In a powerful showing of over 1,000 people, including 500 Uighur activists, Uighur Muslims and a broad coalition of allies gathered in the nation's capital on April 6 to demand freedom for their people, who continue to face systematic, escalating persecution in China. The protest sent an unmistakable message that such brazen violations of human rights are unacceptable and called on the U.S. government to stop talking and act.
Falling just one day after the 29th anniversary of the Baren Massacre, in which thousands of Uighur Muslims lost their lives in a crackdown by the Chinese army, the diverse coalition of Muslims, Jews, and Christians from dozens of organizations focused on demanding that Congress pass two key bills, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and the UIGHUR act. These pieces of legislation would put measures in place that would pressure the Chinese government to rescind their inhumane policies and restore basic freedoms to the Uighur community. Several letters from supportive elected officials such as Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) were read aloud to show the support of allies in political office.
Mr. Omer Kanat of the World Uyghur Congress served as Master of Ceremonies at the event. While speaking, he described what is happening to the Uighurs as “genocide,” and “a great world crime.” A major theme throughout the rally was “Never Again!,” a moral declaration that the genocidal crimes carried out by the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century must not be allowed to repeat themselves.
Public awareness of China's brutal policies is growing. Over a million Uighur Muslims have been sent to camps run by the Chinese government for ideological indoctrination and forced labor. Uighur children have been forcibly separated from their parents and sent to orphanages to be raised as communists, and at least a million members of the Chinese Communist Party have been sent to live with Uighur families as mandatory, supervisory “guests.”
“We are calling on our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community, the interfaith community, and in elected office to send a clear statement that says concentration camps cannot be tolerated in the 21st century,” said Abdul Malik Mujahid, President of the Sound Vision Foundation and a leader of the Save Uighur campaign. “This is happening, in part, because the world did not act to prevent a brutal regime from persecuting and terrorizing the Rohingya. Other authoritarian countries have taken note and are simply following suit,” he added.”
“We must act now to Save the Uighur people,” said Mujahid.
The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim, Turkic ethnicity who have lived for centuries in the vast region of Xinjiang in northwestern China. The region has long been afflicted with conflict, but recently the Chinese state has escalated its campaign of pacification in the region. Estimates of the number of Uighurs in involuntary detainment range from 1 to 3 million.