Uighurs, either as fellow Muslims or as part of the same Turkic-speaking ethnic group.
Back-to-back rallies were held in December in Istanbul, one by Islamists and another by ultra-nationalists.
“Haven’t the cries of our brothers from East Turkestan reached you?” said Musa Bayoglu during one outside the Chinese consulate, using Uighur activists’ preferred name for their region which is strictly outlawed by China.
“Haven’t the screams of our sisters passed through the walls of your palaces?”
Earlier this year, Turkey’s foreign ministry called China’s crackdown on Uighurs “a great embarrassment for humanity” but since then has been largely silent on the issue.
When Erdogan spoke at the UN General Assembly in September, he reeled off a list of Muslim groups facing persecution, from Palestinians to Myanmar’s Rohingyas. Uighurs were notably absent.
Many fear he is bending to Chinese economic pressure, though Uighurs in Turkey remain hugely grateful for the asylum the country has offered.
“They are providing 50,000 Uighurs a peaceful place to live,” said one Uighur activist in Istanbul.
“No other Muslim country did that, no Western country did that.”