ISTANBUL (REUTERS) – Turkish protesters attacked the Thai honorary consulate in Istanbul overnight, smashing windows and ransacking parts of the building, in protest over Bangkok’s expulsion of nearly 100 Uighur Muslims back to China.
China’s treatment of its Turkic language-speaking Uighur minority is a sensitive issue in Turkey.
Many Turks see themselves as sharing a common cultural and religious heritage with their Uighur “brothers” and Turkey is home to a large Uighur diaspora.
Thailand confirmed on Thursday that it had sent nearly 100 Uighurs back to China. Rights groups have expressed concern over Thailand’s decision, fearing they could face ill-treatment and even torture.
The Istanbul protesters, using sticks and stones, smashed windows and broke into the consulate late on Wednesday, throwing folders and personal belongings on the floor, pictures and video footage published by local media showed.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs have fled unrest in China’s western Xinjiang region, where hundreds of people have been killed, prompting a crackdown by Chinese authorities. They have travelled clandestinely through Southeast Asia to Turkey.
China is home to about 20 million Muslims spread across its vast territory, only a portion of whom are Uighur.