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The Uyghurs and the Caribbean: ‘A call to action’

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Posted: Friday, February 11, 2022. 1:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rushan Abbas, 54, is taking her tireless campaign for action against the abuses of the People’s Republic of China government of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang province to a different forum – Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Latin American and Caribbean region has been under recent sustained temptation of development assistance from the PRC to switch sides on a different issue – recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan) – but Abbas, her husband Abdulhakim Idris, and filmmaker Jawad Mir, with whom they are collaborating on a documentary addressing the Xinjiang conflict and its personal toll around the world, say countries that side with the PRC find themselves unwilling, or unable, to speak out on the Uyghur “genocide” and similar issues lest their development funds be cut off.

It is both a conflict of religion – Uyghurs practice Islam and have been accused of harboring extremist tendencies after a series of attacks in the 1990s and 2000s prompted the estimated forced disappearance into internment camps of a million Uyghurs over a decade or so – and race, where ethnic Han Chinese have been encouraged to move to the area and increase the balance between them and the Uyghur population.

It’s also a personal issue for Abbas: her sister Gulshan, a doctor working in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi, was abducted in 2018 and has not been directly heard from since, although Chinese authorities claimed in January that she had been sentenced to serve 20 years in prison on terrorism-related charges.

As Mir states, many American Uyghur relatives of Chinese Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang carry guilt that their activism puts relatives in harm’s way. But they feel they cannot stay silent – and warn others must not either.

The United States and other developed nations have strongly condemned alleged forced labour and re-education camps discovered by satellite imagery and seemingly confirmed in three separate leaks of documentation from within China, and legislation has been passed banning imports from the region on the basis of assumed forced labour using Uyghurs, but Abbas says more must be done.

There is very little, they tell us, that China can do to make amends – not even using an Uyghur flagbearer at the start of the Winter Olympic Games being held there at the moment. Countries must continue to boycott goods manufactured using Uyghur labour and production; there must be public protest and pressure and a recognition of what is being done – and officially denied by the Chinese – before the world’s eyes.

The discussion was hosted by the U.S. Embassy Barbados and was promoted locally by U.S. Embassy Belmopan.

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