Ankara [Turkey], May 2 (ANI): Xinjiang Authorities have detained an ethnic Uyghur couple as they have witnessed human rights abuses in the region, according to their daughter.
Yahya Kurban, an ethnic Uyghur from Kargilik county, in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture, emigrated to Turkey with his family at the age of five and later became a Turkish citizen, Radio Free Asia reported.
On September 10, 2017, he and his wife Amine Kurban, who is also from Kargilik, were detained in Urumqi, where they ran a shop. Since then, the couple's four children in Turkey have lost regular contact with their parents.
Hankiz Kurban, the couple's daughter, said that her parents are Turkish citizens but they move back and forth to Xinjiang for trade.
"My mom and my dad have been Turkish citizens for 40 years. There are four of us kids. We were all born and raised in Istanbul. My dad went back and forth [between Turkey and Xinjiang] for trade, and he and my mom lived in Urumqi," Hankiz said.
"[The authorities] took them away to Kargilik [more than] three years ago. As of now they still have not let them go. After they were detained, they did not call once for two years," she added.
"My mom sent me a voice message on WeChat crying and saying that she and my father had spent a night in a police station and then gone home to pack bags and were on their way to Kargilik. She said they were taking them away and told us to call the embassy. It was September 11, 2017 ... I tried calling them, but their phones had been shut off. I tried messaging back but there was no response."
2017 was the time when China began mass incarceration in Xinjiang. According to researchers, it has so far locked up 1.8 Uyghur Muslims in these in a vast network of internment camps. For several months, China straightforwardly denied the existence of any such camps. However, in 2019, China changed track and began describing the facilities as residential training centres that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalisation, and help protect the country from terrorism.
Parliaments in Canada, The Netherlands, and the U.K., and the U.S. State Department, have described China's actions in the region as "genocide," while the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says they constitute crimes against humanity.
Hankiz knocked on the Turkish government' door but it was of no use.
She reported her parents' detention to Turkish authorities as soon as she received her mother's message, but representatives from the Turkish government told her that there are many Turkish people in the same situation and that they were "looking into the matter with Chinese authorities."
"They said if [the Chinese government] had locked them up or if there was a situation in which they were punishing them, they would have to notify [the embassy]," Hankiz said.
"They said they thought [our parents] were fine, and they did not say anything else. But every time we called they told us to wait, to be patient. That is what they said every time."
She also tried to contact the Beijing embassy in Turkey but they did not provide any assistance.
Hankiz said that much to her surprise, she received a sudden phone call from her father two years after her parents had gone missing.
Rather than explaining why he had been missing for the past two years, he scolded her, warning her not to become involved in any "untoward" matters--a thinly veiled code by which he likely meant to express that she should go public about her missing parents.
"Two-and-a-half or three months later he called again, along with my mom. My mom's voice was not normal at all, as though something were squeezing her heart. I know my mom's voice very well," she said.
"Once again they did not give us any clear answers. They did not say they had been detained. When I asked them things like if they were having any troubles or where they were staying, they would not answer. They would just say they will call again."
Hankiz said that she felt "it was very clear that there was someone sitting next to them" because they spoke without any emotion and tried to assure her that they were not involved in any kind of trouble.
She said that for the past two years, the children and their parents have been calling each other once every two to three months. The parents refuse to use video chat, however, and each of their conversations lasts only a few minutes.
"There was no emotion at all [in their voices]. It was like they'd just memorised the words. I think it was clear that there were people sitting next to them, or that they had them detained somewhere," she said.
Hankiz said she believes that her parents were detained not because they committed any crime, but rather because they had witnessed "Chinese government crimes" as the internment campaign got underway, and thus could not be sent back to Turkey.
"If at that time, between January and September [of 2017], my father had happened to see something that happened to one of his neighbors, or his friends, or his acquaintances, I think it might be the case that [the authorities] detained him because they knew that he saw what had happened and it was possible that he would speak out about it were he to leave the country," she said.
"My [parents have] committed no crime. [They have] merely seen the crimes the Chinese government is committing." (ANI)