Thousands of protesters marched in support of China’s Uighurs in Istanbul on Friday and voiced solidarity with Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil after the furore caused by his criticism of China’s policies toward the Muslim minority, reports Reuters.
Last week, soccer star Ozil, a German Muslim of Turkish origin, posted messages on social media calling minority Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticised both China’s crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response.
Members of Istanbul crowd held up banners reading “Stop the cruelty” and chanted “Murderer China, get out of East Turkestan” and “East Turkestan is not alone”, using the name that Uighur exiles use for Xinjiang.
The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between 1 million and 2 million people, mostly ethnic Uighur Muslims, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls an anti-terrorism campaign.
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and its foreign ministry said Ozil had been deceived by “fake news”.
Adem Adil, a protester marching with the crowd, said:
Mesut Ozil’s honorable behaviour inspired us… Everybody should raise their voice against this tyrant like Mesut did.
Turkey has in the past expressed concern about the situation in Xinjiang, including in February at the UN Human Rights Council, but has not commented over the Ozil affair.
At the Kuala Lumpur summit on Thursday, a question from the audience on the treatment of Uighurs was ignored after it was put to a dais that included Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
China invites Ozil to visit Uyghur region
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on 16 Dec. said that Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has received “fake news” concerning the country’s Muslim Uyghur minority and invited him to visit the region for himself.
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said the German-Turkish footballer has been “blinded by some fake news and influenced by some false words”.
“I can tell him [Ozil] that China’s Xinjiang currently enjoys political stability, economic development, national unity, social harmony, and people are living and working in peace,” the Chinese official added.
Last week, Ozil slammed what he described how “Muslims stay quiet” on the atrocities taking place against Uyghur Muslims in China.
In China, he wrote on social media, “Qurans are burned… Mosques were closed down… Islamic theological schools, Madrasahs were banned … Religious scholars were killed one by one … Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself? The honorable Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, says, ‘If you cannot prevent persecution, expose it’.”
Last Saturday, club Arsenal tried to distance itself from his comments, saying it always adhered to the principle of not being involved in politics.
Ozil has received support from former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who defended the player’s right to express his opinion.
Mesut Ozil deleted from computer game in China
Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has been deleted from a computer football game in China as a feud between the German footballer and China intensifies on a social media post about his condemnation regarding Uyghur Muslims, Anadolu reports.
NetEase, the company publishes the PES franchise in China, said it will remove the British Premier League footballer from its three existing games including its most popular edition, PES 2020 Mobile.
“The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media,” the Chinese internet technology company providing online services said in a statement.
The company claimed Ozil’s comments “hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace,” and NetEase do not “understand, accept or forgive this.”
Ozil, who is a Muslim of Turkish descent, accused Muslims of staying silent Friday for what he called China’s persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
On his Instagram account, the renowned Turkish footballer called Uyghurs “warriors who resist persecution… Glorious believers who put up a fight alone against these who forcefully move people away from Islam.”
In China’s Xinjiang Province, he said “Qurans are burned… Mosques were closed down… Islamic theological schools, Madrasahs were banned … Religious scholars were killed one by one … Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet.”
“Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?” Ozil, asked.
In retaliation, China’s state broadcaster decided not to air Sunday’s Arsenal-Manchester City match and China’s Foreign Ministry reportedly said Ozil “has been deceived by fake news.”
“If Mr. Ozil has the opportunity, we will be pleased to see him going to Xinjiang and having a look,” spokesman Geng Shuang said, according to multiple reports.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came out Tuesday in support of Ozil in his ongoing row with China over the country’s treatment of its minority Muslim Uyghur population.
“China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail,” Pompeo said in a tweet amid Washington’s ongoing trade war with China.
“The CCP can’t hide its gross #HumanRights violations perpetrated against Uyghurs and other religious faiths from the world,” he added, referring to the Chinese Community Party, China’s ruling party.
China’s western Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.
China is accused of carrying out repressive policies against the Uyghurs and restraining their religious, commercial and cultural rights.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.
In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of carrying out a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
China denies the charges against it, claiming Uyghurs are being educated in “vocational training centers.”