US lawmakers nominate Uyghur rights groups for Nobel Peace Prize

Two U.S. lawmakers nominated two Uyghur rights organizations for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in a rebuke to China just as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics got underway.

Reps. Tom Suozzi of New York and Chris Smith of New Jersey, co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Uyghur Caucus, wrote a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee saying that the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and Campaign for Uyghurs, both based in Washington, D.C., have brought attention to the Chinese government’s abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang.

Both organizations have strongly condemned China for its violence against the Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities and have lobbied the U.S. and other countries to take action to stop the genocide of the mostly Muslim peoples.

“The UHRP and the Campaign for Uyghurs have made significant contributions to building fraternity between nations and promoting peace by defending the human rights of the Uyghur, Kazakh and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has targeted with genocide and other crimes against humanity,” they wrote, according to a report in the New York Post on Thursday.

Suozzi and Smith formed the Congressional Uyghur Caucus in July 2021 to support legislation to address the human rights abuses in Xinjiang. They are also members of the bipartisan U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which previously urged Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, to postpone the 2022 Beijing Games and to relocate them if China did not end its persecution of minority groups.

“Put simply, the Chinese Communist Party has committed genocide against the Uyghur people,” Suozzi said, according to a statement issued by the Campaign for Uyghurs on Friday. “For years, these atrocities went unnoticed by the public eye. But through the heroic work of the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the Campaign for Uyghurs, and countless others, they brought this genocide front and center for the world to see.”

Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, said the nomination sent a message to China that the Games “will not be able to cover up the genocide against Uyghurs,” he told RFA.

“It’s truly a tremendous encouragement to the UHRP staff and board, and gives much-needed hope and inspiration to Uyghurs, to know that the work of Uyghur groups have been elevated for Oslo’s attention,” UHRP board chairman Nury Turkel, who is also vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said.

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, was equally enthusiastic about the nomination of her organization.

“Regardless of the outcome of the nomination, the fact that the Uyghur issue will be discussed along with the Nobel Peace Prize nomination is a great victory for the Uyghur movement,” she told RFA.

China is believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in detention camps in Xinjiang. The government has said the facilities are vocation training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that it has mistreated and tortured incarcerated Muslims.

The U.S. government and parliaments in several nations have declared the abuses against the Uyghurs, which include mass surveillance, detentions, forced labor, sexual violence and forced sterilizations of Uyghur detainees, a genocide and crimes against humanity.

The U.S. and several other Western nations refused to send diplomats to the Games in protest.

Hundreds of Uyghur protesters demonstrated in Turkey’s capital Istanbul on Friday in a last-ditch call for a boycott of the Olympics, urging participants in Beijing to speak out against the Chinese government’s maltreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

About 50,000 Uyghurs are believed to live in Turkey — the largest Uyghur diaspora outside Central Asia.

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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