She was chatting to her son, when the phone call was suddenly interrupted. And that was the last anyone heard from Aimuzi Kuwanhan, a 59-year-old mother of two and a Uighur Muslim who had managed to flee China and make it to what she thought was a safe haven in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.
Originally from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China – once a stop on the Silk Road – Kuwanhan found refuge in Turkey from a suffocating campaign of repression against China’s Uighurs. But China, it seems, came looking for her, and, one year on, no one can even say if she is alive.
The widow’s family believes she has been extradited to an unknown fate in China, via Tajikistan. Like hundreds more, she is a victim, they believe, of big business colliding with human rights, another human sacrifice to keep Beijing’s investment rolling into Turkey.
No wonder, then, an increasing number of Uighurs in Turkey are fearful of China’s reach. Ismael Cengiz, a prominent activist known as the Uighurs’ symbolic Prime Minister, says: “There are threats, and they are systematic. They want us to think they can get us anywhere”.
Turkey has, it has been proud to say, been good for the Uighurs. An estimated 50,000 of them are refugees here, and they have flourished under Erdogan, who in recent years has cast himself as a protector of Muslims across the world.
Read more: The Telegraph