UHRP Publishes East Turkistan Language Guide and Graphics for Journalists and Researchers


December 21, 2022 | 7:00 a.m. EDT
For Immediate Release
Contact: Omer Kanat +1 (202) 819-0598, Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project’s (UHRP) new work, Decolonizing the Discussion of Uyghurs: Recommendations for Journalists and Researchers, offers a guide to rendering the Uyghur language into Latin script, reporting Uyghur personal names, and using Uyghur versions of geographical locations. In addition, we present four free-to-use graphics reflecting the political and physical geography of the region.

“Uyghurs are asking for our own names and the landscape of our homeland to be respected,” said Omer Kanat, UHRP Executive Director, in releasing the report. “UHRP asks that everyone think twice about the colonial names imposed on our homeland and our people.”

“We are suffering an ongoing genocide. I hope the UHRP guide will help journalists and researchers to take the extra step to recognize and use our own Uyghur names, and our historic Uyghur-language place names,” said Mustafa Aksu, UHRP Program Manager.

The guide is not intended to exclude other Uyghur-directed interpretations; nevertheless, it is intended to respond to the Chinese government’s well-documented erasure of Uyghur language use in public life, and to foreground Uyghur versions of names and toponyms

Use of Uyghur and Turkic versions for personal names and geographical locations recognizes the language and owners of the land before the imposition of the Chinese Communist Party administration in 1949.

The guide notes the need to decolonize the regional toponyms. UHRP recommends researchers reconsider using the colonial term “Xinjiang,” meaning “new frontier,” and to refer to the region using the names used by Uyghurs themselves: “the Uyghur homeland,” “the Uyghur Region,” and “East Turkistan.” “East Turkistan” is widely used among Uyghurs in the Uyghur language as “Sherqiy Türkistan.”

Decolonizing the Discussion of Uyghurs was reviewed in draft form by four scholars, three drawn from the Uyghur community. As a Uyghur-led organization, UHRP has a responsibility to encourage foreign-language commentary on Uyghurs to recognize Uyghur personal names, toponyms, and other references as a starting point.

Read more:

China’s Effort to Silence the Sound of Uyghur, UHRP op-ed in The Diplomat, May 16, 2019

UHRP Report: Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism: Abduweli Ayup and the Movement for Uyghur Mother Tongue-Based Education, May 16, 2019

Remarks: Uyghur Linguistic Rights Under Assault: Uyghur Language & Cultural Rights In East Turkistan, Omer Kanat, Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, Mar 16, 2018

International Uyghur Language Day 2017: Linguistic rights a cornerstone in protecting Uyghur identity, UHRP Statement, Jun 14, 2017

Uyghurs Rally Around Language in Face of Pressures From China, Radio Free Asia, Jun 15, 2017