Turkey accused of settling Uyghurs in Syrian Kurdish cities

DAMASCUS, Syria (North Press) – Researchers and specialists in Turkish affairs say that Turkey is planning to transfer families of the Chinese Uyghur minority residing there to Turkish-held areas in northeast Syria with the aim of implementing demographic change in the area.

Terrorism researcher at the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies Lamar Arkandy talked about Turkish preparations to transfer families of Uyghur descent residing in Istanbul and settle them north Syria.

Turkish exploitation

In an interview with North Press, Arkandy said that the received information from Turkish interior revealed Ankara’s intention to transfer ethnic Uyghur to the cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad. 

The Uyghurs are mostly Muslim Turkic ethnicities who regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. The majority live in China’s western Xinjiang region, where they number about 11 million people.

The Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Congress ratified an extradition accord with Turkey in May 2017, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Initiative Forum; however, Turkish parliament has yet to ratify it.

An estimated 50,000 Uyghur Muslims are believed to reside in Turkey, where they share a common linguistic, cultural and religious heritage with Turks.

Many Uyghurs fled to Turkey to escape the persecution of China, which imposed an extreme control policy in Xinjiang on the Uyghurs under the pretext of fighting separatism.

Only a few months after Turkey and Turkish-backed armed opposition groups took control over Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad in 2019, Turkey transferred a batch of Turkistan Islamic Party – Syria fighters and their families that were in Idlib to Sere Kaniye, according to Arkandy.

In Kurds’ homes

The first batch of Uyghur included 150 families “to Turkey from Idlib, and then to Sere Kaniye…a week later, the second batch entered to be settled in Kurds homes,” according to the researcher.

The researcher documents data through information “we got from activists in Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad.”

Turkistan Islamic Party fighters, including Uyghur members and other nationalities, have come to Syria with their families since 2012.

Arkandy pointed out that “Ankara’s government will keep the Turkic ethnic Uyghurs, who only are fighting by its side, and will not repatriate them to the Beijing government; it will repatriate the others to China.”

But Arkandy could obtain neither a confirmation nor denial from independent or government sources from the Turkish interior.  

Turkish passports

“The plan is to allow those jihadists to enter Syria via Turkish passports that Ankara handed to them as the Turkish National Intelligence Organization and operations rooms settled their situation,” Armenian researcher specialized in Turkish affairs Anas Mamash said.

“Turkish presidents granted those jihadists Turkish citizenship, while some of them were transferred to Diyarbakir to resettle them there,” Mamash added.

“Another batch of them were transferred to Libya, Ethiopia, and participated in the the Azerbaijani front on the side of Azerbaijan against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.

Late last year, the spokesman of the World Uyghur Congress Dilshat Reshit denied in his press statements that Uyghur obtained Turkish citizenship.  

But Mamash says that large numbers of Uyghurs obtained citizenship of their host country.

He also said that Turkey settled more than 20,000 ethnic Uyghur in the Syrian Zanbaq and Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib, and established settlements for them in those areas.

Special training

According to Mamash,the Uyghurreceivespecial training in special camps to conduct suicide operations, “to be sent to spots of conflict, where Turkey keeps fueling and waging wars such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya, and dragging them into battles serving Turkish interests.

He added, “They fought in Azerbaijan and Libya, and today we see them fighting against Kurds in Ain Issa.”

Mamash believes that “Turkey uses Uyghurs to change the demography of its areas in Syria, Libya, and Ethiopia, as it organizes the infrastructure to be able to combine those areas after invading through accumulating the largest possible number of people with ties to to Turkey, such as in Syria and Libya.”

“Turkey is working hard to internationally legitimatize the Syrian areas of its control,” according to him.

Reporting by Rana al-Ahmad