Xinjiang in Le Figaro

Le Figaro publishes a solid dispatch from Turkey; translation below:

Laure Marchand, “Istanbul, capitale des refugies ouigours [Istanbul, capital of Uighur refugees],” Le Figaro, 20 July 2009, p. 6.

More than 300,000 members strong, the Uighur diaspora is able to count on the sympathy of Turkish public opinion, but Ankara spares its critiques against Peking for economic reasons.


Installed in a stampeded bazaar, Abulresit, a Uighur shopkeeper, does not address a single word to his neighbor, the Chinese grocer, whom he openly detests…[Of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, he states:] “We are the same blood, we are brothers.  This gave me the courage to speak on the telephone with my family, now staying in Kashgar.  This morning, I finally succeeded in connecting, but they immediately hung up, as they were to afraid to speak.”

This person who fled Xinjiang in 1997 and his whole circle were not lacking an outlet for demonstrations in Istanbul.  In the past week, there were burning of Chinese toys outside of the Chinese consulate and the hanging of banners in favor of “East Turkestan independence” on the esplanade of the great mosque of Beyazit.   In these days, thousands of Turks and representatives of the Uighur diaspora — more than 300,000 are members of their associations — filed through dozens of Turkish cities, responding to the appeal of Islamic and nationalist organizations.  Since the 5 July, the uproar provoked a wave of sympathy within Turkish public opinion for their distant cousins in Xinjiang, muslims who speak a Turkic language.  They are also reviving the ardor of nostalgia for pan-turkism, an ideology which promotes the unification of all the Turkic people.

But after seeing this surrender to emotionalism, fed by the photos in various publications, Ankara, confronted by the wrath [courroux, n.m.] of the Chinese authorities, will henceforth moderate its critiques.

”]PIC_3529“A sort of genocide”

As is his habit, it is the the prime minister who has had an especially harsh summer.    Upon his return from the G8 summit in Italy, Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Bejing was culpable for “a sort of genocide” in its opposition to the Uighurs.  The Minister of Industry and Commerce called for a boycott of Chinese goods, though afterwards he had to backpedal [faire machine arriere] and affirm that he was only expressing a personal opinion.  Embarrassed, the Foreign Ministry multiplied its declarations in an effort to reduce the tensions.  Its spokesperson borrowed the attitude of the Chinese authorities who “try to do their best to approach these events calmly [avec sang-froid]” and discarded [balaye] the possibility of bringing the repression of the Uighurs before the Security Council, where Turkey has a non-permanent seat.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan had evoked this possibility.  The chief diplomat, Ahmet Davutoglu, similarly picked up his telephone to assure his Chinese counterpart that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of China and had no intention to meddle in its internal affairs.  Yang Jiechi explained to him that the uproar in Xinjiang was orchestrated by the “three evil forces.”  That is to say, according to the Chinese news agency, “extremism, separatism, and terrorism.”  Ankara uses a similar terminology of qualification for Turkish Kurds who sympathize with the rebels of the PKK (Workers’ Party of Kurdistan).

Diplomatic Cacophony

In total, this diplomatic cacophony intervenes at the moment when various Turks are trying to reinforce their position in the Chinese market.  In the month of June, the President of the Republic, Abdullah Gul, went to China; this was the first visit of a Turkish head of state in fifteen years.  In visiting Urumuqi, he stopped in a traditional Uighur home.  In Beijing, he signed commercial contracts of a value of 1.5 billion dollars.

“Turkey has been dead for a very long time, and appears to be unable to face its own problems,” moans Hidayet Oguzhan, president of the Association for East Turkestan Solidarity and Education, situated in an askew [guingois] apartment above a beauty institute in Istanbul.  “This time, raised our voices, but damn [helas], I think that they [the Turkish government] will forget us rather rapidly under the pressure from Beijing.”  In the 1990s, the Uighur diaspora lost the right to use the phrase “East Turkestan” in its official activities.  In 2006, Ankara decided to no longer provide a visa to Rebia Kadeer, chief in the line of Uighur resistance, and now exiled in the United States.  The Prime Minister assures that a new visa will be granted in the event that she makes a new request.

translation by Adam Cathcart

7/25 Update: The New Dominion blog provides some further interesting analysis on the responses of Chinese bloggers to the various statements of Turkish leaders in support of the Uighurs.