Istanbul: Activists in Turkey came out in large numbers last week to support the Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang province, who lost their lives in a residential building fire in Urumqi, local media reports said.
A protest was carried out by Uyghur activists in Istanbul at 2:00 am in the early hours of November 26 near the historic Hagia Sophia mosque where Uyghurs gathered braving the cold shivering winter, according to media reports. Nearly a hundred activists including Uyghur groups.
The speakers alleged that despite the raging fire, the Chinese authorities did not allow the building residents to come out in the name of stringent Covid-19 restrictions. They called upon the International community to take a stand against the Chinese government. The gathering also offered their prayers for the victims of the fire.
A large protest and press release was held near the Chinese Consulate in the Sariyer district, Istanbul which was attended by over 1000 people. The protest call was given by the International Union of East Turkestan NGOs led by Hidayetullah Oghuzhan, the Chairman of East Turkestan Maarif Society.
He said, “November 24 is a sad day for us. We shall never forget the Urumqi fire that claimed the lives of children and women. Some threw themselves out of the building. The doors and fire stairs were closed by the Chinese administration under the pretext of Covid. Even private roads for fire cars were closed. Despite the immediate notification by the residents of the building and did not allow their passage in time.”
Oghuzhan continued saying, “Since August 2022, China has caused thousands of people to lose their lives due to hunger or disease by closing the people in their homes and disrupting food and health transportation with inhuman practices under the name of Zero-Covid in different cities of East Turkestan.”
He also called upon the ‘Organization of Turkic states, the OIC, the Turkish-Islamic world, the UN, the EU, and other international institutions and states to take steps to stop the genocide in East Turkestan, impose sanctions on China, and boycott Chinese products.
Oghuzhan, in particular, called upon the Turkish government to take stringent action to stop the ongoing atrocities in the region and to apply pressure on China with diplomatic, political, economic and other ways to develop initiatives for the freedom of the people of East Turkestan.
The East Turkestan Scholars Association also performed a prayer for the Urumqi martyrs in Istanbul Kucukcekmece Fatih Mosque after the mid-day prayer. Hundreds attended the prayer to remember the Urumqi victims.
The Urumqi fire was reportedly caused by an electrical outlet on the 15th floor. The smoke and flames rose several floors causing burn and suffocation casualties. Reports indicated around forty dead or injured. Although fire services were rushed to the scene, they were restricted by fences and obstructions placed near the building as part of Chinese ‘Zero-Covid’ blockade policies.
Instead of clearing the obstructions, the firefighters sprayed from a distance, being partially effective and allowing the fire to burn for more than three hours before it was extinguished. The delay and the slack response of the authorities have led to protests in Urumqi, Korla and Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture.
There was also news of angry protests in Beijing, Shanghai and by students in Nanjiang and other Chinese cities, suggesting a deepening resentment amongst even the Han Chinese against the obdurate Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Chinese Communist Party regime led by President Xi Jinping.