A Uyghur elementary school in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, was shut down by Turkish authorities after China complained of anti-Beijing activities in the educational institution.
Jilil Kashgary, writing in Radio Free Asia (RFA) said that on February 21, officials with the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of National Education locked the doors to the Hira Uyghur Elementary School and did not allow its more than 300 students to enter.
China said that the school violated Turkey’s own regulations, but some parliamentarians want it reopened. School officials said they were told that China had filed a complaint against the school.
Hira Uyghur School is located in a district of Istanbul where many Uyghurs have settled, some fleeing widespread persecution in Xinjiang.
According to Kashgary, the school taught students the Uyghur language and other subjects.
The school offered instruction for Uyghur children who do not have Turkish residency and therefore cannot attend public schools.
Kashgary said that the school taught English and Turkish as well as vocational skills like sewing and driving to adults.
In the complaint filed with Turkish government authorities, China also said the school violated Turkish rules by requiring pupils to wear military uniforms for a school ceremony in 2019, reported RFA.
Levent Yazici, who is the head of the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of Education, told RFA that the school had not been shut down, although members of Parliament have publicly criticised its closure.
“Why would we have closed it? We haven’t closed it,” he said. “I am unaware of this matter. I have no connection to it. We’ll have to look into it and see.”
The dispute over the school comes as Turkey and China have grown closer in recent years, including through a bilateral agreement to exchange information on money laundering and terrorism financing.
As the two countries have grown closer, Uyghur migrants working in Turkey have been occasionally detained and placed in immigration detention centers.
Opposition party lawmakers in the Turkish Parliament who support the Uyghurs criticised the closure of the school, said Kashgary.