Sep 13, 2006

East Turkestan: The Uyghur People Mourn 9/11

The Uyghur Human Rights Project says that for the Uyghur people, 9/11 marked the beginning of a wave of oppression and injustice by the Chinese regime.

It has been five years since the world was changed by the events of 9/11, events which continue to have repercussions for people everywhere, not least the families of the people who were killed on that day. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) adds its voice to the chorus of those who offer their support and condolences to all people affected by terrorism.

UHRP and its parent organization, the Uyghur American Association (UAA), have been deeply impressed since 9/11 with the level of public debate in the free world on terrorism, and the roles played by a free press, the courts and democratic institutions towards ensuring the human rights of all are respected and protected to the greatest possible degree.

“For the Uyghur people, the contrast between the response to 9/11 in the free world and the response in China is as stark as night and day,” said Alim Seyoff, director of UHRP and vice-president of UAA. “For the Uyghur people, 9/11 marked the beginning of a new wave of oppression and injustice at the hands of the Chinese regime, who conveniently re-branded generations of racism and mistrust as ‘anti-terror’. Elsewhere in the world there has been debate, questioning, the challenging of ideas and actions; but for the Uyghur people in East Turkistan, there is no free press, no independent courts and no democratic institutions to offer protection against the arbitrary detentions, the torture and the secret executions.” 

It is recognized throughout the world that the Chinese government has taken advantage of 9/11 and the war on terror to escalate its repression of the Uyghur people. Nevertheless, the Chinese government continues to attempt to portray the Uyghur people’s struggle for the recognition and protection of their fundamental human rights as being motivated by violent and ‘terrorist’ intent.

“We see that protests against government policies and practice in East Turkistan tend to be described as ‘terrorism’ whereas in China they’re described as ‘contradictions among the people’ or something,” said Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the UAA. “And the Chinese authorities made great and sustained play of the Uyghurs in Guantanamo Bay. Patently – and the transcripts of the hearings show this – those Uyghurs left East Turkistan to realize their human rights elsewhere; they didn’t stay to fight the Chinese, they just left and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The Chinese authorities appear to have been extremely disingenuous in their claims on the extent and nature of political violence directed against government targets in East Turkistan – even while criticizing US strategies and practices in the war on terror. Chinese government spokesmen regularly chastise the US for the existence of ‘secret prisons’ and for not conducting anti-terror efforts in compliance with UN norms. However, the Chinese government continues to release highly conflicting information on political violence in East Turkistan, as well as announcing in 2004 that of 50 people in detention on political and ‘terrorist’ charges, an unknown number were to be executed.

“UHRP assumes that those people have been secretly executed – if we can even assume that the Chinese authorities were telling the truth about those 50 people in the first place,” said Ms. Kadeer.

 “Yes, the Uyghur people have suffered more under the Chinese regime since 9/11,” she added. “But we never forget that 9/11 was an attack against America and the freedoms America

stands for, an attack against everything the Uyghur people aspire to for themselves. On this day, we don’t forget that.”