From November 24-25, the World Uyghur Congress attended the 9th UN Forum on Minority Issues in order to advocate for the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. Despite not standing as a minority in the region of East Turkestan, the WUC finds the Forum useful in engaging with different stakeholders including civil society and state representatives to the UN in Geneva. The Uyghur population stood around 83 percent in 1945, but has since been seriously diluted and now stands at an estimated 46 percent today.
The World Uyghur Congress was also involved with a side event organized jointly by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and the Society for Threatened Peoples, entitled, “Forgotten Crises, Forgotten Victims: Minorities and Humanitarian Challenges”. The event brought together representatives of different minority peoples, facing similar issues in terms of their relationship with often repressive state governments.
World Uyghur Congress Secretary General, Dolkun Isa, took the floor during the event to discuss the plight of the Uyghur population in East Turkestan. During the talk, Isa highlighted the case of Uyghur refugees who have recently been fleeing repression in the region with some 60 now still remaining in immigration detention facilities in and around Bangkok, Thailand. The group of 60 are also at high risk of being returned to China, as was the case with the return of 109 from a Bangkok facility in July 2015 – in clear violation of the Refugee Convention.
The World Uyghur Congress Program Coordinator, Peter Irwin, was also able to make an oral statement during the session that focused squarely on the plight of Uyghur refugees in Thailand. The statement was, however, quickly interrupted by a point of order from the Chinese delegation – who objected to the WUC taking the floor during the session. The interruption was then followed by supportive and opposing statements from a number of states which resulted in over twenty minutes of discussion back and forth on the issue. A copy of the statement can be found here.
Support for the WUC came from Switzerland, Austria, Ireland and Finland, while opposition came from the missions of Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Indonesia – states that regularly and blindly support their Chinese counterparts regardless of the issue at hand. Footage of the statement can be seen here, beginning at the 22:30 mark.
The UN Forum on Minority Issues stands as an invaluable mechanism by which too-often silenced groups are prevented from having their voices heard in the international arena. The World Uyghur Congress will continue to engage with the Forum in the future in hopes that it may be used as a more robust platform in which ideas and may be debated and discussed. Likewise, the WUC welcomes the work of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Ms. Rita Izsák-Ndiaye and her promotion of these issues.