UHRP EXPLAINER: Uyghur activists ask world to #HearUyghurs


For immediate release
April 24, 2020 2:20 pm EDT
Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) +1 (202) 505-1076 (Dr. Elise Anderson)

The #HearUyghurs Campaign: On April 17, Uyghur diaspora activist Arslan Hidayat launched a new social-media campaign with the hashtag #HearUyghurs. The campaign highlights the trauma experienced by the worldwide Uyghur diaspora. The international community has failed to act to end the cultural genocide in their homeland, East Turkistan. Uyghur diaspora members are posting scores of videos that look like the testimonials they have been sharing online for years, with just one catch: the videos are completely silent.

Twitter user @NurKasghar’s April 19 contribution to the #HearUyghurs campaign. As of April 24, the completely silent video has been viewed close to 6,000 times. See original Tweet here.

Why It Matters: For years, Uyghur diaspora members have felt that international leaders and institutions have ignored their calls to end Chinese government repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic and/or Muslim-majority groups in East Turkistan.

  • Uyghurs began speaking about their disappeared family members in real time in early 2017, but the world was slow to believe them.
  • The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has further silenced Uyghur voices, as media coverage across the globe has focused on Coronavirus.
  • Uyghurs abroad also have to fight for their voices to be heard amidst Chinese government harassment and a worldwide increase in Chinese state-sponsored disinformation.

Twitter user @Alfred_Uyghur’s April 20 post in the #HearUyghurs campaign. Fourteen hours after uploading, his video had already been viewed more than 12,000 times. Original tweet here.

Campaign founder Arslan Hidayat shared his motivation for launching the campaign with UHRP, and diaspora activist Abdugheni Sabit told us a bit about why he wanted to take part:

  • Arslan Hidayat criticized world bodies such as the UN, which recently appointed China to a controversial seat on its Human Rights Council: “Uyghurs have been playing by the rules. . . . The [international community] say they hear us, but through their actions they are supporting China in all that they do against the Uyghurs.”
  • Abdugheni Sabit: “For years we have been highlighting the Uyghur plight, but world leaders have become deaf and don’t want to listen to our suffering. . . . Where are world leaders? Where is their humanity?”

#HearUyghur videos draw deliberate inspiration from the imagery and form of a Douyin video trend started by Uyghurs in East Turkistan in August 2019. Those videos depicted local Uyghurs crying while holding pictures of their disappeared relatives.

  • Arslan Hidayat: “In those videos Uyghurs were not saying anything, but through their body language, they were able to communicate a lot to the world. . . . It was like a message in a bottle: they shared something on a Chinese social-media platform, hoping that someone would be able to pick up their message from the other side. We’re doing the same thing.”

UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat commented: “While I applaud those world leaders who have taken steps to address the Uyghur crisis, I know that the global response thus far has been insufficient. The #HearUyghurs campaign sends a powerful message that Uyghurs around the world demand answers, and that they refuse to accept silence and inaction.”

#HearUyghurs is the latest in a series of Uyghur-led social-media campaigns. Other recent campaigns include the following:

  • #ShowThemAll (Jan 2020)
  • #VirusThreatInCamps (Jan 2020)
  • #StillNoInfo (Dec 2019)
  • #ChinaShowThemAll (Nov 2019)
  • #GoogleUyghurs (Oct 2019)
  • #ProveThe90 and #Showthe90% (Aug 2019)
  • #MeTooUyghur (Feb 2019)
  • #StandWithUyghur (Feb 2019)
    April 25: We have updated the explainer to correct earlier mistakes, including the spelling of Arslan Hidayat’s last name (Hidayat, not Hidayet) and that Hidayat was the sole founder of the #HearUyghurs movement.