I was recently alerted by the Guardian newspaper that my phone number was among the many that were selected for targeting by customers of NSO and its hacking software known as Pegasus. In my case, the client in question appears to be the government of the United Arab Emirates.
While I cannot deny being shocked at the news that my privacy has been violated in such an obscene manner, it comes as little surprise that the source of this criminal breach is an authoritarian undemocratic oppressive regime, which considers freedoms a threat and human rights an abomination.
I will of course be seeking legal counsel and pursuing whatever means for damages, along with many of my relatives and friends who have been similarly targeted, in anticipation that those behind this violation are brought to account.
I call on the Prime Minister, the UK government and the British parliament to stand up to such actions carried out by oppressive authoritarian and brutal regimes against British citizens and to act responsibly and unequivocally in the face of such criminality. There is no question that I will be continuing my long-running campaign to reveal the ugly reality of the UAE regime, and others of such distasteful trends, undeterred by these or other tactics aimed to intimidate and silence.
Dr Anas Altikriti
CEO & Founder
The Cordoba Foundation
On Saturday 19th of June, Alaa Al-Siddiq, daughter of UAE political prisoner Mohammed Abdulrazzaq Al-Siddiq, died in a car accident in Oxfordshire.
Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, Alaa was a true icon of the fight against injustice, and a rising star who was known for her calm, collected and intelligent approach to fighting the freedom of her father and all political prisoners in the UAE.
The Cordoba Foundation wishes to express its heartfelt condolences to Alaa’s family and friends, and especially to her father who has been in prison for 8 years on sham charges and a judicial process unworthy of the name.
Despite her young age, Alaa’s legacy will now shine a bright light on the sacrifices campaigners for justice, freedom and dignity around the world, give every single day. Their endeavour is one of courage and selflessness, and it will inevitably triumph over the darkness of oppression and inhumanity.The Cordoba Foundation
20th June 2021
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) considers the announcement by a number of governments the imposition of sanctions on senior officials in China for gross human rights abuses against its Uyghur Muslim population, a much welcome step.
For years, if not longer, China has been committing heinous crimes and violations including torture and rape against the Uyghurs, in defiance of worldwide condemnation. While many will see this step as a little too late, TCF sees this as a considerable step in the right direction and a firm message sent to China by the governments and nations of the UK, EU, USA and Canada.
In reaction to this news, Aziz Isa Elkun, a prominent Uyghur academic, poet and activist in London, said that for “the past 71 dark years, Uyghurs, who are the rightful owners of the Uyghur Autonomous Region (including East Turkistan, Uyghuristan and Xinjiang), has seen countless massacres committed by the Chinese state. The recent horrific revelation of concentration camps housing over a million Uyghurs in the most inhumane conditions, is a drop in the ocean of the catalogue of atrocities, and which only come to the world’s attention because of the 21st Century’s digital surveillance era.”
While naming a clutch of officials as responsible for some of the crimes committed is a positive measure, it is imperative that the pressure on China is increased so that the atrocities come to an end. China must know that the world is watching, and that the world will not stay silent amid the horrors taking place against the Uyghur Muslim minority.
Meanwhile, it comes as a great disappointment that MPs narrowly voted down, yesterday, a Trade Bill amendment that would have prevented the UK government’s future trade deals with China. Whilst fully appreciating the importance of doing business with world partners, it would be an act of extreme hypocrisy if the UK sent a message that it’s recognition of human rights crimes being committed will not hinder nor halt its pursuit for economic interests.
The Cordoba Foundation was one of the first to highlight the plight of the Uyghurs in the UK, through a range of community, media and campaign efforts. This latest development of sanctions against key Chinese officials is a vindication of the efforts of all concerned about the Uyghurs. However, much more needs to be done to see a lasting solution for the persecuted Uyghur Muslims.
The Cordoba Foundation has always seen the government’s strategy to counter terrorism and extremism, coined Prevent, as one which was found upon positive objectives, but has been sullied by years of misuse and politicking.
On numerous occasions, The Cordoba Foundation called for a radical review of the entire strategy, after far too many cases where it became evident that Prevent had become an information gathering operation targeting the Muslim community, rather than one which aims to guide affected youngsters, away from extremist ideas and violence.
Joining a number of community organisations in welcoming the announcement of an independent review of Prevent in hope that a radical transformation will be introduced, we shared the utter disappointment, anger even, felt throughout the Muslim community when it was declared that William Shawcross would be appointed to chair the ‘independent’ Review.
With a long legacy of anti-Muslim statements and stands, and with views that are abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of British Muslims, besides his prominent position within the right-wing anti-Muslim Henry-Jackson Society, Shawcross’s appointment will simply confirm that any engagement with Prevent, or the review thereof, would be an exercise in futility.
CEO, Dr Anas Altikriti stated this afternoon that The Cordoba Foundation has therefore ‘arrived at the conclusion that following almost 15 years of failed, indeed counterproductive approach to the issue of counter-extremism, during which Islamophobia has been on a steady rise throughout society and Muslims feel more marginalised and targeted than ever before’, ‘it is time to call for Prevent to be scrapped’.
The Cordoba Foundation hopes that Muslim organisations will see the situation similarly and will assert their respective positions by boycotting this securitised approach to dealing with the Muslims community. It is unbecoming of the government to single out one faith community for such a callous treatment, and hence play a dangerously divisive role and adopt a narrative that is sure to spread fear and hate.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech in October accusing Islam of isolationism and of being ‘in crisis’, could not have provided better evidence of the challenge of Islamophobia facing European societies today. For decades, Muslims who have long made Europe and Western countries their and their children’s homes, and to which they make immeasurably valuable contributions as citizens, those Muslims have warned that the most serious forms of Islamophobia are those which emanate from unsuspected sources. While one would expect Islamophobic statements and attacks to come from Far-Right, xenophobic, white supremacist, neo-Nazi clusters, it shouldn’t be expected of a Centrist President of a major country such as France which itself is home to millions of Muslims. Further, it comes at a time when the entire world is debating the question of race, and nations are trawling through their respective legacies to see what gross crimes against other people were committed in order to provide the socio-economic conditions under which they currently live. It would’ve been thought that a politician of such stature should have been more careful. Yet, such is the challenge of the rising and ever-expanding disease of Islamophobia, that few even in the much more tolerant Britain, even cared to mention it. Therefore, the Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) this November could not have come at a more apt time, nor under more telling circumstances. An annual fixture now, after the challenges of launching this fantastically important initiative by a group of prominent organisations back in 2012, it is a crucial landmark in the history of British society and its development in relation to matters of race, faith and culture. The month-long campaign seeks to deconstruct and challenge stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. (Image: IAM launch event at the London Muslim Centre, 2nd Nov 2012) IAM was initiated by, amongst others, The Cordoba Foundation, Enough Coalition Against Islamophobia, London Muslim Centre, Mend/Engage, Federation of Students Islamic Societies and the Muslim Council of Britain. Even with the immense challenges of having to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns that bear great costs on all sections of society, IAM is a vital reminder of the added difficulties life in modern Britain brings to so many, including countless on the frontlines of maintaining a semblance of normalcy and care. The Cordoba Foundation is proud to once more welcome the Islamophobia Awareness Month, and pledges to continue to work with others, towards celebrating the values and tenets of this great global faith, followed by a fifth of the world population, and to remove any stigma attached to being a Muslim in Britain.
This project seeks to study the major changes and transformations that are forecast to take place around the world as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and how those are likely to impact major conflicts and crises, particularly in the MENA region.
Exploring its impact and ramifications at multiple levels, including political, economic, medical, technological, technical, social, mental and humanitarian, the findings will feed into the development of adequate mappings and analyses as well as solutions to cater for those changes and also seize the opportunities which they and this crisis provide.
The study will also put forward appropriate mechanisms to deal with the post-pandemic transformations and set in place necessary plans and policies for the benefit of governmental and non-governmental actors.
This project will be carried out in collaboration between The Cordoba Foundation (UK) and the Egyptian Institute for Studies (Turkey).
The outputs of this Research Study are as follows:
All accepted abstracts/ papers will be published after peer review.
International conference, The Corona Pandemic: changes and transformations in geopolitics and strategic developments impacting the MENA.
Report launches in a number of countries.
News stories in a major media outlets based on the findings of the study.
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Cordoba Foundation and the Egyptian Institute for Studies call for papers on the theme of “Post-Corona: transformative landscapes and shifting priorities”.
This call for papers invites contributors from scholars, researchers, policymakers and practitioners from a range of disciplinary perspectives.
Guidelines for abstract submission:
Full name, title and affiliation, along with contact details (postal address, telephone, and email).
Abstract should explain the paper’s objectives or purpose and ensure that it falls within the broad call of the paper.
Provide a concise and clear description of its objectives, methods, results, main arguments and conclusions.
Submissions will only be accepted in English and in Word format.
It is the author’s responsibility to submit a correct abstract; accepted abstracts will be reproduced as submitted, including possible errors.
Abstract acceptance or rejection will be notified by e-mail.
Abstract should be no longer than 500 words.
Full papers should not be more than 6,000 words.
– Abstract submission deadline: June 5th.
– Final paper submission deadline: July 15th
– Exec Summary launch: Aug 20th.
– Full Report released by: September 10th
Send proposals to TCF Covid-19 Research Desk – firstname.lastname@example.org
**NEW ZEALAND TERROR ATTACKS, WARNINGS OF THE DANGERS OF ISLAMOPHOBIA IGNORED**
The Cordoba Foundation joins Muslims worldwide and all fair-minded people of the world in condemning the heinous attack on 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand as worshipers were preparing to observe the weekly Friday prayers.
Since the details of the attack began to unfold, it has now become confirmed that the assailants were white supremacists and far-right nationalists, who shockingly displayed their intentions as well as their act of depraved barbarity openly and publicly for all to witness.
The Cordoba Foundation has warned over several years of the rapidly rising tide of Islamophobia, along with the gradually but steadily rising threshold of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to Western Muslims. While those far-right terrorists might have been the actual killers, but it was an environment of acceptability and increasing justification endorsed by mainstream elements within politics, society and the media, that laid the ground for this bloodbath to be carried out.
In the same way that ISIS kills its adversaries, far-right nationalists butchered Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a racist murderer killed black church-goers in Charlottesville, North Carolina. To see each as separate or different than the other would be to do a huge disservice to the victims of terrorism, discrimination and racism all over the world.
The Cordoba Foundation reiterates its message that all forms of prejudice must be eradicated, and today, the scourge of Islamophobia is seeing rapid increase in reach, depth and substance, which threatens the stability and security of all of society. It is therefore incumbent upon the government to ensure that all its citizens, regardless of race, colour or creed, are safe, equal and respected.
In an article published on the 28th of February titled: “Corbyn ally Emily Thornbury gives talk to extremist-linked Muslim Brotherhood group”, The Sun chose to stir scandal rather than cover the plight of the Uyghurs — victims of large-scale human rights violations of our time.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) is deeply disturbed that an event it had hosted at the London Muslim Centre on 13 February, in which numerous prominent speakers spoke of the tragic plight of almost a million Uyghur Chinese Muslims, drove The Sun to conjure a story without even mentioning the topic of the event itself.
With reportedly a million Uyghurs being held in concentration camps and subject to torture under the pretext of ‘re-education’, TCF held this event to highlight the crimes being committed by one of the UK’s major trading partners, China. Having reached out to all the major political parties, Emily Thornbury of the Labour Party and Alistair Charmichael of the Liberal Democrats responded positively, with Ms Thornbury kindly managing to attend and give a few minutes’ address. For this, she should be congratulated, especially that her speech touched on the most important issues pertaining to this case.
To taint the entire event and the topic at hand and abuse the victims of this crime by slinging mud in the direction of TCF and its CEO, is cheap. The readers of The Sun deserve far better. The Cordoba Foundation absolutely and completely refutes the charge of extremism and leaves its own track record and that of its Founder to speak for themselves. Countering extremism at every turn, promoting democracy and human rights around the world and advocating peaceful and collaborative co-existence, have been the unfailing pursuit of TCF, whilst Altikriti is renowned for successfully – often at his own safety — negotiating the release of numerous hostages in various conflict zones, including Christian Peacemakers in Iraq.
The accusation that TCF is somehow a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, made initially by David Cameron in 2009, is both laughable and tiresome. TCF has repeatedly reached out to the former Prime Minister challenging him either to provide evidence to the claim or to repeat the charge outside of Parliamentary privilege, to which he has never afforded the courtesy of a reply. As far as Foundation is concerned, it is a false charge which Cameron made to score political points at the time and has failed repeatedly to substantiate. In similar vein, a number of dictatorships have over the years levied false charges of extremism against The Cordoba Foundation seeking to undermine its work and tarnish it negatively. It is interesting to see The Sun corroborate and repeat the claims made by states and regimes which are renowned for the most gross human rights violations, absence of freedoms and authoritarian systems.
The plight of the China’s Uyghur Muslims is a tragic case of cultural and religious cleansing which is taking place under our watch. The Sun’s story is pathetic, riddled with lies and distracts from one of the most heinous crimes of our time.
1. Media and other queries: email@example.com
2. Uyghur event video: https://youtu.be/O9slvfplEqA
3. For further information about Uyghurs, see the latest edition of iNSIGHTS, titled “China’s mass detentions and incarceration of Uyghur Muslims” written by Dr Rachel Harris.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry joins Uyghur leaders and others to protest China’s incarceration of Muslims
On the 13th of February 2019, The Cordoba Foundation hosted an event to raise awareness of the persecution of the minority Uyghur population in China, titled ‘China’s brute crackdown and mass incarceration of Uyghur Muslims’. Notable speakers, including leading academics, politicians, journalists, human rights activists and Uyghur leaders who fled persecution, drew a crowd of over 500 people at the London Muslim Centre (LMC).
Delivering the keynote, Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary remarked,
“What has started from targeting extremism has morphed into targeting peaceful Uyghurs practicing their faith… There are hundreds of thousands facing systemic oppression and violence. For that to be happening today in the 21st century in a country with a permanent seat in the Security Council is abhorrent and can not be tolerated any longer.”
She concluded with a call to action, “it is time for us to say enough is enough and this should stop. Time to ensure the Uyghur people can practice their faith in peace. There is no them, there is no other, only us”.
Abdelkarim Zayyer, Uyghur scholar and Imam, opened the meeting with recitation from the Qur’an, this was followed by a welcome from LMC’s Director of Engagement, Dilowar Khan, who echoed popular sentiment amongst the crowd “We were hardly aware of this situation as it was rarely covered in the media…I hope we go away with more understanding and commit to do something about it.”
The persecution of the Uyghur population by the Chinese state has been relentless for over 70 years, however in recent years, especially since the rise to power of Xi Jinping, the persecution has intensified at an alarming rate. The Chinese government is systematically persecuting Muslims simply for practicing their faith. Over a million Uyghurs are currently being detained in “re-education” camps” (the term Chinese officials use for concentration camps), for simple crimes such as carrying a copy of the Qu’ran or regularly attending a mosque.
Several Uyghur nationals, forced to flee from China, spoke out about their experiences of living as a Uyghur in China. Rahime Mahmut, singer-songwriter and a human rights activist, stated that “accounts about torture are chilling and horrendous, people are kept in prisons for a year before being moved to concentration camps. One detainee who spent time in three different concentration camps said that many people he knew were forced to admit to making bombs in order to stop their torture”. The persecution reaches all sections of Uyghur society and the “re-education” camps are being applied to normal practicing Muslims. Rahime has not returned to China for the past 18 years in fear of her life. Similarly, Mahmut Turdi was forced to flee in 2004, and has not returned since, and has witnessed his siblings detained in concentration camps. He stated, “whoever is born with a Uyghur identity ends up persecuted… China is unwilling to protect our basic human rights; there is no justice and they have no fear”.
Uyghur poet, scholar and the Secretary, PEN International Uyghur Centre, Aziz Isa Elkun, recounted that,
“Ever since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, we have faced persecution. However, the ascension of Xi Jinping has made everything worse with forced assimilations since 2016 and the building of concentration camps. Xi Jinping has placed a police station every 100 metres, and since 2017 we have been forbidden to make phone calls abroad”.
The recent escalation of violence against the Uyghurs has intensified under Xi Jinping’s reign for a variety of reasons and its causes are complex. Xi Jinping has difficulties with the Uyghur Chinese as he sees a problem of divided loyalties because of their religion. Professor Paul Reynolds, foreign policy and international economics specialist, elaborated that “if you look at it from a Beijing perspective, it will give you a psychology of the persecutions. It is a colonial project, with borders drawn by Chinese colonialists, similar to Middle Eastern and African borders. Furthermore, the reason why Xi Jinping has intensified his violence can be attributed to three main political reasons: Xi Jinping sees key vulnerabilities in the Communist Party. He needs growth to keep the country happy, he needs to address energy shortages and defence, and he is afraid of the US economy (China has a large US dollar holding of debt). To deal with these vulnerabilities, China wants to push its economic reach across the land mass, which ultimately means taking control of the Uyghur land, forcing migration from China into the area.”
Reynolds added, “The Uyghur area is also rich with natural resources such as oil, which is especially lucrative in the backdrop of a China which has difficulty importing natural resources and wants to develop its internal energy sources, with trade routes reaching from Afghanistan through the Uyghur lands. Xi Jinping has therefore come up with a six-point strategy to protect China’s power; weaken western objections to its crackdown on Uyghur Muslims; increase tourism to the Uyghur region; “re-education” of Uyghur Muslims; train Chinese in paramilitary organisations; and build three oil pipelines whilst allowing the West a share in this.”
Yuen Chan, British-Hong Kong journalist, TV and radio presenter, as well as a former Chinese University lecturer and founder of Journalism Educators for Press Freedom, stated that “The Chinese media is controlled by a vast and sophisticated propaganda machine, and it is hard to produce anything that delineates from the official narrative. Therefore, it is hard for the Chinese to gain any accurate picture of what has been happening. Many reporters have stated that they have witnessed the worst reporting conditions of the last 20 years and 96% of journalists in China have said that they have been visibly followed, with 90% forced to delete their data. Chinese news agencies have also been striking deals with the Western press in order to propagate their official story and keep the Uyghur crisis as China’s ‘dirty secret’”.
Rodney Dixon QC, international human rights lawyer from Temple Garden Chambers, explained that whilst there are many obstacles “it is important that legal avenues are pursued when they can be. It is critical to preserve the wealth of first hand evidence, which can be addressed to the General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council”. He further added, “we must not think legal routes are closed, just because China has not signed up to any treaties”.
Louise Pyne Jones, Senior Researcher at the International Observatory of Human Rights, who is an expert on religious and colonial ideologies, stated that “the solution starts with dialogue, engagement and knowledge sharing. We can then take the debate nationally and internationally through media, NGOs and the government”. Practical tips for how to address the problem were given by Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain: “we should use social media and mainstream media to raise awareness… keep tweeting and keep talking amongst each other”. He also stressed the importance of Muslim organisations supporting members of the Uyghur community in the UK, and added “the damage caused by interning up to a million Uyghurs in “re-education” camps and increasing restrictions on religious practice and identity is magnified by the fact that coordinated responses from civil society have been too few and far between.”
Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, who moderated the meeting, explained the different aspects of the Foundation’s Uyghur Campaign and appealed for collaboration to address the desperate situation facing Uyghur Muslims. “It is truly unacceptable that an entire ethnicity of people are persecuted in the way that the Uyghur Muslims are. It is imperative that the British government takes its Chinese counterpart to task over this despicable policy and ensures that the Uyghurs are treated as citizens on par with their fellow Chinese citizens of all faiths, races and cultures.”
The meeting ended with a lively question and answer session.
Notes to editors:
For further information about this campaign or to discuss collaborations contact Dr Abdullah Faliq, Convenor of the Uyghur Solidarity Meeting and Managing Director of The Cordoba Foundation – firstname.lastname@example.org