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Inside the World Uyghur Congress: The US-backed right-wing regime change network seeking the ‘fall of China’

While posing as a grassroots human rights organization, the World Uyghur Congress is a US-funded and directed separatist network that has forged alliances with far-right ethno-nationalist groups. The goal spelled out by its founders is clear: the destabilization of China and regime change in Beijing.

by Ajit Singh

Part 8 - Celebrating the Gray Wolves, proposing US and Turkish military intervention

Along with their extensive ties to Washington, the WUC and Uyghur separatist movement has maintained close connections with the Turkish far-right.

In 2015, members of the MHP-affiliated Grey Wolves formerly led by Alparslan Türkeş attacked South Korean tourists in Turkey, mistaking them for Chinese citizens, in protest of the situation in Xinjiang.

Turkish MHP party leader Devlet Bahçeli defended the attacks. “How are you going to differentiate between Korean and Chinese?” the rightist politician questioned. “They both have slanted eyes. Does it really matter?” Bahceli’s racist remarks coincided with the display of a Grey Wolves banner at party’s Istanbul headquarters reading, “We crave Chinese blood.

The Grey Wolves and Uyghur militants were blamed by Thailand’s national police and an IHS-Jane’s analyst of carrying out a 2015 bombing of a religious shrine in Thailand that killed 20 people. The attack was intended as revenge against the Thai government’s decision to repatriate a group of Uyghur Muslims to China. Beijing had claimed the Uyghurs were en route to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join extremist groups fighting in the region such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), or Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP).

Months before the bombing, a group of 200 protesters waving East Turkestan flags attacked the Thai consulate in Istanbul in response to the Uyghur repatriation. The group was reportedly led by the Grey Wolves and East Turkestan Culture and Solidarity Association. The latter organization was headed by Seyit Tümturk, who served as WUC Vice President from 2008 to 2016 and belonged to the organization’s founding pantheon. 

The WUC continues to publish articles on its website that praise and celebrate Alparslan Türkeş, the far-right, ultra-nationalist founder of the Grey Wolves and long-time MHP party leader. Its website also promotes endorsements of East Turkestan separatism by current leaders of the MHP and Grey Wolves.

While building links with the Turkish far-right, leading WUC representatives have appealed to Turkish President Erdogan to take an interventionist role in China akin to Turkey’s actions in Libya and Syria, where it supported the regime change efforts of the US, West and an array of extremist proxy groups. 

Writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2012, Nury Turkel argued that Turkey can play a leading role in “rallying democracies” to pressure China on Xinjiang: “As a longstanding ally of the US and a neighbor of Europe, Turkey is uniquely well-situated to do this.

As a first step in this strategy, Turkel proposed that Turkey “should organize a ‘friends of Uighurs’ conference with democratic allies – similar to the ones organized for Libya and Syria – discussing Ankara’s vision and policy objectives with respect to the Uighur people in China.

Other leading representatives of WUC have vocally endorsed Turkish military interventionism. The political statements of Seyit Tümturk, who served as WUC Vice President, underscore the extremist and militant politics behind WUC’s carefully cultivated image as a “peaceful and nonviolent” human rights organization.

In 2018, Tümturk declared that Chinese Uyghurs view Turkish “state requests as orders.” He then proclaimed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese Uyghurs were ready to enlist in the Turkish army and join Turkey’s illegal and brutal invasion of Northern Syria “to fight for God” – if ordered to do so by Erdogan. 

Shortly after Tumturk’s comments, Uyghur militants dressed in Turkish military fatigues and on the Turkish side of the Syrian border released a video in which they threatened to wage war against China:

Listen you dog bastards, do you see this? We will triumph!” one fighter exclaimed. “We will kill you all. Listen up Chinese civilians, get out of our East Turkestan. I am warning you. We shall return and we will be victorious.

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