Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Uyghur Leader Appeals to Islamic World for Support | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Washington D.C, Asharq Al-Awsat- Since the outbreak of uncommon clashes in western China last Sunday (5 July), the world’s attention has been focused on the Xinjiang Province and its Chinese Muslim community, the Uyghurs. For the foreign media, a small office in central Washington has become a center of communication between Uyghurs outside and inside China on the one hand, and the foreign media on the other. In fact, the World Uighur Congress is located only a few meters from the White House. It is headed by Rebiye Kadeer, who has become the voice of the Uyghurs over the last few days. Six Uyghurs work with her to raise awareness on their cause around the world.

In a recent interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Rebiye Kadeer was keen to make an appeal to the Islamic world through the newspaper. “I urge you to make our voice heard and to urge Muslims to support our cause,” she said. Speaking through an interpreter, Kadeer added, “We are persecuted simply because we are Muslims; eminent religious scholars are in Chinese jails, and no one has mentioned their case in the past.” She, however, expressed satisfaction over the statements recently issued by some Islamic states, and by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, saying: “We thank the states that have issued statements, as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and we hope that they will do more.”

Kadeer expressed that “international pressure is the only solution available to us, because we have no other means of protecting ourselves.” She added, “The rulers of Islamic states should put pressure on China to stop using terrorism as an excuse to persecute our people. The world should be aware that about 90 per cent of the Uyghur students who have studied Islam in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt are detained in Chinese jails at present.”

“The UN should issue a statement on this matter, and pay attention to what is going on.” Kadeer stated that she fears that the Chinese authorities will undertake severe measures against the detainees, as Chinese officials have stated that some of the detainees might face death sentences.

Concerning the current situation in Xinjiang Province, Kadeer said: “The Chinese government has launched a fierce media campaign claiming that the situation is under control; however, most Uyghur men have been arrested and children are putting up barricades to protect their families.” She stressed that her sources affirmed that attacks are still being launched against Uyghurs, especially after sunset.

Kadeer warned about the days ahead, saying: “The Chinese authorities have sent thousands of troops to the region, and they are going to deploy 100,000 of them in the upcoming days.” She added, “We urge the Chinese authorities to put pressure on their people to show restraint, and we will do the same; we do not want violence.”

Kadeer spent six years in prison in China before being released and deported to the United States in 2005. For a few days now, she has been busy trying to ensure the protection of the Uyghurs by taking their case to American officials and to the media. Her voice is being heard all over the world; meanwhile, China is monitoring the western news media and the ways it is covering the case.

Asked whether she fears that her actions might have consequences on her two sons who are detained at present in China, Kadeer said: “Naturally, I fear for my children, but my people have given me this name and called me the mother of the Uyghurs; this means that I fear for all the Uyghur people.” She added, “Two of my two sons are in jail, and my other son and my daughter are being watched, but all our people are going through this. At least my two sons are still alive; many mothers in our homeland have lost four or five of their children.”

Kadeer sees that the hostility between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese has reached such a level that it is difficult for them to coexist at this moment. She stressed that “the solution is to bring back to their regions all the Uyghurs who have been forcibly deported to western China, and to send back the Chinese who have come to our regions; the current hostility has reached an unbearable level.”

“Various states should strive to find a final solution to the Uyghur issue and to bring about a genuine dialogue to arrive at a peaceful solution,” she added.

Whilst Kadeer has become well known through the media after emerging as a symbol of the Uyghurs, her deputy Omer Kanat stays out of the spotlight. Kanat, whose family left China in 1971 when he was only 10 years of age, has been trying to make decision makers in Washington aware of the situation of the Uyghurs. Kanat leveled criticism at the rulers of the Islamic states saying: “Why do they not raise our issues with the Chinese government? China is interested in its relations with the Islamic world and wants to have political influence there; this is in addition to its economic interests.” However he added: “We are supported by the Islamic peoples, who sympathize with our cause, but not by the rulers of the Islamic states; this is why we urge the Islamic peoples to further help us and to push their respective governments to show interest in our cause.”

Kanat emphasized the importance of political pressure on China to protect the Uyghurs. He emphasized to Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have learned from the Europeans and the Americans with whom we are in contact that the Chinese officials are very sensitive about this case and they do not want to see it raised. They accept criticism about Tibet, but they do not like talking about the Uyghur issue; this is why we should raise it.”

Kadeer and Kanat are focusing their efforts on the need to find a rapid and peaceful solution to their people’s cause.

At the end of the interview, Kadeer stood up next to a picture of her family and with tears in her eyes she said, “We will be fine, God willing; I hope that your newspaper will make our voice heard by Muslims.”