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We want the International Criminal Court to Investigate China for Genocide—Uyghur leader Salih Hudayar

Salih Hudayar - Prime Minister of the East Turkestan Govt-in-exile, and the founder of East Turkestan National Awakening Movement (Photo: Twitter)

The United Nations recently detailed human rights violations in East Turkestan—also called Xinjiang, spotlighting China’s abuses. However, other than the Western countries, few nations criticised Beijing. Also, there is complete silence from the Muslim world which is astonishing considering that the Uyghurs are a Muslim minority.

Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed East Turkistan Government-in-Exile, and the founder of East Turkestan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM), has been advocating independence of East Turkestan from China.

In an exclusive interview to India Narrative, Hudayar speaks about the UN report on Xinjiang, the silence of the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Muslim countries such as Pakistan & Turkey. He also talks about the counter-measures that the Govt-in-exile plans.

Excerpts from the interview:

IN: On 1 September 2022, the UN released a detailed report on China’s human rights abuses against its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang. How do you view the report and why has the UN stopped short of using the word ‘genocide’, when mass sterilization has been reported?

SH: The global East Turkestan diaspora is disappointed by the delay and overall weakness of the UN report. We are outraged by the report’s deliberate failure to acknowledge the ongoing genocide of our people. Overall, the UN report comes out in a much-awaited but much-disappointed way. It doesn’t seriously address one of the most horrific crimes in our century in a fair and just manner.

The report deliberately fails to mention genocide to define the actual nature and severity of the crisis in East Turkistan. Instead, it serves various interests of China in a self-serving and face-saving way. It also tries to get China off the hook for being held accountable for its ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan.

IN: What action is your administration planning to take based on this UN report?

SH: Back in July 2021, our government and the ETNAM filed a legal complaint against China, at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for genocide and other crimes against humanity. Since then, we have submitted three additional dossiers of evidence, but failed to move the ICC to launch an investigation due to lack of strong concern by the UN and world governments. However, given that the UN Human Rights report stating that China’s atrocities in East Turkistan “may constitute crimes against humanity,” we are following up with the ICC and urging governments and parliaments to call for an immediate investigation.

In addition, we are also trying to persuade sympathetic governments and organizations to bring the East Turkistan issue to the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly as well as the UN Security Council. We are hoping to find a sympathetic government, like Gambia in the case of the Rohingya refugees, that will file a legal complaint against China at the ICC. In addition, we are actively reaching out to governments obtain recognition of East Turkistan as an Occupied Country, like Tibet.

IN: Since the report has been overlooked by the OIC, Pakistan, Turkey and other Muslim countries, why do you think China is getting a free pass on the Uyghur issue?

SH: To answer simply, the Muslim world is silent on China’s atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic people because of their close economic relations with China. China has been effectively using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to achieve its neo-imperialist dreams of expansion throughout South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Through the BRI, China has been buying the silence of the Muslim world and OIC members, especially countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Turkic Central Asian Republics, many of who have deported many Uyghurs.

IN: Both Pakistan and Turkey have been considered torch bearers of Islamophobia even as they have deported Uyghurs to China. Why do you think Pakistan is helping China, or Turkey is facilitating China?

SH: Besides close economic relations with China, Pakistan considers itself an “all-weather ally” of China and Pakistan. It is especially reliant on Chinese funding and cooperation to keep itself afloat. Pakistan also sees China as an important ally to help Pakistan advance its claims over Kashmir as well as pushing back against perceived security threats from India. For that reason, Pakistan has long been cooperating with China to persecute the Uyghurs.

In fact, since the mid-1990s Pakistani intelligence and Islamist organizations have secretly been cooperating with China to cultivate the so-called “Uyghur Islamists and jihadists” to help China hijack and portray East Turkistan’s struggle for national independence as a transnational “Islamist Jihadist movement.”

Pakistan has also deported many Uyghurs, while the remaining Uyghurs in Pakistan are routinely harassed by Pakistani security forces and prevented from speaking out against the atrocities that their kin in East Turkistan are facing. While Turkey shares linguistic, cultural and even historical ties to East Turkistan, its position on East Turkistan had been largely ambiguous until the Erdogan regime came to power. Despite being home to the largest Uyghur diaspora outside of Central Asia, Turkey has been selling out East Turkistan to China to achieve its own geopolitical interests in addition to securing tens of billions of dollars of Chinese loans and investments.

In October 2010, China and Turkey signed a strategic cooperation agreement, including in the fields of security and intelligence cooperation. Following this agreement and the eruption of the Syrian conflict, Turkey cooperated with China to secretly smuggle out 20,000 to 30,000 Uyghurs from East Turkistan into the battlefields of Syria to use as proxies. After this joint secret operation, China used the so-called “Uyghur jihadists” in Syria as a propaganda to legitimize its oppression as so-called “anti-terrorism” efforts, while Turkey used them as “cannon fodder” against the Assad regime and Kurds. Then in May 2014 China officially launched the ongoing Uyghur genocide as a “People’s War Against Terrorism,” pointing to the so-called “Uyghurs jihadists” as a justification for continuing Chinese atrocities in East Turkistan.

While numerous Western governments and parliaments have recognized the ongoing genocide in East Turkistan, Turkey has refused to do so. On the contrary, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made it clear way back in 2017 that “Turkey sees China’s security as its own security,” and that it “will not allow any activities that undermine China to be carried out.” We believe that China is using Turkey to influence and control Uyghur organizations and diaspora communities across the world as many Uyghur organizations receive funding and have close cooperation with Turkish entities that have deep links to the Turkish government and its intelligence apparatus.

IN: In 2009, Pakistan’s biggest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) signed an MOU with the Communist Party of China (CPC) where JI extended its support to the One China Policy and that both parties will collaborate on the issue of justice, development, security and solidarity. Does this MoU have any effect on the Uyghurs?

SH: The JI’s cooperation, through the Pakistani intelligence, with China dates back much earlier, as mentioned earlier many of the so-called “Uyghur Jihadists and Islamists” cultivated by Chinese intelligence received “Islamic education” in madrassas run by the JI in Lahore in the mid-to-late 1990s. Some of them are the leaders of the Uyghur Islamist organizations in Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan and other places. Prior to 1998, the East Turkistan national independence movement was free of the transnational Islamist-Jihadist ideology and had been gaining solidarity from the international community.

However, Chinese intelligence utilized Islamist groups in Pakistan like the JI to cultivate leaders of so-called “Uyghur Jihadists,” later sending them to Afghanistan where they became aligned with Islamist groups like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. China’s cooperation with the JI was part of a long strategy by the Chinese government to undermine and deny solidarity and support for East Turkistan’s national independence by portraying the East Turkistan issue as a transnational jihadist issue. After the fabrication of so-called Islamist Uyghur Jihadists, and especially post September 11, 2001, China has been using the false pretext of “anti-terrorism” to wage a genocide on Uyghurs and other Turkic people.

Also Read: The Che Guevara of South Asia: Allah Nazar Baloch – From physician to freedom fighter