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). In 2016, UHRP became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt 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.
Mr. Alim A. Seytoff can be contacted by phone at+1-202-321-2388
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.
Nicole Morgret is the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Project Coordinator. She has extensive expirece living overseas, and a background that includes work on political campaigns, in NGOs and as a teacher. Before joining UHRP she spent four years in China, including several in Nanjing earning her Master's degree from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Her undergraduate degree is from the American College of Thessaloniki.
Nicole Morgret can be contacted by email at nmorgret[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1-202-478-1902
Chinese Outreach Coordinator
Ms. Zubayra Shamseden is the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Chinese Outreach Coordinator. She has been campaigning for the human rights and political freedom of the Uyghur people since the late 1980s. Before joining UHRP, Ms. Shamseden worked as Administrative Officer, Researcher and Translator at the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation. Ms. Shamseden has translated professionally between Chinese, Uyghur, English and Russian languages for nonprofit and government work in the US and Australia for over two decades. She also has experience with multicultural education and community liaison work. Ms. Shamseden has a certification in Chinese from the Industrial University of Xinjiang, a bachelor’s degree in Information Science from East China Normal University, Shanghai, China, a diploma in Russian language and literature from the State University of Western Kazakhstan, and a master’s degree in International Studies from the University of South Australia, for which she focused on the modern history of Uyghur human rights. She is fluent in English, Uyghur, Chinese, Uzbek and Russian and has a working knowledge of Turkish.
Zubayra Shamseden can be contacted by email at zshams[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1-202-478-1903