The Turkish school preserving culture of young Uighurs in exile

by | Aug 2, 2022 | World

Istanbul, Turkey – Abdullah Abduzayir has not heard from his family for nearly seven years.The 14-year-old is one of the hundreds of Uighur children in Istanbul whose parents are caught up in the growing repression of the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region, in the far northwest of China. Many Uighurs refer to this area as East Turkestan.
“My parents are back in the homeland,” Abduzayir says, sitting on the edge of a bunk bed in the dormitory of what is known colloquially as the Uighur School.
The slender boy nervously twiddles his thumbs as he stares at the floor. He wears comfortable sports clothes – and a grave expression. “I hear that my father is in prison and my mother is in the [internment] camps,” he says. Abduzayir lost all contact with his parents since 2015. “I wish they were still here with me.”
The school, officially named the Uighur Science and Enlightenment Foundation, opened in 2015 to teach the students – aged four to 16 – their mother tongue and preserve their cultural identity.
Of the 160 students, about 10 live in the school’s dormito …

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