Letter to US Senator Mitch McConnell concerning S. 178, the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act of 2019 or the UIGHUR Act of 2019
February 18, 2020 (sent by mail to Senator McConnell and reproduced here)
Dear Leader McConnell:
We strongly urge you to take immediate action to pass S. 178, the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act of 2019 or the UIGHUR Act of 2019. The ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang calls for an urgent and decisive response on the part of the United States government.
Beginning in spring 2017, the Chinese government began detaining tens of thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of Western China. Since that time, at least a million Xinjiang Muslims have been detained in government-run camps, which officials term “re-education facilities,” and which former detainees describe as concentration camps. Detainees are not formally charged with a crime. Reports indicate that behaviors like growing a beard, installing international phone messaging apps, or traveling abroad can serve as pretexts for detainment. Once detained, Uyghurs are subjected to intense “re-education,” or brainwashing. Reports indicate that detainees lack access to proper medical care, are often malnourished, and live in prison-style barracks. The minor children of detainees are sent to boarding schools and orphanages, where the state-run education system deprives them of their native language, cultural heritage, and family identity.
But the repression extends far beyond the re-education camps. The Muslim residents of Xinjiang now inhabit a surveillance state, in which every move is monitored using facial recognition technology and DNA databases illegally gathered under false pretenses. Many Xinjiang Muslims, including some released camp detainees, have been coerced into labor in factories and agriculture under low wages and dangerous conditions. Furthermore, there has been a massive increase in prison sentences for Uyghurs and other Muslims in China. All of this has created a chilling atmosphere in the region, as Uyghurs and their fellow Muslims are afraid to conduct their everyday lives, correspond with friends and family abroad, undertake ordinary religious observance, and participate in cultural self-expression.
This state of affairs represents an urgent human rights crisis. It also profoundly affects the activities of our scholarly organization, an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars committed to the free and open dissemination of knowledge in and about Central Eurasia, including Xinjiang. Hundreds of our scholarly colleagues in Xinjiang have been detained, and their current whereabouts and conditions remain unknown. These include Rahile Dawut, a well-known folklorist and ethnographer who has served on the board of CESS; Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur public intellectual, human rights advocate, and economist; and Abdulqadir Jalaleddin, a prominent literary scholar and professor at Xinjiang Pedagogical University, to name just a few of the most prominent detainees. Their detention is a loss both to our scholarly community and to the world’s cultural heritage.
The situation in Xinjiang has been an emergency for years. But several new developments make the crisis particularly urgent. In particular, the coronavirus threatens to devastate the population of China’s overcrowded detention camps, where detainees are often in poor health due to malnutrition and lack of medical care. Furthermore, the Chinese government continues to expand its campaign of repression against Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities. Coerced labor under the guise of “poverty alleviation” has become a new weapon in the government’s arsenal of control. In the absence of decisive US legislation, many US-based corporations continue to engage in business transactions in Xinjiang, including direct involvement in the surveillance industry and supply chains that rely on forced labor. This presents risks to the United States’ moral stature and international reputation.
As concerned members of the board of the Central Eurasian Studies Society, an international, non-partisan organization promoting knowledge of the region, we thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent issue.
The Board of the Central Eurasian Studies Society
Statement concerning disappearance and sentencing of Tashpolat Tiyip, former President of Xinjiang University
September 17, 2019
We, the members of the Central Eurasian Studies society, express our strong concern over the disappearance and sentencing of Tashpolat Tiyip, a prominent Uyghur academic. Tashpolat Tiyip was the President of Xinjiang University. It has been reported that he currently faces execution in China.[i]
After a conference trip to Germany together with a group of students, he has been subjected to enforced disappearance. For obscure reasons, Tashpolat Tiyip was given a two-year suspended death sentence in a secret trial in 2017; the charges against him were kept secret and never made public.[ii] He is not alone in this regard because other prominent Uyghur scholars, writers and cultural figures have been targeted for detention in internment camps by the Chinese government.
Professor Tiyip is a well-known a geographer, and received his a doctorate from Tokyo University of Science. He was well-known among international colleagues for his collaboration and his efforts to promote international education. Previously, he had been praised by the Chinese authorities for his commitment to serving the CCP with complete obedience.
The academic community of CESS represents an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars committed to the free and open dissemination of knowledge in and about Central Eurasia. We were dismayed to learn of the disappearance and sentencing of Professor Tiyip, and consider that the Chinese government is ultimately responsible for his safety. We also know well that well over a million people (ethnic Uyghurs, both public figures as well as private citizens, as well as members of other Turkic Muslim ethnic groups) are being held in China’s ‘re-education centers’ in Xinjiang.[iii] Such detention constitutes a major violation of human rights and freedoms, and in the case of our academic colleagues, also a clear and obvious disregard for academic freedom, a trend which is unfortunately increasing in many parts of the world today. The academic community of CESS condemns these detentions and wishes to call attention to what is happening in Xinjiang today.
Please see the statement by Amnesty International on this situation and calls for action here:https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa17/1006/2019/en/?fbclid=IwAR36n8ksjWvJEXsX5-M2MSTewqhD_qxtfng-gnX313Z03-B9MmJu7Gq1K4U
[iii] News on the camps is now widely spread; recent reports and testimonies include https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/opinion/uighurs-china-camps.html?fbclid=IwAR2Qf0QzmmDzsUT020Hjql77VX1T1vEzXXVCsPP2Y29Hv5B0jUSF2NFIx-k
Association for Asian Studies Statement on Extra-Judicial Detention of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, PRC
The Association for Asian Studies expresses its strong concern over the detention of at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in political “re-education centers” in Xinjiang, Northwest China.1 Turkic Muslims have been interned, imprisoned, or forcibly “disappeared” since April 2017.2 Such detention constitutes a major violation of human rights and, in the case of our academic colleagues, a clear disregard for academic freedom.
We are particularly dismayed at the disappearance of at least 386 Uyghur intellectuals and scholars, including 21 staff of Xinjiang University, 15 staff of Xinjiang Normal University, 13 staff of Kashgar University, 6 staff of Xinjiang Medical University, 6 staff of the Xinjiang Social Sciences Academy, 4 staff from Khotan Teachers’ College, and 101 students.3 Turkic Muslims have been denied the freedom to use their mother tongue, to pursue Qur’anic studies, or to study and research abroad.4 Those returning to China from periods of study or research have been recalled, detained, questioned, or caused to disappear into internment camps.5 Five deaths of students and scholars while in custody have been confirmed during this period.6
The Association for Asian Studies is a non-political, non-profit international professional association comprising some 7,000 members committed to the free and open dissemination of knowledge in and about Asia. We are a global community whose work thrives on active interaction between scholars and students from around the world. We decry these detentions in Xinjiang and strongly urge the Chinese government to ensure the safe return of our colleagues and students.
AAS President Prasenjit Duara on behalf of the AAS Board of Directors
Posted by AAS on March 27, 2019
1. Adrian Zenz (2019) “‘Thoroughly reforming them towards a healthy heart attitude’: China’s political re-education campaign in Xinjiang”,Central Asian Survey, 38.1, 102-128, DOI: 10.1080/02634937.2018.1507997; Philip Wen, Michael Martina, Ben Blanchard, “In rare coordinated move, Western envoys seek meeting on Xinjiang concerns”, 15 Nov 2018, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-china-xinjiang-exclusive/exclusive-in-rare-coordinated-move-western-envoys-seek-meeting-on-xinjiang-concerns-idUKKCN1NK0GW. ↩
2. For more details see Special Issue on Securitization, insecurity and conflict in contemporary Xinjiang edited by Joanne Smith Finley, Central Asian Survey, 38.1 (2019), https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ccas20/38/1; Sean R. Roberts (2018), “The biopolitics of China’s ‘war on terror’ and the exclusion of the Uyghurs”, Critical Asian Studies, 50:2, 232-258, DOI: 10.1080/14672715.2018.1454111. ↩
3. Uyghur Human Rights Project report on the disappearance and detention of Uyghur intellectuals, 25 March 2019:https://docs.uhrp.org/pdf/Detained-and-Disappeared-Intellectuals-Under-Assault-in-the-Uyghur-Homeland.pdf. ↩
4. Darren Byler, “The ‘patriotism’ of not speaking Uyghur”, SupChina, 2 Jan 2019, https://supchina.com/2019/01/02/the-patriotism-of-not-speaking-uyghur/. ↩
5. Special Correspondent, “A summer vacation in China’s Muslim gulag: How one university student was almost buried by the ‘people’s war on terror’”, Foreign Policy, 28 Feb 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/28/a-summer-vacation-in-chinas-muslim-gulag/. ↩
6. See, for example, ‘Two Uyghur students die in China’s custody following voluntary return from Egypt’, Radio Free Asia, 21 Dec 2017,https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/students-12212017141002.html; Uyghur Human Rights Project, ‘Uyghur Human Rights Project condemns death in custody of scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim’, 29 Jan 2018, https://uhrp.org/press-release/uyghur-human-rights-project-condemns-death-custody-scholar-muhammad-salih-hajim.html. ↩
Statement of concern over the indictment of Professor Andrei V. Kubatin, Institute of Oriental Studies, Tashkent
We write to express our grave concern over the indictment of our colleague Andrei V. Kubatin in Uzbekistan. [i] In December 2017 Kubatin, who is an Uzbek citizen, was charged and convicted of treason to the state under the criminal code of Uzbekistan. Before he was sentenced to eleven years of imprisonment, he was an associate professor at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent. His field is medieval Central Eurasia, with a specialization in the early medieval Turkic states of the region. He has made a significant contribution to the study of the early history of Uzbekistan, as well as to the ethnohistorical and cultural history of Central Asia. Kubatin is a well-known scholar, whose work has appeared in international journals (including the Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi) as well as journals in the post-Soviet world. Kubatin is charged with providing or selling scanned copies of rare books from the Central State Archive to foreign scholars. Kubatin maintains that he did not have access to any secret documents, and that the materials in question are scholarly works freely available in pdf form online. He maintains therefore that he is innocent of these charges. [ii]
Kubatin’s family and colleagues in Uzbekistan have already drafted written appeals to the Uzbek government for his release, citing in particular his rights as a scholar to willing cooperate in international scholarly endeavors. Such engagement with international scholars is supported and encouraged under Uzbekistan’s recent efforts to increase and expand the government’s transparency and human rights.
Although the Government of Uzbekistan has made important strides to increase the space for academic freedom and human rights, the imprisonment of Andrei Kubatin risks sacrificing these gains. The international community of CESS calls upon the Uzbek authorities to respect the principles of human rights and academic freedom, as well as the transparent rule of law. We call for the release of our colleague. [iii]
[i] This news has been reported here: http://enews.fergananews.com/news.php?id=3801&mode=snews
[ii] His case was mentioned in the March 2018 report compiled by Human Rights Watch, which can be found here: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/uzbekistan0318rus_web.pdf
[iii] We thank our colleague Peter Golden, Emeritus Professor of History, Rutgers University, in the preparation of this statement.
Statement concerning the detention of Rahile Dawut, Professor of Uyghur Folklore, detained in Xinjiang
September 7, 2018, updated September 17, 2019
On behalf of the members of the Central Eurasian Studies society, we write to express our strong concern over the disappearance of our academic colleague Rahile Dawut. In November 2017 she suddenly vanished, and the CESS, based on evidence supplied by her colleagues and in the press, believes that she has been detained and is currently likely being held in one of the ‘political re-education centers’ set up by the Chinese government in the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang.[i]
Rahile Dawut is a well-known and respected professor and scholar, a long-standing researcher of Uyghur culture and folklore, a prolific author and global project leader, and active mentor and colleague who has collaborated with many of our peers in the region. Her own ethnography and recordings stand by themselves as an archive of Uyghur cultural heritage, and she has done immense work to bring these traditions to a global stage in a series of national and international projects.[ii]
The academic community of CESS represents an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars committed to the free and open dissemination of knowledge in and about Central Eurasia. We were dismayed to learn of her disappearance, and consider that the Chinese government is ultimately responsible for her safety. We also know well that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs (both public figures as well as private citizens) are being held in China’s ‘re-education centers’ in Xinjiang.[iii] Such detention constitutes a major violation of human rights and freedoms, and in the case of our academic colleagues, also a clear and obvious disregard for academic freedom, a trend which is unfortunately increasing in many parts of the world today. The academic community of CESS condemns these detentions and wishes for the safe return of our colleague.
UPDATE: Dawut’s daughter has created a video testimony as part of the Uyghur Pulse Project which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlyAnTE4q58&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR1-M_NoIfoRgU1WWen0QRP7pgJ93u5FfLfYWYslHmdntVLGGfsKYE8eGAs
This statement has been co-signed by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).
[i] To raise attention and awareness, CESS has recently published a blog on the issues which contains links to further sources of news and scholarship, that may be found here.
UPDATE: Scholars at Risk has published a call to action which can be found here: https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/actions/rahile-dawut-china/
[ii] We thank Rachel Harris for her help in the preparation of this statement.
[iii] For a recent report on these camps with contributions from CESS members see, for example, What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps by Rian Thum or China is Treating Islam Like a Mental Illness by Sigal Samuel.
Statement concerning the detention of doctoral student Xiyue Wang
October 13, 2017
On behalf of the members of the Central Eurasian Studies Society we write to express our strong concern over the conviction by the Iranian judiciary of our fellow academic researcher Xiyue Wang on charges of espionage.
Wang is a doctoral student in history at Princeton University, USA. He was in Iran conducting archival research for his doctoral dissertation on 19th and early 20th century Iranian history. Wang was arrested in Iran in August 2016 and in April 2017 he was sentenced to ten years in prison. His case is currently under appeal.
The arrest and detention of academic researchers is of great concern to all our members. His arrest and secret trial constitute an infringement of intellectual freedom and sets a worrisome precedent for Iran’s openness to the world.
We petition for the immediate release of Xiyue Wang.
You may also wish to refer to information about Xiyue Wang’s case on Princeton University’s website.
CESS Taskforce on Fieldwork Safety – Final Report
March 6, 2016
Following incidents in 2014 involving researchers of CESS’ scholarly community, CESS in 2015 created the Task Force on Fieldwork Safety (TFFS). The TFFS’s charge was to learn scholars’ perceptions of risks and safety concerns involved with conducting fieldwork in Central Eurasia, to assess the conditions for conducting such fieldwork, and to provide recommendations for CESS, as an academic society, to consider.
The TFFS has issued its final report — a document sure to prompt important discussions in our various scholarly communities. We look forward to carrying these conversations forward, as they are crucial to our common scholarly purpose.
As this represents a tremendous amount of (volunteer!) work, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the members of the TFFS for all they have contributed:
Dr. Noor Borbieva, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne
Dr. Krista Goff, Department of History, University of Miami
Dr. John Heathershaw, Department of Politics, University of Exeter (Chair)
Dr. Jennifer Murtazashvilli, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Chris Whitsel, Department of Sociology, North Dakota State University
Immediate Past-President, CESS
Statement of the Central Eurasian Studies Society Regarding Academic Freedom in Turkey (English and Turkish)
January 21, 2016
The Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) expresses its deep concern about the treatment of academics who signed a petition critiquing the Turkish government’s policies toward minority Kurds. CESS stands in solidarity with all academics who wish in their private or professional capacity to express opinions about important matters of the day, including political ones. CESS is distressed by reports that those who expressed their opinion via the petition could face prosecution for alleged “terrorist organization propaganda.” CESS is further concerned about a climate of intimidation that signatories of the petition are reported to face in their university environments. Turkey has enjoyed a strong reputation as a country that values pluralism and vibrant public debate, and the aforementioned developments risk destroying that reputation — a reputation that has been an important basis for Turkey’s standing in the world and its progress and prosperity. As a scholarly association, we stand firmly behind the principle of academic freedom and call upon Turkish authorities to respect this principle without condition.
21 Ocak 2016
Bizler, önemli bulduğu güncel konularda kişisel ve/veya profesyonel görüş -siyasi olanlar dahil- bildiren tüm dünya akademisyenleriyle dayanışma içindeki Orta Avrasya Çalışmaları Derneği (CESS) üyeleri olarak, Türk Hükümetinin akademisyenlerine karşı tutumundan rahatsızız. Hükümetin Kürt azınlığa yönelik politikasını imzalı dilekçe yayınlayarak eleştiren akademisyenlere yönelik yürütülen karalama kampanyasını kınamaktayız. Görüşlerini adı geçen dilekçe ile bildirenler hakkında ‘terörist örgütlenme propagandası’ iddiası ile kovuşturma açıldığına dair belgeler bizi ziyadesiyle rahatsız etmektedir. CESS üyeleri ayrıca, dilekçeyi imzalayanlara karşı kendi üniversitelerinde korkutma/yıldırma ortamının yaratılmasından fevkalade tedirgindir. Kalkınma hamleleriyle özel bir refah modeli oluşturduğunu ve kamuya açık şeffaf tartışma ortamını çoğulculuk ilkesiyle desteklediğini düşündüğümüz Türkiye’nin dünya ölçeğindeki itibarının, bu menfi gelişmelerden zarar gördüğü de aşikârdır. Akademik özgürlük ilkelerinin arkasında durma kararlılığındaki akademik bir dernek olarak, Türk yetkililerden bu ilkelere kayıtsız şartsız saygı göstermelerini talep etmekteyiz.