The symposium was organized at Zeytinburnu Art and Culture Center by Istanbul Peace Platform that also includes the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation. It brought together East Turkistanis in Turkey. Some of the Uyghur women in traditional garbs could not hold back their tears when looking at the photographs of the last mass killing in the Uyghur region. Dozens of academics of East Turkistani origin from various countries participated in the symposium.
Delivering the opening speech, IHH President Bülent Yıldırım noted that the platform organized the symposium to call the attention of the world to pressures and human rights breaches in East Turkistan. He said: “We want China to open East Turkistan to the world public and want activists, nongovernmental organizations and human rights agencies to hold in situ inspections in the region. Numerous massacres and torture practices unknown to the world public opinion were committed in East Turkistan. We want to reveal these and put an end to human rights violations there. Muslim Uyghur people should be allowed to live a humane life. We hereby call on the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League.”
“Do something for East Turkistan. It is time for China to negotiate with the Islamic world and work out a solution to the problem. East Turkistan is a bleeding wound in the Muslim world. China will suffer the most damage unless the situation gets better.”
Hüsnü Tuna, Konya MP with the AK Party, said: “Pressure, massacres, and torture have ruled in the East Turkistani land for six decades. I have been closely following the problem for the last 35 years. We are under great responsibility against the ongoing human rights violations in the region. The silence of Western countries is understandable, but we must do something different. We are not showing our reaction. The East Turkistani problem should be brought up at any international platform.”
“We can demand certain changes on the East Turkistani question by playing our political and economic cards against China,” Erol Erdoğan, Istanbul provincial head of Saadet Party, said.
Bayram Kocaman, Istanbul provincial head of Büyük Birlik Party, stated that they should not remain silent against mass killings in East Turkistan.
Abdülhakim Han Tekli, member of the executive board of the East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association, said: “To Islamic world China is like a sheep disguised as a wolf. It is a major threat. Silence of the international community will only encourage China.”
The first session began under the leadership of MAZLUMDER Chairman Ahmet Faruk Ünsal.
Professor Alimcan İnayet noted in his paper that the Uyghur have been subjected to all kinds of pressure and human rights violations.
China regularly resettle non-Uyghur people to East Turkistan to turn the Uyghur a minority group in the region, İnayet said, “Chinese communists have implemented various policies such as resettlement of population in East Turkistan, restrictions on the use of the Uyghur language at public places, change of the language script, education in Chinese, bilingual education, ban on births, restrictions on religious observance, etc.”
İnayet recalled that East Turkistan is the largest region in the Central Asia after Kazakhstan with an area of 1,644,000 square-meters and is quite rich in natural resources.
“East Turkistan is an autonomous region through in name only. However, autonomous rights and powers are heavily violated,” İnayet said and listed rights violations as:
“Chinese policy of encouraging population movement into the region continues. Chinese migrants in East Turkistan are shifting the demographic structure to disadvantage of the Uyghur population and causing serious social problems.
Torture and hanging continue
Systematic torture still exists. Death sentence is implemented as punishment mostly for political crimes.
Migration to the region is ongoing, while birth policy is strictly implemented despite reactions. The Uyghur have the right to only two children. Women have to get permission to become pregnant. Couples with more than two children are forced to pay high fines. Families resort to abortion to have male children.
Uyghur language banned
The Chinese government suspended education in the Uyghur language that was in practice until the 1990s and replaced it with Chinese education. Although the government claims it is aiming to raise the educational and cultural level of the region, the real reason it to step up assimilation of the local people.
Basic human rights such as use of mother tongue, education in native language, freedom of thought and expression and right to reproduction are disregarded. Web sites, including search engine Google, are censored by Chinese Internet police.
Restrictions on religious practices
Freedom of religion is restricted. According to the Chinese constitution every citizen has the right to adhere to a religion or not. However, East Turkistanis are deprived of this right. The entire Uyghur population of East Turkistan is Muslim. But they are not free to observe religious rituals. Muslim public employees are banned to perform prayers and fast. Youngsters under 18 are not allowed to learn the Quran and enter mosques.
East Turkistan: ‘Forgotten Palestine’
Professor Alaedding Yalçınkaya called East Turkistan the “forgotten Palestine.” He said: “The year 1948 when occupier Israeli state was founded is also the year when East Turkistan was occupied by communists. That is why certain writers and researcher call East Turkistan as the forgotten Palestine. Maybe East Turkistan will be in a worse situation than Palestine like the lost Andalus.”
“China has subjected East Turkistani people since before the communist regime to all kinds of policies and practices that are impossible to be described with an expression more accurate than genocide. The government has recently begun to use the words “radicalism and radicals” beside “war on separatism propaganda and separatists.” And this policy consider all scholars, students of religious subjects, instructors, imams, preachers, people who want to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and people wearing Islamic clothes as potential threat. Fasting, attending mosques as well learning and teaching Islam are banned. The Chinese discriminate against the Uyghur in economic, educational, health and settlement issues.”
Dalai Lama representative expresses yearning for Tibet
Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, representative of the Dalai Lama, spoke about the Chinese pressure in Tibet with examples from his own life experiences. He said: “I am a Tibetan, but I have never seen Tibet. I was born in a refugee camp in Nepal. I year for the day we will return to Tibet, holding our heads high.
“Independent Tibet was invaded by the communist China in 1949-50. Tibetans rose against the communist Chinese administration on 10 March 1959, but were brutally repressed. My parents, like thousands of Tibetans, followed the Dalai Lama to Nepal and lived there. I was born in a refugee camp there.
About 1.2 million Tibetans died as a direct consequence of the Chinese invasion. This is one fifth of Tibet’s six million population. As a result of the Chinese destruction in Tibet only eight of the 6,259 monasteries in the pre-1959 era have survived.
Tibet is going through the hardest days in the country’s history. The Chinese government is carrying out policies damaging our religion, culture, language and life style. China has lost legitimacy in Tibet. It can only reestablish its legitimacy by accepting the call by the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama for true autonomy in Tibet.”
Tümtürk thanks PM Erdoğan
Seyit Tümtürk, head of the East Turkistan Culture and Solidarity Association and deputy head of the World Uyghur Congress, expressed disappointment at the world’s silence against developments in East Turkistan. He recalled that Turkey showed the most vocal reaction to the mass killings in Urumqi on 26 June 2009 and thanked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for defining the events quasi-genocide.
Tümtürk pointed to the explanations of eye witnesses and said: “It is a crime to read the Quran in East Turkistan. Lines of communications are cut. Fasting is banned. Every East Turkistani is at the constant threat of death. Public workers who go on pilgrimage are fired. The Chinese consider East Turkistani allegiance a crime. East Turkistanis are viewed with hatred and contempt. Police harass people with arbitrary practices. And they interrogate residents as they see fit. No one is safe from persecution. The 35 million people in the region live in an environment not sure of the future. Relatives of those detained or killed are in a deplorable situation. Shortly, a humanitarian tragedy is ruling in the region.”
MAZLUMDER Chairman Ünsal noted that social and political life in China remained in the tight grip of the state although the country had liberalized its economy and opened it to private sector.
“Chinese authorities are inclined and try to expose any crime as liked to terrorism. Even ordinary crimes are linked to terrorism and result in severe punishments, including hanging. Death sentences, detentions and torture during detention have become common,” Ünsal added.
SYMPOSIUM TO CONTINUE TOMORROW
The second session of the symposium will be held tomorrow. Professor Dru Galadney, Fatma Bostan Ünsal, Assist. Prof. Erkin Emet, Dr. Yang Jianli, prominent journalist Fehmi Hüveydi, İzzeddin el-Verdani, Siraciddin Aziz Şemseddin, Att. Cihat Gökdemir, Ahmet Emin Dağ, Att. Gülden Sönmez, Örkeş Devlet and Assist. Prof. Dr. Erkin Ekrem will present their papers at tomorrow’s session.