By Nilay Kar Onum
ISTANBUL (AA) - Hundreds of protesters in Istanbul marked on Tuesday the 70th anniversary of China's annexation of East Turkistan.
Gathering in front of the Chinese Consulate, demonstrators, including children, voiced their anger at the Chinese government’s systematic campaign against Uighur Muslims.
China is accused of carrying out repressive policies against the Uighur, a Turkic Muslim group, and restraining their religious, commercial and cultural rights.
Demonstrators chanted slogans including: "Independence for East Turkistan", "East Turkistan belongs to us" and "Chinese invaders get out of East Turkistan".
Many carried East Turkistan flags in Uighur sky blue, denouncing China's policy in the autonomous region calling for a boycott of Chinese goods.
Banners reading "Close the Concentration Camps", "World Leaders Wake Up" and "Not Xinjiang, but East Turkistan" were also held up.
Delivering a speech, Hidayet Oguzhan, president of Istanbul-based Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association, described Oct. 1, 1949, as the "beginning of dark history" when Uighurs were forced to live in captivity in their own homeland.
"It is a day which the Chinese state celebrates as a festival, but it is a dark day for us that reminds us of continued mourning," Oguzhan said.
He asserted that six million Uighurs were being subjected to "every kind of persecution and pressure in concentration camps."
The head of the advocacy group also decried the arrests of thousands of prominent figures in East Turkistan including scholars, academics, writers, business people and athletes.
Oguzhan called on the UN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), international human rights organizations and Turkic Republics to apply pressure on China to end its persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Bozora Palta, a Uighur woman whose husband was imprisoned by China in Urumqi around two years ago "for no reason" said: "I want my husband to be released immediately."
Palta, who was carrying a banner including a photo of her husband, said she has not been able to contact her husband since he was jailed.
"What we want is only to live as humans in our own homelands," Muhabbet Uigur, a 34-year-old Uighur woman, told Anadolu Agency.
"We don’t want persecution. We cannot communicate with our loved ones," she added.
Up to one 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 U.S. officials and UN experts.
In a report last September, the Human Rights Watch accused Beijing of carrying out a "systematic campaign of human rights violations" against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.