Over 200 people attended a special programme last night at the London Muslim Centre, drawing attention to the dire situation faced by Uyghur Muslims in China.
The event raised over £50,000 towards legal efforts to seek accountability and justice for the Uyghur and other Muslim people of East Turkistan.
The People’s Republic of China overthrew the independent East Turkistan Republic in late 1949 and renamed it ‘Xinjiang’ meaning ‘the Colony’ or ‘New Territory.’ Since then, the Chinese state and its Communist Party have waged a brutal campaign of colonization and occupation that has become a genocide starting in 2014.
The Muslims of Occupied East Turkistan are subjected to forced sterilization, mass internment in concentration camps where they are tortured and starved, family separation, slave-like forced labour conditions and physical genocide, including organ harvesting and ethnic cleansing.
Dilowar Khan, Director of Engagement at the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre, welcomed guests to the event.
The evening’s programme was chaired by Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO and Founder of The Cordoba Foundation. In his opening remarks, Altikriti explained, “The Cordoba Foundation and the London Muslim Centre were the first to highlight the plight of the Uyghurs to the British Muslim community with a large rally event held in this very hall; and we pledged to take up the issue vigorously. Today is a continuation of that commitment.”
Dr Anas Altikriti
Last night’s event, jointly organised by the London Muslim Centre, The Cordoba Foundation and The Radiant Trust, was supported by more than 30 Muslim charities, mosques and community organisations.
Persecution and oppression
The event began with recitation of the Qur’an by Imam Kerim Zair, who was born in Shayar, East Turkistan; he left his hometown in 1984, and has not returned since for fear of persecution.
Imam Kerim Zair
Aziz Issa Elkun, an academic and poet who was also born in East Turkistan, addressed the audience via video link to highlight the plight of the Uyghurs, stressing our collective responsibility to take action. He spoke about the recent fire in the northwest Xinjiang region, sparking protests across China:
44 Uyghurs, mainly women and children, died in a fire recently because of China’s lockdown policies. Uyghurs were locked up in buildings and not allowed to leave, so they burned to death.
Sanctioned by China for speaking out on the Uyghurs
In a video message, Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy KC emphasised that what is being perpetrated against the Uyghur people is “genocide”. She explained that her work in Parliament has led to this “exposure” of China’s “crimes”.
Baroness Kennedy denounced the persecution and mistreatment of Uyghurs:
I have been condemning what has been happening to women, the forced sterilisation and forced rape, the raping of women in their own homes, but also when they’re in custody, the taking of children from families and sending them to schools where they will have the culture eliminated from them, the locking up of people in camps.
She explained that China currently sanctions her for speaking out against their oppression of Uyghurs: “There’s a possibility of my being arrested if I go to places where China has very strong diplomatic relations and extradition processes in place.”
Legal efforts at the ICC
Rodney Dixon KC, an international lawyer from Temple Garden Chambers, is working on behalf of Uyghurs in exile, pursuing through the International Criminal Court (ICC) those responsible for the persecution and genocide of the Uyghurs. His team is collecting evidence from victims and witnesses in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Rodney Dixon KC
On 11 November 2021, the third dossier of evidence was submitted to the ICC. It exposed the extent of Chinese involvement within Tajikistan to pursue Uyghurs, to have them deported, or even abducted and disappeared. The reports highlighted how these unlawful acts are the first steps in the genocide and crimes against humanity, which are then continued and completed in China.
Dixon explained there is legal precedent for the ICC to prosecute on behalf of the Uyghur people, drawing parallels with the plight of the Rohingya people and their mistreatment in Myanmar.
He highlighted shortcomings in media coverage:
We’ve seen how when the conflict in Ukraine hit the headlines, everyone started supporting. Although it’s going to be hard to get it to that level, we have to look to raise it as high as possible so that that action will be taken on the same basis, because there should be no selectivity or distinction between what happens in some countries and others.
Fundraising to support justice for Uyghurs
Dixon closed by saying:
We ask you to especially support East Turkistan’s efforts to obtain justice through the International Criminal Court. I think voices united can create the momentum, can create the embarrassment as well for the court, for doing nothing in the face of a genocide that can have a huge impact.
As part of fundraising for the legal efforts, Imam Ajmal Masroor, broadcaster, writer and campaigner, urged support for the Uyghur people:
There is a need for doing something more constructive than just listening. When we hear appalling crimes of rape and mass interment, we need to focus on action to help our brothers and sisters in Uyghur communities. It is through raising funds for the legal case that we can get good legal representation.
Imam Ajmal Masroor
Event convenor and trustee at the East London Mosque, Dr Abdullah Faliq, announced £54,000 was raised during the evening’s event, with many people pledging to give more. The Radiant Trust, which works across civil rights and restorative justice issues, is managing the fundraising campaign.
Dr Abdullah Faliq
Duties towards the oppressed
Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, a noted American scholar and academic, spoke to guests via a video link, calling for people to have a connection to the Uyghur Muslims who are suffering:
If we do not feel that pain and suffering [of the Uyghurs], then how can we motivate ourselves to do anything if we do not feel a genuine connection with the people that are being persecuted?
He closed by supporting collective action:
This is a humanitarian cause. Do what is feasible to do, whatever it might be – whether it’s protest, whether it’s economic boycotts, whether it’s public awareness, whether it is campaigning, or specifically sending letters to various politicians.
Shaykh Yasir Qadhi
The audience were then shown a video message from Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh born and raised in East Turkistan, who survived a concentration camp where she was forced to teach others imprisoned there, seeing and experiencing herself the torture and brutality that was inflicted:
During that time I witnessed China’s genocide and crimes against humanity with my own eyes. I was subject to severe torture, starvation, and sleep deprivation. They forced us to confess to made-up crimes, and forced us to take medication that sterilised us.
She concluded her chilling account by calling for strong measures against China, and for the ICC to investigate China’s genocide and crimes against humanity.
Dr Altikriti rounded up the evening saying,
The money that we’ve gathered tonight with your help, and that we will continue to gather over the next days and weeks, is going to find more witness testimonies, to get them out to where they can speak of their plight, to a place where they are safe enough to submit testimonies to Rodney so that he can fight the case in the ICC.
Imam Muzammil Ahmed from the East London Mosque closed the event with a short prayer.
- The main organisers of the event were: eastlondonmosque.org.uk | thecordobafoundation.com | radianttrust.org.uk
- For more information about the legal route being pursued through the ICC by Rodney Dixon KC on behalf of the Uyghurs, visit: eurasianet.org/the-case-against-china-at-the-icc or tgchambers.com