China took their parents: the Uighur refugee children of Turkey

China took their parents: the Uighur refugee children of Turkey
China took their parents: the Uighur refugee children of Turkey

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details China took their parents: the Uighur refugee children of Turkey in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ISTANBUL - The school on the outskirts of Istanbul is a rare place where Uighur child refugees from China can study their language and culture.

But for several, it has also become an impromptu orphanage.

Having fled a worsening crackdown on Uighur Muslims in northwest China, some of their parents thought it was still safe to return occasionally for business and to visit family, only to disappear into a shadowy network of re-education camps from which no communication is permitted.

Out of just over a hundred pupils at the school, 26 have lost one parent to the camps, seven have lost both, says its head Habibullah Kuseni.

Nine-year-old Fatima has only vague memories of her homeland -- and now, of her father, too.

She remembers watching television with him: she wanted cartoons, but he liked watching the news.

Her father flew back to China from time to time for business before anyone knew about the camps in the Xinjiang region.

"And then he was gone," she says, tears streaming down her face.

"I thought he would come back, but he never did."

No one has heard from him in three years.

Exiled Uighur activists in November released evidence of nearly 500 camps and prisons being used against their ethnic group in China, saying the overall number of inmates could be "far greater" than the one million usually cited.

When news of the camps first emerged in 2017, Beijing initially denied their existence.

Later, it claimed they were "voluntary" vocational centers aimed at combating extremism by teaching people Mandarin and job skills.

But leaked internal documents have shown they are run like prisons, while critics say they are aimed at eradicating local culture and religion of Uighurs and other, mostly Muslim, minorities.

With some 50,000 Uighur refugees in Turkey, there are many more children like Fatima or even worse off.

Tursunay, 15, hasn't seen or spoken to either of her parents since July 2017.

"Don't worry about us," they said, in their last phone call on a trip back to China.

They said it was strange their passports had been confiscated but were sure it would be resolved soon.

Then, silence.

Tursunay remembers her life in China.

She recalls asking: "Why are they watching us, papa?" when cameras were installed at the entrance to their apartment.

It's because we are Muslims, her father said.

He burned their collection of religious CDs.

Tursunay has just her little sister now and an older friend they met on the refugee trail who looks after them.

All forms of communication with every family member in China have been cut.

She longs for her parents so much -- even just a brief message -- that she says she must fight the urge to be angry with them for disappearing.

"I try to stay optimistic and remember that it's not my parents who have done this to me," she says.

Many children inside Xinjiang are also reportedly without parents.

Human Rights Watch said in September that Chinese authorities have housed "countless" children whose parents are detained or in exile in state-run child welfare institutions and boarding schools without parental consent or access. -AFP

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