The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) announces the designation of June 15th as International Uyghur Language Day in light of China’s onslaught on the Uyghur language and its aggressive promotion of the assimilationist “bilingual language” policy in East Turkestan.“I am pleased to announce June 15th as International Uyghur Language Day. By designating this day as the International Uyghur Language Day, we are hoping to celebrate the Uyghur language and inspire the Uyghur people to learn to write and speak their mother tongue, to preserve their beautiful language and continue to pass it on to our next generations,” said Uyghur democratic leader Rebiya Kadeer.
“We should be proud of our language, culture and ethnicity. Only by saving our language can we save the Uyghur people and our heritage,” Ms. Kadeer added.
The Uyghur language is one of the most ancient Turkic languages in the world. It has a history of more than three thousand years. Uyghur literature is as old as literature in the English language and the legacy of Uyghur literacy must be preserved for the future. Many of the finest works of literature and art in the Turkic world were written in the Uyghur language, including the Turkiy Tillar Divani (Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk) by Mahmud Kashgari and Qutatqu Bilig by Yusuf Has Hajip.
The Uyghur language has been under attack in East Turkestan under the administration of the Chinese Communist Party. In the past decade, and with increasing intensity since 2002, China has pursued assimilationist policies aimed at removing Uyghur as a language of instruction in East Turkestan. Employing the term “bilingual” education, China is, in reality, implementing a monolingual Mandarin Chinese language education system that undermines the linguistic basis of Uyghur culture. The new “bilingual” education imperative is designed to transition Uyghur students from education in their mother tongue to education in Chinese. Its intent is to annihilate the living Uyghur language and eventually assimilate the Uyghur people into the Chinese culture, thereby eliminating the status of the Uyghur people as the original, indigenous and dominant people in East Turkestan.
Since the 2014 Xinjiang Work Forum in Beijing, Chinese leaders have placed “bilingual education” at the center of its efforts to achieve “ethnic mingling,” an initiative that aims to blur the cultural distinctiveness of the Uyghur people and assimilate Uyghurs into the Chinese nation dominated by the Han culture.
While the Uyghur people love foreign languages, including Mandarin Chinese, and embrace genuine multilingualism and multiculturalism, they are opposed to giving up their own language at the expense of Mandarin. Therefore, WUC believes it is imperative to have an International Uyghur Language Day to celebrate the Uyghur language and highlight the importance of learning, writing and speaking it in East Turkestan and around the world. The WUC urges all Uyghur people and Uyghur organizations around the world to celebrate the first International Uyghur Language Day with activities, such as Uyghur language contests, seminars and panel discussions.