National Security

As Turkey Moves Toward China, Erdogan Silent on Uighur Muslim Genocide

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan / Getty Images

Amid a growing relationship with China, Turkey has remained silent on the country's imprisonment and population control of Uighur Muslims, the Diplomat reported last week.

Last month, a coalition of politicians from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party helped strike down a resolution in the country's parliament that called for an investigation into China's oppression of Uighur Muslims, who face forced labor, sexual assault, forced marriages, and infanticide in the country's Xinjiang province.

One Turkish opposition statesman said that Erdogan's party had "sold out" the Uighur Muslims for Chinese money. In recent years, Beijing has helped resuscitate Ankara's failing economy through currency exchanges and billions of dollars' worth of infrastructure plans via China's Belt and Road Initiative.

As a sign of Turkey's growing ties with China, Erdogan has also returned Uighur refugees to Chinese authorities by deporting them to third-party countries. Despite being a Muslim-majority country, Turkey offers minimal protections for its Uighur Muslim refugees.

Turkey's friendly relationship with China comes amid Ankara's growing overtures toward anti-American partners. Historically a stalwart member of NATO, Turkey has purchased missile defense systems from Russia and joined Iran to condemn the historic United Arab Emirates-Israel peace deal brokered by Washington. Turkish forces have also recently challenged French and Greek navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As Ankara ramps up cooperation with revisionist powers, some experts have questioned Turkey's future in NATO operations.

"Turkey is a NATO ally and yet is drifting, largely because of Erdogan, away from the United States," Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior director Bradley Bowman told the Washington Free Beacon. "That is not the way an ally should behave, that is an ally not acting like an ally."