Genocide Survivors Conclude US Speaking Tour


April 12, 2023 | 9:00 a.m. EST
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

Two courageous genocide survivors, Ms. Gulbahar Haitiwaji and Ms. Qelbinur Sidik, have concluded a series of public engagements and briefings for U.S. policymakers and United Nations diplomats. UHRP staff accompanied them on a speaking tour of six U.S. cities.

“These brave eyewitnesses to the camps’ brutalities will not let the world ignore the ongoing genocide,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “We thank Gulbahar and Qelbinur for speaking to policymakers and the American public despite their trauma, and despite the Chinese government’s threats of reprisals against their family members back home.” 

Upon arrival in the U.S., the two human-rights defenders published an op-ed to explain their duty to speak up, now that they have received safe haven in Europe, As Survivors of China’s Genocide, We Must Bear Witness.

The visit began with the survivors’ testimony at the March 23 Congressional hearing on “The Chinese Communist Party’s Ongoing Uyghur Genocide,” held by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. The witnesses opened the hearing with harrowing testimony describing conditions in the camps as well as the traumatic impact of mistreatment. Their testimony was followed by testimony by UHRP Board Chair and USCIRF Chair Nury Turkel; Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide Director Naomi Kikoler; and China Studies Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Adrian Zenz. 

While in Washington, the survivors had three days of meetings with the State Department and Congressional offices, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) members Rep. James McGovern and Rep. Chris Smith. The witnesses were the featured speakers at an event co-hosted by UHRP and the International Republican Institute (IRI). Throughout the trip, they were accompanied by Ms. Gulhumar Haitiwaji, a French citizen and tireless campaigner for her mother’s release over the agonizing three years of her mother’s detention in China.

In Sacramento, the survivors were recognized by the California legislative assembly just before the unanimous vote to approve Resolution HR 25, “Condemning the Human Rights Violations against the Uyghur People.” They also met with supporters in Los Angeles, including Jewish World Watch Board and staff, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abe Cooper.

Ms. Gulbahar and Ms. Qelbinur testified before the State Senate at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, as legislators considered Senate Bill 1040 to combat forced organ harvesting in China. They joined Texas Senate members for a press conference to speak to the realities of the Uyghur genocide for assembled journalists, alongside UHRP staff and the Houston-based Minaret Foundation, which co-hosted the survivors’ Texas visit. 

In New York April 3–5, the delegation met with UN missions to provide their eyewitness testimony and urge stronger action at the UN level.  

During their time in New York, UHRP held a book talk on Ms. Gulbahar’s memoir, hosted by Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice and the Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom. The survivors spoke at an NGO Forum at the UN Church Center was co-organized by Justice for All, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, The Manhattan College Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center, and the Islamic Society of North America, to urge action at the UN. The survivors also met with the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and received an invitation from HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov to provide their testimony at HRF’s Oslo Freedom Forum in June.

“These two courageous survivors were able to speak directly with policymakers about the urgent need for action to rescue Uyghur refugees who are at risk of deportation to China,” said Louisa Greve, UHRP Director of Global Advocacy

“In their Congressional testimony, they asked the U.S. to impose meaningful sanctions on tech companies that built the government’s ethnic-profiling surveillance regime, and to stop the flow of international investment to Chinese companies complicit in forced labor and the high-tech tools of the genocide,” added Julie Millsap, UHRP Government Relations Manager.

Their appeals reinforced the 27 policy recommendations in the hearing testimony provided by Mr. Nury Turkel, co-founder and Board Chair of UHRP.

Ms. Gulbahar’s memoir, “How I Survived a Chinese ‘Reeducation’ Camp,” is the first book providing an eyewitness account of the brutalities that Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples have suffered both inside and outside detention centers. Gulbahar lives in France with her family. Ms. Qelbinur’s story has been published as a manga detailing her ordeal. Qelbinur lives in the Netherlands with her daughter.

Towards the end of their visit, Ms. Gulbahar and Ms. Qelbinur spoke with the Washington Post, who published an editorial detailing Ms. Gulbahar’s case and highlighting the need for continued attention to the issue to hold the Chinese government accountable for abuses.

Read more: 

An eyewitness reveals how China is brainwashing the Uyghurs, by the Washington Post Editorial Board, April 9, 2023

UHRP Welcomes Survivors to the US to Give First-Hand Testimony on Atrocity Crimes Against Women Inside and Outside China’s Concentration Camps, March 22, 2023

As Survivors of China’s Genocide, We Must Bear Witness, By Gulbahar Haitwaji and Qelbinur Sidik, in The Diplomat, March 22, 2023

What has Happened to me: Testimony of an Uzbek Woman, by Qelbinur Sidik and Shimuzu Tomomi

‘Our souls are dead’: How I survived a Chinese ‘re-education’ camp for Uyghurs, By Gulbahar Haitiwaji, in The Guardian, January 12, 2021