Uyghur protest outside UN headquarter marks 15th anniversary of Urumchi Massacre

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15 years of Urumqi Riots
Urumqi massacre (Photo - Web)

On the 15th anniversary of the 2009 Urumqi Massacre, Uyghur Muslims gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to commemorate the event and protest ongoing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, also known as East Turkistan.

The demonstration, organized by global Uyghur diaspora communities including the World Uyghur Congress and Campaign for Uyghurs, highlighted the persistence oppressive and suppressive policies against Uyghurs and other minorities in China.

Abdul Hakim Idris, executive director of the Centre for Uyghur Studies in Washington, D.C., said, “Today, we remember the massacre of July 5, 2009, in Urumqi. This marked the beginning of the current genocide.” He said that the Chinese government’s initial war on terror has evolved into a “war on Uyghurs,” resulting in millions being held in concentration camps.

The protest comes amid reports of intensified surveillance and securitization in Xinjiang since the 2009 incident where several Uyghurs protested against Chinese oppression after reports emerged of the harassment of Uyghur workers in Guangdong province. The situation escalated when Chinese security forces employed severe measures, resulting in the deaths of nearly 160 people and injuries to thousands.

Uyghurs

By July 2010, Chinese authorities had installed over 30,000 close-circuit cameras in Urumqi city alone to monitor Uyghurs. This surveillance has reportedly expanded across the region, encompassing facial recognition technology, collection of biometric data, GPS tracking of vehicles, and installation of spyware on Uyghurs’ smartphones.

Zumretay Arkin, Director of Global Advocacy at the World Uyghur Congress, added, “Since 2017, the Chinese government has been conducting a genocide against my people. Over 3 million Uyghurs and Turkic people have been detained in internment camps, where they face torture, abuse, and other atrocities.”

The Chinese government has justified these actions as part of its “Strike Hard” campaign, aimed at combating what it terms “the three evil forces: separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism.” However, human rights organizations and Uyghur activists argue that these measures amount to systematic repression and cultural erasure.

Despite China’s efforts, the plight of the Uyghurs has gained international attention. Various governments, international agencies, think tanks, and human rights organizations have expressed concern about the situation. The U.S. government passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in 2020 in response to these concerns.

As the anniversary protest demonstrates, the issue remains contentious on the international stage. While China may have succeeded in mobilizing some international opinion in its favor, activists continue to call for greater accountability and action from the global community, warning that China may one day face consequences for its actions.

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