About Us

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.

Background

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.

Staff

Omer Kanat

Director

Mr. Omer Kanat is Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a human rights research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining UHRP in 2017, he was Director of the International Uyghur and Human Rights and Democracy Foundation. From 1999 to 2009 Mr. Kanat was Senior Editor at Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service, where he covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, edited Uyghur-language news, conducted exclusive interviews with prominent figures in Inner Asia, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and reported on breaking news around the world. Prior to his work at Radio Free Asia, he was Editor and later Senior Editor at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service.  

Mr. Kanat helped found UHRP in 2003, as well as the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) in 2004. He has served as Vice President of the World Uyghur Congress since 2006 and Chairman of the Executive Committee since 2017. He was also WUC’sInternational Outreach Coordinator from 2014 to 2016. He holds a B.A. in History from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Science and Literature, with a focus on political history, and studied at the Munich Institute of Economics and Trade. He was born in Ghulja city in East Turkestan. Mr. Kanat is fluent in English, German, Uyghur, Turkish, Persian, Tajik, Dari, and Uzbek, and is functionally proficient in Kyrgyz and Kazakh.

Omer Kanat can be contacted by email at kanato[at]uhrp.org and by phone at +1.202.478.1901 (office) or +1.202.790.1795 (cell).

Henryk Szadziewski
Senior Researcher

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
Project Coordinator

Nicole Morgret is the Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Project Coordinator.  She has extensive experience 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  +1-202-478-1920

Zubayra Shamseden
Chinese Outreach Coordinator

Ms. Zubayra Shamseden is Chinese Outreach Coordinator at the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a documentation and advocacy group based in Washington, DC. 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 Information Officer, Researcher and Translator at the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation (IUHRDF). She has worked in multicultural education and community liaison for nonprofit, academic and government organizations in Australia and in the U.S. for over two decades. Ms. Shamseden is a 2016-2018 Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement's (IGE) Center for Women, Faith & Leadership (CWFL). She has a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science from East China Normal University (华东师范大学), in Shanghai, China; a certification in Chinese from the Industrial University of Xinjiang; a diploma in Russian language and literature from the State University of Eastern Kazakhstan (Восточно-Казахстанский Государственный Университет); and a graduate diploma in Information Studies and a master’s degree in International Studies, both from the University of South Australia, where 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.

Find UHRP’s Chinese-language site at https://chinese.uhrp.org/ and follow on Twitter at 维吾尔人权项目@UHRP_Chinese 

 Zubayra Shamseden can be contacted by email at zshams[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1.202.478.1903. 

Louisa Greve
Consultant, Director for External Affairs

Ms. Louisa Greve serves as UHRP’s director for external affairs. She is an expert on human rights in China and an experienced non-profit advisor. Her first visit to East Turkestan was in 1988, and she has traveled and worked in China since 1980. She is currently Washington Fellow for CSW, a UK-based advocacy group promoting freedom of religion or belief for all peoples and faiths. Ms. Greve was formerly Vice President for Programs and East Asia Director at the National Endowment for Democracy, with previous experience at Special Olympics International, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the United Nations Development Program. Ms. Greve has served on the Amnesty International board, the Virginia Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the International Advisory Committee of the Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China. She is the author of several book chapters on ethnic issues and human rights in China, and has testified before Congress on democracy in Asia.

Ms. Greve can be contacted by email at LGreve[at]uhrp.org or by phone at +1-434-264-1925 (mobile). 

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