ISTANBUL: A Chinese Muslim refugee has told AFP he is terrified he may be sent back to China after being detained in a deportation center near Istanbul for more than two months.
The Uighur community in northwest China has faced an intense crackdown in recent years, with an estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities held in internment camps that Beijing calls “vocational education centers.”
Turkey has been the only Muslim-majority nation to criticize China’s policies and offered refuge to tens of thousands of Uighur refugees.
But lately, fears have spread through the community after rumors that some Uighurs were being deported, most notably a woman and her two children who were given Tajik passports and taken to Tajikistan from where they were sent back to China.
The latest case involves a 29-year-old man named Aihemaiti Xianmixiding, who has Turkish residency and work permits, and runs a factory in Istanbul making car accessories.
He was arrested on May 30 and is under investigation for being “one of the main financers” of a little-known “terrorist organization” called the Uighur National Movement, according to court documents seen by AFP.
“I had never heard of (this organization) before,” Xianmixiding told AFP by phone from the Pehlivankoy deportation center in the northwestern province of Kirklareli on Saturday.
He said relatives in China had recently been forced to sign papers requesting his repatriation, which he feared was part of an effort to pressure the Turkish government into agreeing to his deportation.
“I’m worried because I know China has the capacity to achieve this. I have heard of Uighurs who were deported from Turkey to Tajikistan and, from there, to China. I am afraid the same thing will happen to me,” he added.
His wife said on Sunday there was no explanation for why he was being held in a deportation center rather than a regular jail.
Xianmixiding said dozens of other Uighurs were being held in the same center, but most were released after a meeting between Uighur community leaders and Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on August 2. Xianmixiding said there were still eight Uighurs in the center.
His wife, 25-year-old Ekide, burst into tears as she described the situation.
“He is a very hard-working man. We stayed clear of anything that could get us in trouble. What mattered most for him was to make sure his children would have a good future,” she told AFP.
“I am afraid they will send him to Tajikistan and then China.”
Xianmixiding said he had received threats from China via messaging service WeChat since fleeing the country in 2016.“The police told me ‘We will bring you back, just you wait’,” he said.With Turkey starting a religious holiday, the government was unavailable for comment.In a press conference last month, immigration officials denied they would ever send Uighurs back to China, though they also said refugees convicted of crimes could lose their residency status.Asked about the case of Zinnetgul Tursun — the woman sent back to Tajikistan with her two children — the officials said she had entered Turkey illegally and been claimed as a Tajik citizen by the Tajikistan embassy.“There were claims (Zinnetgul Tursun) was not Tajik, but (the Tajik embassy) insisted she is their citizen. We will find out what happened. We never deport Uighurs from Turkey to China,” Ramazan Secilmis, a senior official at Turkey’s immigration agency, told reporters.Uighur activists have told AFP they fear Tajikistan is acting under the orders of Beijing to facilitate deportations through its territory.The community is caught in a difficult position since Turkey has been hugely generous at a time when many other Muslim-majority nations have abandoned them for fear of angering China.“Turkey was never planning to send us back. So China is playing these mind games to keep everyone worried so we don’t organize bigger things,” said one activist.
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ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Democratic US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference Monday afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their…
ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Democratic US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference Monday afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for a future state.Trump’s request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected US officials — and Israel’s decision to do so — were unprecedented and drew widespread criticism, including from many Israelis as well as staunch supporters of Israel in Congress. Critics said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision was a reckless gamble and risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories.Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see her aging grandmother. Deri’s office released a letter that it said was from Tlaib , which promised to respect travel restrictions during her visit. But after the announcement, Tlaib tweeted she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”The two congresswomen are part of the “squad” of liberal newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for re-election. He subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are US citizens.
Iran says it has warned US against seizing oil tanker
DUBAI: An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean toward Greece on Monday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.”The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Refinitiv…
DUBAI: An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean toward Greece on Monday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.”The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive next Sunday at 0000 GMT.The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a weeks-long stand-off between Tehran and the West. It also heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order on Thursday but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.
Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law. Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organization.“We are happy this ordeal has ended and I hope this will lead to less escalation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while visiting Finland.He also said the US warrant had no legal basis and was politically motivated to “make more escalation.”Greek authorities had no immediate comment on the situation.Iran said on Monday any US attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences.”
The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday evening. (Reuters)
Asked whether the United States could renew its seizure request after the tanker sailed from Gibraltar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such an action, and even the talk of it … would endanger shipping safety in open seas.”“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi said in remarks broadcast on state television.Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.The Adrian Darya 1, which was re-flagged to Iran after being de-listed by Panama on May 29, was fully laden and carrying about 2 million barrels of oil, Refinitiv data showed. The cargo was valued at tens of millions of dollars.US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, while the European Union is still part of the accord, which allows Tehran to sell its oil.
The tanker was seized by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. (Reuters)
Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and has re-imposed US sanctions which place heavy penalties on any breaches even for non-US citizens and companies, including asset freezes and being cut off from the US financial system.While EU regulations still allow for companies and citizens in the bloc to trade with Iran, falling foul of US sanctions has meant most banks are unwilling to process even authorized transactions such as for food and medicine, finance sources say.This is likely to be the first major foreign policy challenge for Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis since he took office in July if the vessel enters Greek territorial waters.Zarif said Iran could not reveal where the oil would go.“Because of US sanctions we cannot be very transparent with the destination,” he said.A spokesperson for the Greek coast guard said they had no formal information the vessel is heading to Kalamata and are monitoring the matter.
A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1. (Reuters)
TANKER HELD BY IRANSeparately, a senior Iranian lawmaker said a crisis in Iran’s ties with Britain, which included Tehran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker last month, would not be over until the tanker reached its destination.Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after the Grace 1 was commandeered.“Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.“The crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” Falahatpisheh said.Mousavi said that Tehran was waiting for a court decision on alleged maritime violations by the Stena Impero and he hoped the procedures would be completed as soon as possible.The head of Iran’s judiciary Ebrahim Raisi also said “Iran should claim damages…to teach a lesson to those who acted against international laws and regulations by seizing the tanker.”Iran has denied its tanker was ever headed to Syria, a close ally of Tehran.The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
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Gibraltar says unable to meet US request to seize Iranian tanker now called ‘Adrian Darya-1’ GIBRALTAR: Gibraltar refused a US request to seize the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law. A federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the…
Gibraltar says unable to meet US request to seize Iranian tanker now called ‘Adrian Darya-1’
GIBRALTAR: Gibraltar refused a US request to seize the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law.
A federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million. British Royal Marines had detained the vessel in Gibraltar in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
“The Central Authority’s inability to seek the Orders requested is a result of the operation of European Union law and the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US,” a Gibraltar government statement said.
“The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.”
The tanker raised an Iranian flag and and had a new name painted on its side, Reuters images of the stationary vessel filmed off Gibraltar showed on Sunday.
Video footage and photographs showed the tanker flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing the new name of ‘Adrian Darya-1’ painted in white on its hull. Its previous name, ‘Grace 1’, had been painted over. The vessel’s anchor was still down.
The Grace 1 had originally flown the Panamian flag but Panama’s Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been de-listed after an alert that indicated the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing.
Gibraltar lifted a detention order on the vessel on Thursday but its fate was further complicated by the United States, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.
The initial impounding of the Grace 1 kicked off a sequence of events that saw Tehran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later, heightening tension on a vital international oil shipping route.
That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.
The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed economic sanctions.