UPDATE 2 – Turkey expresses 'fasting ban' concerns to China

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Turkey’s Foreign Ministry ‘deeply concerned’ over reports China banned Ramadan for Party members, including civil servants, students, teachers

ADDS CAVUSOGLU QUOTES

By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun

ANKARA – Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has expressed “deep concern” to China about reports that Beijing has instilled a fasting ban on segments of its Uighur Muslim population.

In a statement released Tuesday, the ministry said that it had informed the Chinese ambassador in Ankara of its worries.

“It has been publicly heard with sorrow that there are reports of the fasting and fulfilling of religious duties by Uighur Turks being banned,” the statement said.

The statement offered no explanation as to what it wanted China to do about the reported ban.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later told reporters that Turkey closely followed the Uighur issue. 

“They are important to us, we declare our connection with them in every occasion. We also let the Chinese officials know that it is very natural for us to react against a human rights violation there when it happens,” he said. 

U.N. human rights investigators have criticised China’s reported crackdown, citing “disturbing stories” of harassment and intimidation against the ethnic minority.

“This issue needs to be handled bilaterally and internationally. We will also bring this issue before the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other international organizations,” Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

He added that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would visit China, but the date is still to be arranged.

The “concern” expressed Tuesday is reflective of the sentiment that many Turks have with regard to the Uighur issue.

A photo posted June 28 to a Facebook account named “Dogu Turkistan İcin” (For East Turkestan) shows a group of Turkish nationalists gathered outside a Chinese restaurant in Istanbul daubed with graffiti.

A caption underneath reads “Today, Grey wolves [Turkish nationalists] who took to the streets in Istanbul for East Turkestan, scattered a Chinese Restaurant and painted the restaurant sky blue.”

Sympathisers have called for Marches July 4 and 5 in Istanbul to protest China’s alleged religious restrictions.

Many Turks refer to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – the home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uighur people – as East Turkestan.

They believe that Uighur are among a number of Turkic tribes that inhabit the region, and consider it to be part of Central Asia, not China.

In mid-June it was widely reported that China has banned Ramadan in parts of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for Party members, civil servants, students and teachers. 

In 2014, the government issued warnings to employees and students not to fast during the holy month.

It is also reported to have restricted men from having long beards, clamped down on religious education activities, and acted to control the entrances and exits to mosques.

In January 2015, the ban was extended to wearing burqas in public places.

Uighur, a Turkic group that makes up around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, has accused China of carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities.

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