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Turkey abandons Uighurs in favor of Chinese investment

Turkey was once the Uighurs’ prime defender, offering easy citizenship to emigrants and speaking out against their mistreatment, but the recent economic rapprochement between Turkey and China has led Ankara to abandon its ethnic brothers.
Uighur refugee women walk where they are housed in a gated complex in the central city of Kayseri, Turkey, February 11, 2015. Thousands of members of China's Turkic language-speaking Muslim ethnic minority have reached Turkey, mostly since last year, infuriating Beijing, which accuses Ankara of helping its citizens flee unlawfully. Turkish officials deny playing any direct role in assisting the flight. Picture taken February 11, 2015. To match Insight TURKEY-CHINA/UIGHURS REUTERS/Umit Bektas - GM1EB7R1LSD01

“If you don’t come back home now, you’ll never be able to see your homeland again.” Memet Atawulla received the threatening message last May on WeChat, China’s main messaging app. Though written in the Uighur language, he immediately knew it had come from the Chinese secret services.

“They wanted me to go back,” explains Atawulla, 31, as he sips a soda in one of Ankara’s glitzy cafes. Originally from the oasis town of Hotan in Xinjiang, northwest China, he moved to Turkey in 2016 to pursue a master’s degree on a scholarship program.

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