Turkey on Saturday condemned China's treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uighur people as "a great embarrassment for humanity", adding to rights groups' recent criticism over mass detentions of the Turkic-speaking minority.
Other countries should follow Turkey’s lead in calling out China’s mistreatment of Uighur Muslims, said the head of a major human rights group on Sunday.
“This is a big deal: [Turkey is] The first Muslim-majority country to criticize China so directly for its horrendous treatment of Uighur Muslims, and one of the most powerful Muslim-majority countries at that," Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.
“Now [is the] time for other governments to join Turkey,” he added.
Prominent Uighur musician Abdurehim Heyit has died in a Chinese prison, while serving a eight-year sentence. An estimated one million from the community are reportedly being detained in East Turkistan - a region claimed by the Uighurs in China pic.twitter.com/joJVNoVz6O— TRT World (@trtworld) February 10, 2019
Roth cited a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Saturday urging Chinese authorities to respect the fundamental human rights of Uighur Turks and to close the internment camps.
"It is no longer a secret that more than one million Uighur Turks incurring arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in internment camps and prisons," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.
"Uighurs who are not detained in these camps are under heavy pressure."
Roth praised Turkey’s denunciation of China's mass detention of Uighur Muslims to force them to renounce Islam and stressed Turkey calling the tragedy in East Turkistan region "a great embarrassment for humanity."
"Turkey notes they [Uighurs] ‘are subjected to torture and political brainwashing in concentration centers and prisons’," Roth added.
Roth went on to say that the “next step should be the UN Human Rights Council launching an investigation of China's outrages against Uighur and other Muslims in the region.”
In Saturday’s statement, Turkey called on the international community and the UN secretary-general “to take effective measures in order to bring to an end this human tragedy in East Turkistan - region claimed by Uighurs.
East Turkistan region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of the region's population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils and introducing what many experts see as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in East Turkistan region, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.