Turkish Bar Associations Union takes citizenship through investment to top court

Pushback on citizenship-by-investment program given negative impacts:

The Turkish Union of Bar Associations (TBB) has applied to the country’s top court for the reversal of a regulation allowing foreigners to gain Turkish citizenship through investment, Diken news site reported on Monday.

“The current regulation, which came into effect in 2013, is both in violation of the Constitution and lacking any legal foundation,” it cited the TBB as saying in the application submitted to the Council of State.

Turkey’s “Citizenship by Investment Programme,” which allows citizenship through the sale of housing to foreigners, came into effect almost a decade ago. The programme initially allowed foreigners who owned property in Turkey equivalent to $1 million to become citizens. This amount was reduced to 250,000 in 2018, sparking a rapid hike in foreigners seeking to own a home in the country.

The figure was increased to $400,000 on Monday, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette signed off by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The latest change was prompted by a spike in the price of new and existing homes of almost 100 percent annually, which has made it effectively impossible for citizens to purchase homes. Builders in the country are charging more for new homes after the raw material costs jumped, partly due to a slump in the value of the lira, which lost 44 percent of its value against the dollar in 2021 and around 25 percent this year.

“The Turkish Republic’s constitution urges that the conditions for attaining citizenship should be regulated through the law,” the TBB said. “There is no regulation in the (related) law, which states that …. Turkish citizenship can be obtained through investment made in foreign currency.”

The citizenship programme also provides a Turkish passport to foreigners who invest  $500,000 in government bonds, companies, investment funds or a local bank account.

Erdoğan’s government has come under criticism for offering investment incentives to foreign nationals as citizens continue to feel the squeeze of soaring inflation on their wallets.

Last month, Erdoğan said his government would help alleviate the cost of higher property prices by offering zero interest rate mortgages to low income families. He also said the government would provide financing for unfinished housing projects provided the developers froze prices for a year.

Source: Turkish Bar Associations Union takes citizenship through investment to top court

New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration: Turkish immigration in Germany study

Of interest:

New research finds that policies granting permanent residency to immigrants conditional on acquiring host country skills—like language—are most likely to generate higher fiscal contributions to the host country through income taxes. In fact, immigrants with a preference for remaining in the host country develop social contacts and other specific skills that allow them to find better paid jobs and stay for a longer time.

As immigration worldwide increases, host countries are faced with crucial policy decisions aimed at maximizing immigrants’ economic contributions. Designing the right policies requires understanding exactly how immigrants make their decision to migrate and return to their country of origin. Bocconi University, Milan, professors Jérôme Adda and Joseph-Simon Goerlach, with co-author Christian Dustmann (University College London), in a forthcoming article in The Review of Economic Studies, develop and estimate a that provides key insights into the decision-making process of immigrants. They find that immigrants’ expectations for the length of their stay and their location preferences can explain their decisions to invest in career improving skills, their acceptance of lower-paying jobs compared to natives, and how they respond to immigration policies on the duration and possibility of permanent residence.

While previous research focused only on productivity differences between immigrants to explain their career profiles, the authors argue that location preferences could be crucial in determining how much immigrants invest in acquiring skills that consequently impact their career profiles. For instance, an who prefers the host country and intends to stay permanently may invest more in learning the local language, familiarizing themselves with the local labor market, and developing social contacts and other host country-specific skills. Alternatively, a migrant with a location for their original country may not invest in these skills as they are likely undervalued back there. The authors model this preference and estimate the impact of location preferences and planned migration duration using data from surveys of Turkish immigrants in Germany over three decades, starting from 1961.

Indeed they find that immigrants who remain are higher-skilled due to their conscious investment in host-country skills. Their model is also able to explain why immigrants may be more willing to accept low-paid jobs compared to natives. They argue that immigrants from countries that have a lower price level and who want to return home would face higher effective wages since their wage allows them to consume more at home over their lifetime. Knowing this may encourage temporary migrants to accept lower-paid jobs.

The authors also use their model to compare three different types of prevalent today that grant permanent residency after 5 years either conditional on:

  1. An earning threshold (like the UK);
  2. Acquiring host-specific skills such as language (like in some countries of the EU);
  3. Granted randomly with 30% probability.

The authors find that scheme 1 selects for high productivity migrants and scheme 2 for those with a high preference for the host country.

Assuming a population of 25-year-olds migrating to Germany in 1970 as an example to estimate on, the earning threshold rule would generate an annual per capita increase in tax payments by €782 compared to if the policy wasn’t there. The host-specific skills rule would generate an average annual tax gain of €789 and fewer tax losses due to fewer individuals leaving the host country. The random lottery instead leads to a decrease in average annual taxes by €633 since the expected returns to investing in host country skills are reduced due to the scheme’s reliance on random chance. Furthermore, schemes 1 and 3, due to the barriers they pose to seeking permanent residency, reduce total immigration by about 26% whereas the host-specific skills rule does so by around 3%.

Thus, the authors show how these schemes could have differential impacts when one accounts for not only immigrants’ productivities but also their location preference / expected duration of stay. As the recent Ukrainian refugee crisis shows, such considerations are crucial for both the host countries’ goals as well as the lives and decisions of the arriving immigrants and their integration and acceptance in societies.

Source: New research finds that preference for remaining is key to successful immigration

Turkey Turns Down Citizenship for Some Uyghurs – Voice of America

Of note:

Turkish authorities have rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghur refugees, telling them they were suspected risks to Turkey’s “national security” or “social order,” some of the Uyghurs told VOA.

“Phone communication” was the reason Turkey rejected one Uyghur family for citizenship last year. While the family doesn’t know what that means, rights organizations say the term could mean that the person applying for citizenship has communicated with someone connected to an extremist organization in another country, such as Syria.

“My whole family’s application was rejected, including my wife and children,” the Uyghur refugee told VOA. He requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal in Turkey.

Erkin Ekrem, director of the Ankara-based Uyghur Research Institute, said Turkish Deputy Minister of the Interior Ismail Catakli told him and other Uyghur representatives last year that some foreign nationals in Turkey, including Uyghurs from China, were considered risks to national security.

“Catakli told us that it’s not only some Uyghurs. There are other foreign nationals as well,” Ekrem told VOA. “Catakli also said that it takes time to do background checks one by one.”

“He told us that people should wait patiently about their cases,” Ekrem said. ” ‘After we did a thorough background check, we will determine who is eligible and who is not.’ That’s what Catakli told us.”

The Turkish Embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests from VOA for comment on this story.

Uyghur foreign fighters have been known to operate throughout Central Asia and the Middle East, although the exact number has been difficult to pin down. In Syria alone, Uyghurs fighting for militant groups range in number from the hundreds to the thousands. Uyghurs have also carried out terror attacks in China in the past 20 years, according to a 2017 report from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.

Uyghurs in China

About 8,000 Uyghurs did become Turkish citizens last year, according to a rights group that wished not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Most of them were from China. In recent years, an estimated 50,000 Uyghurs fled to Turkey from western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where rights groups say the Chinese government is committing human rights abuses on local Turkic populations such as Uyghurs and Kazakhs.

International rights organizations and some Western countries including the U.S. say China has arbitrarily detained more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnic groups in internment camps in Xinjiang since early 2017.

Beijing says the facilities are not internment camps but “vocational training centers” where people learn skills and the Chinese language. Beijing has also said it has taken measures to counter “the three evil forces in Xinjiang,” namely “ethnic separatism, religious extremism and violent terrorism.”

Alimjan Turdi, a Uyghur, left Xinjiang for Turkey in 2013 with his wife and three daughters.

“I came to Turkey escaping China’s assimilationist policies in pursuit of a better education for my children,” Turdi told VOA from the Netherlands.

He became a rights activist in 2017, after the Chinese government had arrested some of his relatives and former colleagues and had detained them in Xinjiang internment camps, Turdi said.

“Chinese police contacted me on social media and asked me to work for them,” Turdi told VOA. “They said that if I want to help my relatives [and] colleagues and have a profiting business, I should work for them.”

Turdi refused the request and, along with other Uyghurs, became a vocal activist in Turkey, demanding the release of family members from China’s internment camps in Xinjiang.

In October, he stopped his activism in Turkey and decided to leave the country after the Turkish government had rejected his application for citizenship.

“I got excited and thought that my application for citizenship was accepted, after they [Turkish authorities] asked me to bring two passport-size pictures and sign relevant papers,” Turdi said.

When he went to the immigration office in Istanbul, he was told his application for citizenship had been rejected.

“I asked for an explanation. They said they don’t know the reason,” Turdi said. “I thought that my activism wouldn’t be harmful to Turkey.”

In December, Turdi left Turkey for the Netherlands, where he is seeking political asylum.

Turkey’s Uyghur position

The Turkish people have been sympathetic to Uyghurs, observers say.

Uyghurs and Turkish people are ethnically related and have a lot in common, both culturally and linguistically, explained Ilyas Dogan, a Turkish human rights lawyer based in Ankara who is handling 18 Uyghur cases, including Turdi’s.

“Uyghurs are treated badly in China, and even genocide is carried out against them,” Dogan said. “And almost everyone in Turkish society reacts to the injustice [the] Uyghurs have suffered.”

When a 2009 Uyghur-led protest in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi resulted in almost 200 dead, then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide.

Western countries have also accused China of genocide in its treatment of Uyghurs, which China says is the “lie of the century.”

In recent years, however, Turkey has also developed closer ties with Beijing, relying heavily on China’s financial support, Dogan said.

The trade volume between Turkey and China increased from $1.1 billion in 2001 to $23.6 billion in 2018, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. In that same span of time, Turkey’s gross domestic productgrew from $202 billion to $778 billion.

China’s growing influence on the Turkish economy has become the greatest obstacle to Turkey’s support of Uyghurs, Dogan said.

“China wants the Uyghurs who came to Turkey in recent years to leave Turkey,” Dogan said, “because there’s such a strong support for Uyghurs from Turkish society.”

According to Dogan, one reason given for the citizenship rejections is “risk to Turkey’s national security in the future.”

Source: Turkey Turns Down Citizenship for Some Uyghurs – Voice of America

Turkey rejected Uyghur citizenship applications over “national security” risks

Sigh….

The Turkish government has rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghurs who have been outspoken about the detention of their families in China, citing risks they pose to “national security” and “public order,” according to interviews and documents reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Turkey has been an important refuge for Uyghurs, who have faced repressive policies in China for years. But Ankara’s growing economic and security ties with Beijing have led to fears among some Uyghurs that they’re no longer safe in Turkey.

  • The denial of citizenship for some Uyghurs in Turkey fits a broader pattern of China’s growing ability to extend repression beyond its own borders, Elise Anderson, a senior program officer at the D.C.-based Uyghur Human Rights Project, told Axios.
  • Chinese government authorities are “surveilling, tracking and hunting down Uyghurs, and in some cases, have succeeded in sending them backto the People’s Republic of China,” Anderson said.

Details: Alimcan Turdi, a Uyghur who moved to Turkey in 2013 for education opportunities for his children, told Axios he has numerous relatives in Xinjiang who were detained in mass internment camps in 2017 and he has not heard from them since.

  • He began organizing protests in Turkey and speaking out against the Chinese government on social media in 2019. In October 2021, Turdi’s application for citizenship in the country he had called home for more than seven years was rejected.
  • Turdi says he received no explanation other than a document that cited “obstacle to national security” and “public order” — allegations that he called “very upsetting,” given the loyalty he said he feels for Turkey. Turdi is now in the Netherlands, though his family remains in Turkey.

Axios spoke to four other Uyghurs who described similar experiences and provided documentation.

  • Amine Vahid, a Uyghur woman who has lived in Turkey since 2015, said both her and her 17-year-old son’s applications were rejected in October 2021 on “national security” and “public order” grounds.
  • Vahid said she has participated in protests in Turkey because she has relatives in the camps, but claims her son has never been involved in activism and is being unfairly punished.
  • One Uyghur woman who wished to stay anonymous told Axios she has never participated in protests or anti-China social media activity, but that applications for her, her husband and three children were all rejected for the same reasons.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and embassy in D.C. did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The big picture: Many Uyghurs are worried about their ability to remain safely in Turkey, which is home to one of the largest Uyghur diasporas in the world, with estimates between 30,000 and 50,000 people.

  • The Chinese government has asked Ankara to extradite some Uyghurs back to China; many Uyghurs believe at least one Uyghur family in Turkey has been deported. Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deported numerous Uyghurs at China’s request.
  • The inability to obtain citizenship and the loss of residency status can plunge Uyghurs into statelessness and make it difficult for them to keep jobs and go to school in Turkey.

Background: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was once critical of China’s repression of Uyghurs, including suggesting in 2009, years before the construction of the camps, that ethnic violence in Xinjiang amounted to “genocide.” Uyghurs and Turkish people share linguistic, ethnic and religious ties.

  • But as Erdogan has turned away from the West in recent years and strengthened economic links to China, Ankara’s criticism has grown muted.
  • On a visit to Beijing in 2019, Erdogan warned that to “exploit” the Uyghur issue would damage Turkey-China relations and that he believed it was possible to “find a solution to this issue that takes into consideration the sensitivities on both sides.”

The bottom line: “Turkish people know about Uyghurs and care about Uyghurs,” Anderson said. “But at other times, Turkish authorities make moves that leave Uyghurs in fear.”

Source: Turkey rejected Uyghur citizenship applications over “national security” risks

The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Would be nice to have more data rather than just examples of advertising by immigration consultants. That being said, not surprising that alternate and backdoor pathways emerge:

In order to circumvent strict norms put in place by the United States, rich Chinese people are on the lookout for easier alternatives to acquire the US citizenship.

They have recently discovered that obtaining Turkish citizenship first would make it easier for them to acquire US citizenship.

Chinese websites and social media platforms are flooded with advertisements for obtaining Turkish citizenship.

These advertisements underline that the alternate way to obtain US Citizenship is by first obtaining Turkish citizenship which can be acquired through an investment of at least USD$250,000 in property.

The advertisements emphasise that it is possible to go to America and other western countries easily after obtaining Turkish citizenship.

The tagline of ads reads, “if you buy real estate, all your family members get their passports as gifts.”

As a result of China’s strained relations with the USA and many European countries in recent years, it has become difficult for Chinese citizens to obtain a residence permit in Western countries.

One Chinese real estate consultancy firms that deals with real estate sales from Turkey, emphasises in one of its advertisements that for Turkish citizenship, “Britain is the best springboard for settling in developed countries, such as the USA.”

The expressions used in the advertisements for Turkish citizenship published in China are as follows: “AFTER YOU BUY THIS, YOU CAN GO TO THE USA.”

The advertisements highlight the features of the Turkish passport: It can only be earned by buying a house for USD$250,000.

• It is a cheap and simple process, and it has two great advantages: It is the best springboard to go as an immigrant to developed countries such as the UK and the USA. After obtaining a Turkish passport, you can go to the USA as an immigrant with an E2 investor ID.

• E2 is a visa issued by the USA only to countries with mutual trade partnerships. After you get Turkish Citizenship, you can commute to and from the USA, you can live in the USA. Your spouse can work in the USA. Your children can study in American schools.

• Turkey is a country that has a trade partnership with the US. The E2 visa is the country’s most issued visa. It can take 500-600 people every year.

• If you get a Turkish passport, you can go to England with a business visa. The UK government allows Turkish citizens to engage in business. A 1-year commercial visa can be obtained on the first application. After five years, the right to stay in the UK indefinitely can be earned. After getting a business visa from the UK, your children can study in the UK. They can study for free in public schools.

• You can earn a Turkish passport with very simple transactions, just by buying a house. You don’t need to go yourself. If you buy real estate for 1.600 million yuan (USD$250,000), all your family members will be given passports. It does not ask for any documents. You can complete the transactions without leaving home.

It is recalled that a Turkish passport guarantees visa free travel to over 100 countries. You can get an E2 visa to the US with it.

Turkey has provision vide, in which a foreigner can obtain Turkish nationality on the basis of certain amount of investment in real estate, capital investment, by way of business generating employment for Turkish nationals, or by investing in Treasury bonds or any type of government loan instrument.

In 2018, with a legal regulation, the lower limit of real estate investment, which is one of the options for citizens of other countries to obtain Turkish citizenship, had been reduced from USD$1 million to USD$250,000.

However on January 06, 2022, the regulation on the ‘Implementation of the Turkish Citizenship Law’ was amended and the investment values were enhanced.

The Turkish government facilitated the regulation for foreigners to acquire Turkish citizenship in a bid to support the Turkish lira.

However, China is exploiting this provision of Turkey, whereby Chinese citizens are purchasing real estate in Turkey or making a fixed capital investment to obtain Turkish citizenship.

This is in order to bypass the difficulty its citizens face in obtaining the residence permit in western countries.

Source: The Chinese Exploitation Of Turkish Citizenship To More Easily Obtain US/EU Residency Permits — Greek

Turkey’s citizenship-for-homes sales hit roadblock

Local inhabitants rarely benefit from these schemes apart from developers and realtors:

Record sales of homes to foreigners in Turkey, driven by a sharply falling currency and the promise of citizenship, are starting to slow after a new government rule aimed at tackling inflated prices, property experts say.

Property sellers and real estate professionals told Reuters that before the rule change some cheaper homes were being marked up and sold to foreigners for at least $250,000 – the minimum price for Turkey to grant foreigners a passport.

Some sellers were working with selected appraisal companies to inflate prices and secure citizenship for buyers, they said, with the difference between the market value and the price paid in some cases later returned to buyers.

But under a regulation adopted last month, the land-registry authority now automatically assigns appraisers to properties, thwarting collaboration that could lead to abuse.

GIGDER, an industry body that promotes Turkish home makers abroad, said that since Sept. 20 when the regulation was adopted, prices of some homes sold to foreigners have dropped by 30-45%, prompting some prospective buyers to walk away.

“This difference between construction companies’ sales prices and new valuations has led to distrust among foreigners,” said the head of GIGDER, Omer Faruk Akbal.

“We have since seen sales offices emptying out and presale contracts getting cancelled,” he said.

A construction boom has helped drive economic growth through much of President Tayyip Erdogan’s nearly two decades in power and, under the citizenship scheme, cash from abroad helped offset Turkey’s usually heavy trade imbalance.

Some 7,000 foreigners received Turkish citizenships via home purchases between 2017 and 2020, the government said last year.

The General Directorate overseeing land registries said it adopted the regulation in September to address “certain observed irregularities in the appraisal reports”.

Foreign home sales – mainly to Iranians, Iraqis, Russians and Afghans – reached an all-time high of 6,630 last month, official data shows, as a sharp falls in the lira made Turkish property more attractive to foreign buyers.

Last year net foreign investment in real estate was $5.7 billion, central bank data shows.

GIGDER’s Akbal expects construction companies to sell a record 50,000 homes to foreigners by year-end, though the new regulation might reduce that.

The sales have contributed to a broader rise in living costs for Turks that has weighed on Erdogan’s opinion polls: housing-related inflation was more than 20% last month, reflecting soaring rents, valuations and mortgage rates.

INFLATING PRICES

Ankara adopted the citizenship-for-homes scheme in 2017. A year later it cut the minimum price to $250,000, from $1 million, to attract foreign buyers and help alleviate the currency the crisis.

One property industry representative who requested anonymity said that before the regulation, properties worth only $150,000 could be reported to the land registry authority with a $250,000 price tag in order to secure citizenship for the buyer.

After the sale, the construction company would transfer $100,000 back to the buyer, the person said.

Ibrahim Babacan, chairman of Babacan Holding which works mostly with foreign buyers, said the new regulation was likely to lead to the cancellation of six of his 10 recent sales to foreigners.

“The customer buys the property with the aim of citizenship but when the appraiser reports a lower valuation, he cancels the contract,” he said, adding appraisers and builders often use different measurements in valuations.

While Babacan says the new rules will cool sales in October, the lira depreciation will keep foreigners interested. “You can buy a property in Turkey at a fifth the price in Dubai,” he said.

Source: Turkey’s citizenship-for-homes sales hit roadblock

Syrians in Turkey in precarious situation as citizenship applications indefinitely suspended by authorities

Of note:

Nearly 10 years after the civil war began in Syria, refugees are still struggling with their precarious status in Turkey as most have not been able to acquire Turkish citizenship and their applications have been indefinitely suspended by the authorities, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

Thousands of Syrian refugees who have been in Turkey for more than five years submitted their application documents to obtain citizenship and were interviewed by authorities. However, they have found that their citizenship process was suspended without reason.

“I applied for citizenship and then waited three years, after which they told me that my application had been suspended,” said Fatma Tata, a young Syrian woman. “I will graduate this year, but I won’t be able to work under these conditions.”

Musab Hawsa, 29, who fled to Turkey eight years ago and works as a practitioner at a medical school, said his citizenship application was also abruptly suspended after waiting three years.

“If they had told me earlier, I would have planned accordingly. I would like to get a residency [at the medical school] but was waiting to get my citizenship for that. I think I may need to leave Turkey,” he said.

In some cases, parents have become Turkish citizens while their children were not able to. This has become a problem, especially since most children were born in Turkey and do not have Syrian citizenship, either. “It has become a bureaucratic hassle to prove the children are ours each time the police ask for our documents,” said one Syrian mother whose children were stateless.

According to a report drafted by Solaris, an NGO that words to support vulnerable populations, the law stipulates that if the parents have Turkish citizenship then the children also should be given citizenship. “Giving children of Turkish citizens temporary protection, which is the case for refugees, is against the law,” said the report.

A Syrian parent who gave an interview for the report said their children were stateless. He said they could not plan anything for their future until their children obtained citizenship.

Another parent, Abdurrahman Abdulkerim, 33, said he felt unwanted in Turkey and planned on moving to Europe. He said his three children were stateless and he believed they would not be able to acquire citizenship at this point.

An estimated 3.6 million refugees have been granted temporary protection in Turkey. The majority of them live outside camps, in precarious and challenging circumstances.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had promised Syrian refugees Turkish citizenship in 2016. However, he did not explain how this would happen or the criteria for applying for citizenship. Dr. Murat Erdoğan, an immigration expert at the Turkish-German University, said granting citizenship to almost 3 million people at once was unheard of.

Source: Syrians in Turkey in precarious situation as citizenship applications indefinitely suspended by authorities

Carleton PhD student detained in Turkey, accused of inciting protests

An interesting and disturbing consular case that highlights a number of issues:
  • increasing repression in autocratic countries
  • calls for consular assistance are being applied to Permanent Residents, not just citizens (as in the case of Iran’s shooting down of the Ukrainian airline)
  • Canada will likely have more cases like this for those international students researching their country of origin histories and issues
  • and the intersection with LGBT identities.

In the ten years they’ve been together, Ömer Ongun has not gone a day without hearing the voice of his partner, Cihan Erdal.

It’s now been three days since they’ve spoken.

Their last conversation came on Friday, just moments before Erdal was detained in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighbourhood.

“It was 2 a.m. for us, 9 a.m. for Cihan in Istanbul. He called me and said ‘I love you. They are at my door. They’re going to take me away,'” Ongun said.

Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD candidate at Carleton University and a permanent resident of Canada, is now being held at a detention centre in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

He was among dozens of people named in warrants issued across Turkey on Friday. Ongun, also a permanent resident, said Erdal’s lawyer has not been allowed to see the specifics of his case file, but the allegations against all of the detainees relate to a letter written in 2014.

The letter called on the Turkish government to step in to help the Kurdish town of Kobani, in Syria, at the height of ISIS attacks.

Deadly protests

Thirty-seven people were killed in protests in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast that October as people filled the streets, angry the Turkish Army wasn’t moving in to protect Kobani and its people.

The Turkish government accuses the signatories of that letter of supporting the protests.

And the statement from Carleton:

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University condemns in the strongest possible terms the detention of Carleton Sociology doctoral candidate, Cihan Erdal, in Turkey today. The charges stem from events back in 2014, which the Turkish government are using to continue persecuting members of the leftist HDP political party, the third largest party in Turkey’s parliament. Cihan and 81 others, including academics, activists, and politicians, have been targeted because they are all signatories to a letter from six years ago calling for the Turkish government to step in to protect a Kurdish town from ISIS attacks, during a time when ISIS was quite active and many Kurds were being killed.

Cihan was an active member of the HDP in 2014 as their youth representative. However, he has not been involved in Turkish politics since he moved to Canada to do his doctoral studies at Carleton in January, 2017. He had only returned to Turkey to visit family and then to interview Turkish activists as part of his doctoral fieldwork. Cihan’s research is on youth-led social movements in Europe, including in Turkey, focused on the stories of young activists about their involvement in social movements. His work is in no way critical of the Turkish state. His research passed a formal proposal defense, and his research ethics proposal was approved before the COVID-19 pandemic began. He was beginning interviews online, while awaiting approval under the new pandemic ethics process to begin face to face interviews in Turkey, Athens, and Paris.

We ask you to vigorously demand the release of Cihan from detention and demand that the Canadian government consular offices support Cihan, who is a permanent resident of Canada.

More information on the arrests can be found here.

Source: https://carleton.ca/socanth/2020/the-department-of-sociology-and-anthropology-at-carleton-university-condemns-in-the-strongest-possible-terms-the-detention-of-carleton-sociology-doctoral-candidate-cihan-erdal-in-turkey-today/

And the website and social media campaign: freecihanerdal.ca

Turkish students increasingly resisting religion, study suggests

Perhaps as a reaction against Erdogan’s efforts?

Twenty-two-year old Esra, from Mersin, is even more bored than usual this Ramadan. Universities are shut and Turkey has taken the unusual step of placing under-20s, as well as over-65s, under a curfew, because many Turkish families live in intergenerational households.

As a result, Esra can’t see any of her friends. And a few days into the Muslim month of fasting, like many young people, she is now feeling even more suffocated by the religious restrictions imposed by her pious parents.

“They normally don’t know how I dress when I’m not there but even in the house now wearing tight jeans bothers them and they’re commenting on it,” she said. “They think I am fasting but I’m not. I have water in my room.”

Despite more than a decade of efforts by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) to mould a generation of pious Turks, the country’s youth appears to be turning away from religion.

Source: Turkish students increasingly resisting religion, study suggests

‘I Thought It Would Be Safe’: Uighurs In Turkey Now Fear China’s Long Arm

Long read on yet another unsavoury aspect of the Chinese and Turkish regimes:

Abdurehim Imin Parach often looks over his shoulder when he walks around Istanbul. He worries that he is being followed, just as he was last year when two Turkish plainclothes policemen escorted him out of a restaurant in the city and told him he was under arrest.

“They didn’t say why they were arresting me,” says Parach, 44, an ethnic Uighur who landed in Turkey more than five years ago after fleeing his home in China’s Xinjiang region. “At the police station they tried to get me to sign a statement saying I was a terrorist. They beat me, but I wouldn’t sign it. Then they sent me to a deportation center.”

It was a cold, dark building hundreds of miles away from Istanbul. Parach says he met at least 20 other Uighurs there, all expecting to be deported.

Then, after three months, he was released without explanation. Turkish authorities urged him not to speak out against China.

Parach suspects China was behind his arrest. He has criticized China’s treatment of his people for years and had to flee the country after repeated detentions.

“When you stand against China,” he says, “you are a threat wherever you are.”

China’s government considers many members of the Uighur ethnic minority to be “terrorists” and “separatists.” It has imprisoned them on a mass scale and has turned Xinjiang into one of the world’s most tightly controlled police states.

As a result, many Uighurs have fled to Turkey, which they have traditionally viewed as a refuge and an advocate for their rights. Now, many Uighurs in Istanbul tell NPR they fear China is pressuring Turkey to threaten them.

Parach believes he was targeted after he published a book of poetry describing China’s oppression of Uighurs. In a quiet corner of a spicy-noodles diner, he unzips his backpack and pulls out the book, Breathing in Exile. The book’s cover includes a moody drawing of Tian Shan (or in Uighur, Tengri Tagh) the Central Asian mountain range that’s known as the “mountains of heaven.”

He flips to a verse describing how Uighurs feel: lost, dislocated, swallowed up by the night. The verse translates roughly as: “We await a thundering so great/that it shatters stars/that it awakens fate/to save us from a void of eternal scars.”

The book came out in December 2018 as China was making international headlines for imprisoning more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in reeducation camps to counter what it calls extremist ideologies.

Two months later, the Turkish plainclothes police officers arrested him. Parach was shocked and confused. His book criticized China, not Turkey.

“I’m not sure if China is putting pressure directly on the Turkish government to control Uighurs here,” Parach says, “or if Chinese agents have infiltrated Turkish society to frame us as terrorists.”

NPR spoke to more than a dozen Uighurs in Istanbul who detailed how Turkish police arrested them and sent them to deportation centers, sometimes for months, without telling them why. One Uighur activist in Turkey says he has counted at least 200 such detentions since January 2019, while a lawyer says he has assisted more than 400 Uighurs arrested in the past year.

All those interviewed suspect China’s involvement in the detentions. Most declined to give their full names out of fear they would be targeted again.

A woman in her mid-40s says she was dragged out of her home in the middle of the night as her terrified children watched. A father of three says Turkish authorities imprisoned him along with his entire family, including his young children. Another man was hustled out of his tea shop in front of his confused customers.

The Uighur activist tracking detentions is named Anwar. He says he has been arrested himself — twice, most recently last October when Turkish police plucked him off the Istanbul metro as he was heading to work.

“They didn’t ask any questions except, ‘Do you want to call the Chinese Embassy?’ ” says Anwar, 27, a wiry, blunt-talking father of two.

He didn’t call the Chinese Embassy, but he suspects that authorities in China somehow found out about the arrest right away. A couple of hours after his detention, his parents in Xinjiang called his wife in Turkey to tell her about it, he says.

Activists later promoted Anwar’s case on social media and hired a lawyer who helped him get out of migrant detention after a few days. Uighurs who can’t afford lawyers are not so lucky and can languish in detention centers for months, he says.

Anwar often pickets outside the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul, dressed in prison garb and declaring that East Turkestan, as the Uighurs call Xinjiang, must be free.

Since his release, Turkish authorities have warned Anwar to stop protesting so loudly against China. He says he’s trying to understand how the long arm of Beijing could have reached Turkey, where at least 35,000 Uighurs live, according to local leaders.

“I thought it would be safe in Turkey,” he says. “But I have nightmares every night that the next time I’m arrested, I will be deported to China.”

“A second home”

Uighurs have sought refuge in Turkey for decades. They speak a Turkic language and, like Turks, they practice Islam.

In 1952, the Turkish government offered asylum to Uighurs who were fleeing Xinjiang after its takeover by Chinese Communists. Turkey has granted some form of temporary or permanent residency to Uighur exiles since then.

Ismail Cengiz’s father arrived in Turkey in 1953. He had been forced out of his home in Kashgar, a city in far-western China that was on the Silk Road trade route once connecting the country to the Middle East and Europe.

“My father always talked about our home in Kashgar,” says Cengiz, 60, a graying, talkative man in black-rimmed glasses. “It made me long for it.”

Born and raised in Turkey, Cengiz advocates for independence for East Turkestan. Some in the community in Istanbul call him “prime minister,” and he is often seen at Uighur cafes and restaurants in the city, glad-handing imams and business owners.

“Uighurs really do see Turkey as a second home,” Cengiz says. “We want to believe that [the government] would never allow Uighurs to be sent back to China. But what’s happening to the newcomers is making them nervous.”

Many Uighurs arriving in Turkey since 2014 have struggled to get Turkish residency permits, Cengiz says. Many of them have expired Chinese passports.

“If they try to renew the passports at the Chinese Consulate, the Chinese rip them up,” Cengiz says. “Then they hand out documents that allow only for a one-way return to China. After these Nazi-style camps [in Xinjiang], no one wants to go back.”

He clicks open his briefcase and takes out a thick folder with photos of Uighurs missing in China, including some who have Turkish citizenship. There’s also a list of Uighurs who have been detained by Turkish police.

“Everyone needs to know what’s happening to us,” he says.

Whenever Cengiz hears about Turkish police arresting Uighurs, he says he writes letters to the immigration service and makes calls to lawmakers and the Interior Ministry. He appeals to the sense of solidarity Turks are said to feel with Muslims around the world.

“I tell them Uighurs have fled their ancestral home out of fear,” he says. “They should not have to deal with more fear here in their second home.”

Many Uighurs in Turkey live in two Istanbul neighborhoods, Zeytinburnu and Sefakoy. Walk around and you will see Uighur mothers in headscarves and full-face veils pushing their children on playground swings as grandfathers with long white beards pray in nearby mosques. There are Uighur-language schools, boxing clubs, bakeries and cafes scented with saffron-and-cardamom tea. Clothing shops sell red embroidered dresses, ankle-length vests and T-shirts printed with a drawing of a ghijek, a type of fiddle. Bookstores stock Uighur works banned in China, including Parach’s poems.

The baby-blue flag of East Turkestan is on every wall. It features the same white crescent and star as Turkey’s red flag.

A suspicious call before an arrest

Both flags hang at a cultural center where Aminah Mamatimin meets other Uighur women whose families are missing in China.

Mamatimin, a 29-year-old mother of five, says that until now the relative safety of Turkey has allowed her to publicly mourn her husband and children, who have been missing in China since January 2017.

She was pregnant with her fifth child when she flew to Turkey with her toddler daughter in 2016. Her husband was supposed to follow with their three older children after closing down his business, but Chinese police arrested him on the charge of “investing in terrorism,” Mamatimin says, after he sent her money in Turkey. Then he and the children disappeared. She flips through a poster-size scrapbook of their photos.

Mamatimin has heard that her children were hauled off to Chinese military-style schools surrounded by barbed wire. She worries that Fatima, her frail, sickly 8-year-old daughter, won’t survive there.

“Fatima’s the one who needs me the most,” says Mamatimin, her voice breaking as she flips through her scrapbook. “She’s anxious and sometimes wets the bed. She’s so shy she won’t even speak up when she’s hungry. I keep wondering: Is she getting enough to eat? Is she cold? Is she afraid?”

Downstairs at the cultural center, Uighur women run a busy bazaar selling fresh dumplings, dried noodles and colorful skullcaps. A veiled woman steps out of the crowd, holding the hands of two little girls in matching bowl cuts and cherry-print dresses.

She gives her name as Asma and her age, 33, but she is too afraid for her safety to reveal her full name. She unlocks the door to a friend’s spice shop, which is closed for the day, and sits down to recount a call she got late last year.

The screen on her cellphone showed a Chinese area code. The man on the line identified himself as a police officer in Xinjiang, where several of Asma’s relatives have been forced into camps and prison. She can’t confirm that the man was, in fact, a Chinese official, but leaked classified Chinese government documents show that Beijing has made a concerted effort to spy on Uighurs no matter where they are.

“He knew everything about us,” she says, referring to herself and her husband. “He even sent us photos of our families in China. The man told me we had to spy on other Uighurs. He said: If you don’t, you don’t know what bad things might happen to you.”

Asma refused to cooperate. A couple of months after that call, Turkish police detained her husband in his tea shop in Zeytinburnu and sent him to a deportation center.

Her husband, who declined to give his name, was released after a few weeks. He told NPR that he was so rattled by the arrest that he closed down his shop.

“I have to prove I am Uighur”

NPR confirmed that Turkey deported at least four Uighurs last summer to Tajikistan.

The deportees had lived in the central Turkish city of Kayseri. They included Zinnetgul Tursun and her two toddler daughters.

Her sister, Jennetgul, who spoke to NPR by phone from her home in Saudi Arabia, remembers her sister calling her last summer from a deportation center in Turkey’s west-coast city of Izmir.

“She kept saying, ‘You have to bring documents that I am Uighur. I have to prove I am Uighur,’ ” Jennetgul says.

She didn’t have the documents her sister needed. A few days later, she lost touch with Zinnetgul. A month later, she heard from their mother in China.

“She had my sister’s children and said that the Chinese police had arrested my sister,” Jennetgul says. “And then the nightmare began.”

Jennetgul has pleaded with Turkish officials to help locate her sister. She says she’s heard nothing.

“It’s so difficult for me to accept that Turkey did this,” she says. “Turkey, the land that is like our home, where the people are like our own.”

Turkey’s migration office claims Zinnetgul Tursun entered Syria illegally and didn’t have valid documents proving she’s Uighur — charges her sister denies.

In the past, Turkey has cited security as a reason to arrest migrants, including Uighurs. In 2014, Chinese state media said about 300 Uighurs had joined the Islamic State. Three years later, when an Uzbek gunman loyal to ISIS killed 39 people at a popular Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s celebrations, Turkish authorities arrested several Uighurs with suspected extremist ties as part of the investigation into the mass shooting.

“After that tragedy,” says Ragip Kutay Karaca, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Aydin University, “the authorities began arresting Uighurs with even the slightest connection to Syria.”

Parach, the poet, found himself swept up in this dragnet. His then-11-year-old son, Shehidulla, disappeared in 2014, the same year they both arrived in Turkey. Parach spent years calling Uighur militants in Iraq and Syria in an effort to locate and retrieve his child. In 2017, Turkish authorities arrested Parach on suspicion of terrorism for making those calls.

“I didn’t blame them for arresting me then,” he says. “It made sense.”

Parach learned that Shehidulla likely died in a suicide bombing that the boy may have set off himself. He says he’s devastated that his son died “with terrorists.”

The poet’s wife, Buhelchem Memet, had talked her husband and son into fleeing to Turkey while she stayed in Xinjiang with their five other children. She hoped her husband could secure a residency permit in Turkey and bring over the rest of the family. But she was soon imprisoned in China. Late last year, Parach heard from someone in the same prison that his wife had died there.

In China’s good graces

Just five years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan declared that he would always keep Turkey’s doors open for Uighur refugees. Last February, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called China’s Xinjiang camps “a great embarrassment for humanity.”

But when Erdogan visited Beijing last summer to boost ties with China, he told reporters that those who “exploited” the Uighur issue are undermining Beijing-Ankara relations. Since then, he has been silent on the issue.

“China, for Turkey, is quite an important economic partner,” says Cevdet Yilmaz, the vice chairman and foreign policy chief of the ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP. “We have a big trade volume with China. We hope that we can also sell our goods to the rising middle class of China.”

In 2018, as Turkey’s lira was plummeting, in part because of U.S. sanctions, China gave Turkey a $3.6 billion loan. Chinese investors are also financing a third suspension bridge across the Bosporus in Istanbul, though concern about the new coronavirus pandemic has led to project delays.

Yilmaz, 52, who has held senior posts in Erdogan’s administration, says the government is pushing to attract more Chinese tourists and investors. Turkey also wants greater involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s vast global trade and infrastructure project.

“We are in the middle corridor of this project, and we want to work with China to develop it because it will be useful for Turkey,” says Yilmaz, during an interview with NPR his office in the AKP’s fortress-like headquarters in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “We are in between east and west. And if there is more trade between Europe and China, Turkey will benefit.”

He denies Beijing is pressuring Ankara to send back Uighurs. He says he doesn’t know the specifics about Uighur arrests in Turkey and referred questions to the Interior Ministry, which did not respond to NPR’s requests for comment.

“We don’t have any specific policy against Uighur people,” Yilmaz says. “It is about the overall security of Turkey and international cooperation on security.”

He says that Turkey supports China’s territorial integrity and frowns upon Uighur separatism.

“We believe Uighur people should solve their problems, if they have any, with Chinese authorities,” Yilmaz says. “We don’t want to see these issues to be used to harm our relations with China.”

He adds, “We expect [Uighurs] to be a bridge between Turkey and China, rather than a divisive issue.”

Yavuz Onay, the vice chairman of the Turkish-Chinese Business Council in Turkey, says he flies regularly to Beijing to attract investors to Turkey.

Onay insists that Uighurs are not oppressed in China and he approves of the controversial Xinjiang camps where Uighurs are imprisoned. “China gives them free education and takes care of them there,” he says. “They must stop complaining. It’s not good for Turkey.”

Pressure on exiles

Human rights groups say China has already pressured several countries to intimidate, detain and deport Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic groups. There are signs of this happening in Egypt, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and a number of other countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Ali Akber Mohammad, a 43-year-old Uighur cleric, says he was chased out of Egypt. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pushed to attract billions of dollars in Chinese investment and tourism. In 2017, Egyptian police raided the homes of Uighurs living in Egypt. Mohammad managed to flee to Turkey.

“When I first arrived, Turkey felt so safe,” Mohammad says. “But in the last few months, everything has started to change. The Turkish police are arresting Uighurs, are interrogating Uighurs. This is why I left Egypt. … Now, where do we go?”

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia, says Beijing wants Uighurs back in China in order to silence them.

“They don’t want witnesses. They don’t want people who can to talk to the degree of political, cultural, religious repression that’s taking place in Xinjiang simply because it’s shocking and beyond the pale,” he says.

Bequelin says the Chinese do not want Uighurs to secure the kind of worldwide sympathy enjoyed by Tibetans, another oppressed ethnic group in China.

“And that is one of the reasons why they’ve played the Muslim card so much,” he says. “China tars the Uighurs as terrorists.”

For decades, the Chinese government has blamed violent attacks in China on militant Uighur separatists who are part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The crackdown expanded in 2009, when nearly 200 people died during Uighur protests against state-sponsored Han Chinese migration into Xinjiang. Many Uighurs fled to avoid imprisonment.

Beijing pressures countries to repatriate Uighurs so “they can be kept under tight monitoring, to reduce what [China] sees as a threat, both real and potential, to the country’s national security,” says Chien-peng Chung, a politics professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and an expert on ethnic nationalism in China.

“We can’t live like this”

Bequelin of Amnesty International says the ground is shifting for Uighurs in Turkey. “The government seems more and more inclined to pacify Beijing by taking stronger measures against Uighurs,” he says, “but that’s not going to be popular with Turkish people.”

Turks see Uighurs as “their brothers and sisters,” says Karaca, the professor at Istanbul Aydin University. In December, thousands of Turks marched in Istanbul, calling Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and chanting, “Murderer China, get out of East Turkestan.”

Abdul Kadir Osman, who was a doctor in Xinjiang but now makes a living baking walnut-encrusted flatbread in Istanbul, says he appreciates the support but knows its limits. “The Turkish government will do what’s best for itself, not for us,” says Osman, 45.

Osman is one of thousands of Uighurs to whom Turkey has denied residency papers, local leaders say. Without residency permits, Uighurs risk getting deported. Osman says he sees Uighurs in this situation getting arrested every day.

“It’s stressful to walk outside of my home, even when I’m with my entire family,” Osman says. “Running errands is a nightmare. I’m afraid to take public transportation, in case the police are there.”

Another baker, a man who gives his name as Abdulla, says he’s also stranded in Turkey with an expired Chinese passport and no residency papers. He was arrested and sent to a deportation center in 2018 for reasons he still doesn’t understand.

Now that the arrests seem to have stepped up, he says, he’s a nervous wreck. He can’t sleep. He has headaches. He worries that his family will go hungry if he’s arrested again. He has nightmares that he will be deported like Zinnetgul Tursun.

“It’s hard to live like this,” he says, “so we are trying to move to a safe place.”

Like many Uighur exiles in Turkey, he’s making plans to flee with his family to Western Europe. He’s heard people there don’t like refugees or Muslims — but he does hope they might stand up to China.

Source: ‘I Thought It Would Be Safe’: Uighurs In Turkey Now Fear China’s Long Arm