An Islamic youth movement in Turkey held a demonstration in Istanbul to raise awareness about the oppressed Uyghur Muslims of occupied East Turkestan.
At least 250 people gathered at Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in the Üsküdar district of Istanbul on Sunday 20 January after fajr prayers to highlight the religious persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.
The demonstration was organised by ‘Sabah Namazı Devrimi’ which translates to ‘Fajr Revolution’.
The movement mainly consists of university, college and school students who said that the issue of Uyghur Muslims in occupied East Turkestan was a topic which the Turkish media and government was not interested in, and the disinterest was not reflective of the sentiments of millions of Turks.
Speakers at the demonstration included Abdullah Oğuz from the East Turkestan Foundation, writer and activist Adem Özköse, and Bülent Yıldırım who is the head of Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) charity.
All the speakers condemned the Chinese government for its Islamophobic and draconian policies targeting Uyghur Muslims, and called on Turkey’s Muslims to continue to speak out against oppression and injustice.
The United Nations (UN) have estimated that at least one million Uyghur Muslims have been forcibly detained in detention centres, which Amnesty International has compared to “wartime concentration camps”.
Former inmates have stated that they were physically and mentally tortured into denouncing Islam and swearing allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.
China had consistently denied the existence of the camps until last October, and has since claimed it is detaining people guilty of minor crimes in “vocational education centres”.
The Chinese government has received widespread criticism from western states over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
The ‘Fajr Revolution’ movement
The Fajr Revolution movement was founded in Istanbul in 2014 by journalist and activist Adem Özköse, with the objective of inviting Muslim youth to mosques for fajr prayers.
The movement’s slogan is “the revival of the Ummah is with the youth who pray fajr” – based on a tweet posted by Özköse some years back.
Initially, the group only held small gatherings after fajr prayers in Istanbul, but after the Charlie Hebdo attack and the escalation of the war in Syria, the movement started organising demonstrations.
Most of the demonstrations called upon Turkish authorities to act and speak out against oppressed groups of Muslims on the basis of Islamic brotherhood.
As the movement began to gradually increase in numbers, it started holding weekly study circles and a book club.
Monthly fajr meetings were also held in cities across Turkey, but the movement now hosts these gatherings only in Istanbul and Ankara.
The Fajr Revolution says it is currently focusing on educational development, and has hosted spiritual retreats and camps for its members and core supporters.
Currently the group has around 100 members, most of whom are located in Istanbul.
Since 2015, the movement has also organised social media campaigns and opened orphanages and mosques in Africa, South East Asia and Syria with funding from IHH.