Geneva, Switzerland – On July 5, a side  event, “Combating Islamophobia in Asia: From Awareness to Action,” was held at the United  Nations  Human  Rights  Council‘s (UNHRC) 56th Session to address the threats of Islamophobia in Asia, with a focus on the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) persecution of Uyghur Muslims. The event was co-organized by  CAP  Liberté  de Conscience,  Campaign  for  Uyghurs  (CFU), and the  Center  for  Uyghur  Studies. This event coincided with the 15th anniversary of the Urumchi  Massacre, further highlighting the regime’s ongoing atrocities in the Uyghur region due to their ethnic and religious identity.

The event marked a significant milestone in efforts to raise awareness and advocate for the Uyghur community. By bringing together experts, activists, and policymakers, we urged tangible actions by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the HRC to address the PRC’s crimes against humanity and attacks on freedoms of religion and belief.

 Dr.  Eric  Patterson, President and CEO of the  Victims  of  Communism  Memorial  Foundation, commenced the event moderated by  Thierry  Valle,  President of CAP  Liberté  de  Conscience, with a powerful video remark. Dr. Patterson stated “[I]t’s well documented that as many as a million Uyghurs have been detained and forced into essentially today’s equivalent of concentration camps…And so, at this time, it’s perfectly appropriate for us to remember that communism as an idea, and in practice has a terrible track record of violating the fundamental human dignity of Muslims.”

In her video remarks for the event,  Ambassador  Michèle  Taylor, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, stated, “I want to be clear from the beginning that we condemn in the strongest terms the PRC’s policies in Xinjiang, which, according to the High Commissioner’s assessment, may amount to international crimes, and, in particular, crimes against humanity.” Ambassador Taylor underscored the strong and ongoing actions taken by the U.S. to address the plight of the Uyghur community, including during China’s Universal Periodic Review in January, and highlighted the U.S.’s leading role in combating Uyghur forced labor. “The U.S. has consistently advocated for the release of Uyghurs who have been detained or disappeared, including Gulshan  Abbas, sister of Campaign for Uyghurs Executive Director Rushan  Abbas,” she added.

Through her video remarks, Dr.  Nazila  Ghanea, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, highlighted her high attention to the atrocities against the Uyghurs and remarked, “In December 2022, I joined several other mandate holders in reiterating our grave concern to the Chinese authorities regarding the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region…We reiterated our concern with numerous human rights violations…including prohibitions on peaceful manifestations of religion, and widespread discriminatory surveillance, arbitrary detention, forced labor, enforced disappearances, and gender violence.” Dr. Ghanea stressed that since 2017, the PRC has received nine communications regarding these concerns yet continues to defend its policies as compliant with international standards.

Dr. Ayyüce Türkeş-Taş, Member of Parliament, Grand  National  Assembly  of  Türkiye , “Their [the Uyghurs] religious freedoms are systematically violated by the Chinese government: newborns are prohibited from being given Muslim names like Muhammad, travel for pilgrimage is grounds for being sent to internment camps, and fasting or praying during Ramadan is monitored by Han Chinese so-called relatives living in their homes.” MP Türkeş-Taş concluded with her commitment to the Uyghur cause, stating, “For us Turks, Uyghurs are not just a people with whom we share a religion; we also share a common heritage and bloodline. We are brothers, we are sisters. Therefore, we will continue to steadfastly support the Uyghur cause through every means available to us.” Mohd  Khairul  Anwar  Ismail,   Human Rights Defender and Solicitor in the High Court of Malaya

detailed their societal initiatives and political actions in Malaysia to counter the atrocities directed at the Uyghur population, and noted that “The Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang is one of the most severe instances of Islamophobia.”

Adlan Al Milzan Athori, Secretary-General of OIC Youth Indonesia, commented on Indonesia’s policies on the Uyghur genocide, “As a predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia has a responsibility to respond to the Uyghur crisis and to uphold the values of solidarity and brotherhood among Muslims. We must speak out against the human rights violations being committed against the Uyghurs and call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

 Abdulhakim  Idris , Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Uyghur Studies remarked “Since its founding in 1949, the PRC has upheld atheism as its state ideology, systematically discriminating against all religions. As a result, state-supported Islamophobia is widespread,” added Mr. Idris. Center for Uyghur Studies’ report  “Islamophobia  in  China  and  Attitudes  of Muslim  Countries” details China’s war on Islam and exposes China’s disinformation campaigns and propaganda to silence global Muslim outrage.

 Rushan  Abbas , Founder and Executive director of Campaign for Uyghurs, urged actions from the UN member states to address these atrocities stating, “Genocide is not China’s internal affair. UN member states must act decisively against this atrocity. Islamophobia cannot be legitimized under euphemisms such as ‘national security.’ Uyghurs must live freely and worship without being labeled ‘extremists.’ All unjustly detained must be freed, children reunited with their families, and state-sponsored slavery abolished. Uyghurs must be protected from forced marriage, sterilization, abortions, and organ harvesting.”

The collaboration among CAP Liberté de Conscience, Campaign for Uyghurs, and the Center for Uyghur Studies marked a pivotal moment in Uyghur rights advocacy, highlighting the severity of violations and demanding urgent global action to hold China accountable. The collective voices at this event reinforced that the fight against Islamophobia and the protection of religious freedoms are imperative to upholding human dignity and justice worldwide. CFU restates that the PRC must implement the UN High Commissioner’s recommendations on human rights in the Uyghur region.

More information :

CFU Co-organised UN Side Event Highlighting the Uyghur Plight

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