BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – The Uyghurs, a Muslim-majority Turkic people are facing deplorable human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese Government. Their plight has garnered the attention of religious and human rights organizations across the globe, including within the Jewish community. The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC), Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and European Union of Jewish Students will host “Uyghurs in Crisis: The Jewish Response” at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 22.
Approximately 11 million Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which has been under China’s control since 1949 and is known to the Uyghur people as East Turkistan. Due to their Muslim faith, more than one million Uyghurs have been interned in hundreds of “re-education centers” within the region since 2017. Likened to concentration camps due to the reported abusive acts taking place there, as well as the presence of watch towers, prison-like gates, armed guards and more, they are purportedly operated outside the Chinese legal system. The country’s government has long denied the camps existence, although there are images showing their construction.
“As Jews, we know first-hand what happens when a government aims to extinguish a people – both culturally and physically. We also know what happens when the world sits idly by,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC. “It is our moral responsibility to stand up for the Uyghur people and join with others of good conscience around the world to end this systematic human rights violation being committed on a vast scale.”
The program is slated to include testimony from a Uyghur camp survivor; one-on-one discussion with a Uyghur activist; and remarks from UHRP and former United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein. The event will culminate with an overview of the advocacy landscape and how the Jewish community can get involved.
“Uyghurs are facing unrelenting persecution in China. What started as forced assimilation has escalated to genocidal policies meant to eliminate the Uyghur identity,” said Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “It is in these moments where cross-community solidarity is so necessary, and potentially so effective.”
JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups. JCRC/AJC educates and advocates on important issues, seeking consensus with a commitment to Jewish values. For more information visit www.jcrcajc.org.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project promotes the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples in East Turkistan, referred to by the Chinese government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, through research-based advocacy. It publishes reports and analysis in English and Chinese to defend Uyghurs’ civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights according to international human rights standards.
Founded in 1978 and with its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) is a pluralistic, inclusive and non-partisan umbrella organisation for 36 Jewish student unions across Europe, spanning from Russia to Scandinavia to the United Kingdom. EUJS is the democratic and peer-led representation of roughly 160,000 young Jews in Europe.