THE SINGLE GREATEST ATROCITY IN EUROPE SINCE THE SECOND WORLD WAR…
Flames of hatred in the heart of Europe. This years marks the 24th anniversary commemoration of the worst atrocities on Eu- ropean soil since the Second World War that took place in Srebrenica, Bosnia.
DRAWING ON BEST PRACTICES FROM ACROSS EUROPE
Globally, there is an alarming proliferation and intensification of Islamophobia and it increasingly permeates a range of spheres. Islamophobia affects (but is not restricted to) policy and legal measures, media and also verbal and physical violence against Muslims, perceived Muslims, and Islamic spaces.
Islamophobic narratives frame Muslims and Islam as the “other”, they are seen to be carriers of violent threat, demographic threat, a cultural and moral threat, an economic threat, a threat to sexual freedoms and gender equality, and a threat to national peace and security.
The conflict in Yemen started in March 2015, in the Middle East’s poorest country. After four years of ground operations and aerial bombing, what is the status of the war now? Have the aims of any of the belligerents been achieved? Given the heavy toll on civilians, has the loss of life been justified?
The overall death toll from fighting, famine, and shortages of health care caused by the war is hard to verify, even more so the proportion of civilian and child deaths. Certainly it seems the case that between 2015 and 2019, more than 15,000 people have died directly from the conflict,1 perhaps over half were civilians. According to UN agencies,. Save the Children reports that 85,000 children have died as a result of the war, mostly from malnutrition and the resultant wave of deaths from sickness. Up to another 4 million children are suffering from malnutrition according to UN reports.2 There have been more than 2 million cases of cholera3 and more than 5000 related deaths.4 Yemen today has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the world.5
*The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China is home to some 12 million indigenous Turkic speaking Muslims, primarily Uyghurs but also smaller numbers of Kazakhs and others. It is now one of the most heavily policed areas in the world. Inhabitants are controlled and monitored to an extraordinary degree and detained in extraordinary numbers. These extreme policies are justified by the claim that China is fighting Islamic radicalisation and extremism.
**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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 – email@example.com
International Observatory of Human Rights Protests the Unlawful Detention of +1 million Uyghurs in Re-Education Camps in China
5 February 2019
The International Observatory of Human Rights will join the Uyghur community in London outside the Chinese Embassy at 5pm on Tuesday 5 February to protest the unlawful detention and persecution of the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region of western China.
The protest is being held on the anniversary of the 1997 Ghulja massacre, where hundreds of peaceful protesters were killed by Chinese State security forces. 2019 also marks the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, so the protest will be an opportunity to highlight China’s human rights record on the first day of the Chinese New Year of the pig.
The protest is to call on the Chinese authorities to:
close internment “Re-Education” camps and immediately release all those held in arbitrary detention.
reveal the names, whereabouts and current status of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in China.
cease policies of forced cultural assimilation and social re-engineering, known as “Cultural Genocide”, focused on the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians and other groups.
allow access for independent investigators to visit and monitor the region.
The plight of the Uyghur people has been raised in both houses of Parliament over the last few months. Mark Field, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office reported “We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. We are aware of credible reports of thousands of Uyghurs being held in political re-education camps. UK officials recently visited Xinjiang to see the latest situation at first-hand and found a heavy security presence on the ground.” Another oral parliamentary question on the Uyghurs is scheduled to be raised on 11 February in the House of Lords.
Please show your support and join IOHR in a peaceful stand with members of the Uyghur community.