What Is the UHRP?
The Uyghur Human rights Project (UHRP) was founded by the Uyghur American Association (UAA) in 2004 with a supporting grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). UHRP’s mission is to promote human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, and to raise awareness of human rights abuses that occur in East Turkestan, referred to by the Chinese authorities since 1955 as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
UHRP is a part of the Uyghur American Association, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, tax-exempt community membership organization.
What Are the UHRP’s Goals?
UHRP is a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organization. The organization focuses on promoting human rights and democracy for Uyghurs and others living in East Turkestan.
Who Are the Uyghurs?
Uyghurs (alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs, etc.) are ethnically and culturally a Turkic people living in the areas of Central Asia commonly known as East Turkestan. The area is vast, constituting one-sixth of the total land area under the control of the People’s Republic of China. The Uyghurs have a rich cultural history going back almost 4,000 years. Before embracing Islam in tenth century, Uyghurs believed in Buddhism, Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity. Today, Uyghurs practice a moderate form of Sufi Islam and lead predominantly secular lives.
East Turkestan has a rich and distinctive history, enhanced by its position along the Silk Road bridging mainland China and the ancient Arabic, Persian and European cultures to the west. Since 1949, East Turkestan has become a nuclear testing ground for the Chinese military, it is home to large numbers of Chinese military and paramilitary units, and it is the site of numerous forced labor camps administered by the Chinese authorities.
The population of approximately 19 million includes several Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic groups, of which the Uyghurs, numbering more than eight million, are the largest. As a result of Chinese government policies, the percentage of ethnic Chinese in East Turkestan has grown from four percent in 1949 to more than 40 percent at present, constituting some 7.5 million people.
Much like Tibetans, Uyghurs in East Turkestan have struggled for cultural survival in the face of a government-supported influx of Chinese migrants, as well as harsh repression of political dissent and any expression, of their distinct identity, however lawful or peaceful.
Reports from East Turkestan document a pattern of abuse including political imprisonment, torture, and disappearances. With only a few extremely rare exceptions, Uyghurs continue to be the only population in China consistently subjected to executions for political and religious offenses. Mosques are summarily closed and the Uyghur language is banned from use in schools. Uyghurs are subjected to compulsory unpaid labor on infrastructures, such as oil or gas lines to transfer East Turkestan’s resources to mainland China.
Why Is There a Need for UHRP?
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly express concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in East Turkestan. However, due to the Chinese authorities’ right controls on information, accurate and timely analysis of developments in East Turkestan is extremely difficult.
Human rights activists agree that without critical support from Uyghur-run human rights organizations, very little information from within East Turkestan will emerge. Some information collection and documentation has begun in a sporadic way in Uyghur communities across the Diaspora. It is hoped that these important contributions will be enhanced by the establishment of a human rights organization specifically focused on the Uyghur situation.
Mr. Alim A. Seytoff, Esq. is the President of Uyghur American Association (UAA) based in Washington, DC. He is also the Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP). Mr. Seytoff is one of the most prominent advocates worldwide for human rights in East Turkestan. He has been campaigning for the human rights and religious freedom of the Uyghur people since he came to the United States in 1996. He has written many articles on the political situation in East Turkestan. He has published in a number of journals including the Wall Street Journal, Asia Times, Huffington Post, Index on Censorship, and China Rights Forum. He is frequently interviewed and/or quoted by BBC World Service, Al-Jazeera, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, WNYC, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Weekly Standard, the Toronto Sun, the Australian, Al-Ahram Weekly, and the newswires. He testified many times before the U.S. Congress and briefed U.S. State Department officials on the situation in East Turkestan. Mr. Seytoff holds a B.A. degree in Chinese Studies from Xinjiang University, and another B.A. degree in Broadcast Journalism from Southern Adventist University. He has an M.A. degree in Public Policy from the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. Mr. Seytoff has received his J.D. degree from Regent University in 2006.
Henryk Szadziewski is the Senior Researcher of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. Mr. Szadziewski has a B.A. (Hons.) in Modern Chinese and Mongolian Studies from The University of Leeds, a DipTESOL from Trinity College London, and a M.Sc. (Econ.) in Development Management from The University of Wales, where he was awarded a distinction for his work on Uyghur economic, social and cultural rights. Mr. Szadziewski has authored numerous research and opinion articles on Uyghurs, Central Asia and development economics for publications such as Inner Asia, Asia Sentinel, Open Democracy, Asia Times and the Caucasian Review of International Affairs. He has spoken at academic conferences in Europe and the United States, as well as given testimony to the European Parliament on Uyghur issues. Mr. Szadziewski regularly offers commentary to broadcast and print media, such as Time, Deutsche Welle, C-SPAN, Global Post, Radio Free Asia and the Washington Times. He lived in China for five years, three of those in Kashgar, and has traveled across Central Asia. He is proficient in Mandarin, and has also studied the Uyghur language.
Henryk Szadziewski can be contacted by email at hszad[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1-202-478-1903
Greg Fay became UHRP’s Project Manager in September 2012. He worked previously for two years at the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, and for one year prior at the New York and China offices of China Labor Watch. As an undergraduate intern at Human Rights in China, Mr. Fay helped to organize a conference featuring UHRP in New York in 2006. He personally collaborated with UHRP the next year, when he obtained funding from the Watson Institute at Brown University’s Islamic Voices Fund to support a lecture at Brown about human rights abuses against the Uyghur people. He graduated from Brown University in 2007 with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and his honors thesis on bilingual education in East Turkestan was awarded a prize for East Asian Politics and Peace. Mr. Fay was subsequently awarded a Fulbright to study for one year in Urumchi, focusing his research on Han Chinese who study Uyghur language as their university major. Mr. Fay began studying Uyghur culture at the University of Hawaii during an undergraduate semester exchange program. He did Mandarin language training at Duke University in Beijing and through CET at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, and Uyghur language training at Indiana University with support from the Social Science Research Council. He speaks and writes Mandarin, and some Uyghur and French.
Greg Fay can be contacted by email at gregfay[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1-202-478-1902