This week Uyghur Muslim refugees in Turkey organized a press conference in Istanbul to urge UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to independently investigate “re-education camps” and allegations of massive rights abuses including forced labor, torture, and genocide when she finally visits China’s Uyghur Region later this month.
International pressure is intensifying, and Michelle Bachelet must provide answers. The hashtag #UNRescueOurFamilies has multiplied on social networks and various Uyghur activists have raised their voices asking about their relatives who have disappeared.
On Friday, Freedom United partner, the World Uyghur Congress, along with 20 other Uyghur, Tibetan and international rights organizations hosted their own press conference in Geneva calling on the UN human rights chief to consult with rights groups ahead of her visit.
I'm currently outside the Palais Wilson in Geneva with hundreds from my community, including camp survivors, activists & advocacy groups. We are here to demand @mbachelet release her report & engage with our concerns ahead of her trip to China. The UN has a moral duty to hear us. pic.twitter.com/28DVwNStbI
— Rahima Mahmut (@MahmutRahima) May 13, 2022
Mirza Ahmet Ilyasoglu, a Uyghur living in Turkey, stated:
“If the UN goes there and listens to the one-sided Chinese thesis … it would come up with a completely false report which would be very embarrassing for the UN and the human rights agency.”
Gulden Sonmez, a Turkish lawyer, hopes the UN rights chief will be able to walk the streets of the Uyghur Region unhindered. “If she succeeds, she will see this truth: the lands of East Turkestan have nearly completely been transformed into concentration camps. We are talking about millions of people.”
Uyghurs call on the UN to act
Speaking to the AFP news agency, Fatma Aziz, said the Chinese government used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to force her relatives to stay at home prior to the UN visit. She explained:
“My aunt is trapped with her two children in Kashgar. The Chinese imprisoned her husband just because he recited the Quran,” Aziz said. “We want the UN to release our relatives.”
Medine Nazimi, a Uyghur woman whose sister is being held in one of the camps in China’s Uyghur Region, demanded “real answers” about her sister’s whereabouts and held up a photo of her with the caption, “China, release my sister!”
“We want the United Nations to go to our homeland, we want them to check everything. Don’t believe the Chinese government, they have to believe us,” she said.
Concerns are high as Bachelet has failed to reach an agreement with the Chinese government over the past three years. Abdulhakim Idris, Executive Director of the Washington-based Center for Uyghur Studies, already criticizes Bachelet for being largely passive on Uyghur human rights since taking office in September 2018.
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