In April, World Jewish Relief launched an urgent appeal in response to the plight of Uyghur Muslim refugees living in Turkey.
Since 2017, it is reported that the Chinese government has rounded up over one million Muslims (Uyghurs, ethic Kazakhs and Uzbeks) and detained them in ‘re-education camps’. They have been subject to compulsory sterilisation, physical and sexual abuse, repression of religion and the destruction of religious buildings, and an unending stream of state-sponsored propaganda.
Now, over 11,000 Uyghurs are stranded in Turkey. Having been forced to flee their homes in search of safety, Uyghur refugees now live in overcrowded households, struggling to meet their food needs, pay their bills or access education, employment and healthcare. They risk being interned if they return to China and live in a constant state of fear.
We have partnered with the International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation in Turkey, to deliver an urgent response to the most vulnerable Uyghur families in and around Istanbul.
What is the goal of the intervention?
The overall goal of the project is to meet Uyghurs’ urgent needs, by providing healthcare, food, hygiene packages, psychological support and legal assistance to Uyghur families who are most at risk, for example those suffering from poor health or malnutrition. Additionally, we are supporting individuals, in particular women, to develop a source of income, by providing language training and courses in handicraft.
So far, the project has reached 9,894 participants, providing:
- 1,500 food packages
- 1,500 hygiene kits
- Psychological support for 251 people (including Aynur - read her story here)
- Access to healthcare for 46 people
- Language courses for 83 people
- Legal assistance for 39 people (read Meryem’s story below)
Given the situation in Turkey, which is reporting a daily average of 23,000 Covid-19 cases, IBC have taken measures to ensure the response is being delivered in a Covid-safe way. The programme’s staff and participants are required to wear masks and socially distance at distribution sites, and suitable measures are taken to keep the venue and equipment clean.
Meryem* is 37 years old and arrived in Istanbul four years ago, where she lives with her husband. She works as a Turkish-Chinese translator. Having fled China for Turkey via a precarious route, she and her husband lived for years knowing they were at risk of deportation and have been unable to travel even within Turkey. This has been incredibly frightening, as they experienced great atrocities in China and know the reality they will face if forced to return.
Earlier this year, Meryem’s husband received the news that his deportation process would begin. When the couple joined the programme, they were in desperate need of legal support, which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. IBC’s lawyer was able to advocate on behalf of Meryem’s husband and secure the withdrawal of his deportation order. After months of anguish, they could sleep at night knowing they were safe.
For a very long time, I was having nightmares about going back to China. I talked to nobody, but deep down I knew that a legal process would eventually begin to initiate my husband’s deportation. I feared officials would come and take us away. We had experienced many unspeakable things in our home country of China, so we knew what we would face if forced to leave Turkey.
It felt good to know that someone here is standing up for us and our rights. This is our chance to build a better life. I am so grateful for IBC’s lawyer, who worked hard for us in a very short space of time. I am happy to know that my other Uyghur friends who face problems may come and seek legal counselling here, and this helps to quell my fear that we as a people will disappear over time.
*Not her real name.