Uyghur Women’s Seminar Opens in Estonia
Two Members of Parliament and an Estonian Member of the European Parliament today welcomed 50-some Uyghur women who traveled from 10 countries to participate in a seminar and training workshop on women’s participation in promoting human rights and democracy.
MP Juku-Kalle Raid highlighted the parallels between Estonians’ historical experience under Soviet occupation and the current challenges facing the Uyghurs in preserving and freely developing their identity and cultural heritage.
MP Andres Herkel recalled the first time that the situation of the Uyghurs was raised in Estonia, 11 years ago, when the Estonian National Library provided meeting space — in the same room as today’s conference — for the founding of the World Uyghur Youth Congress, which later merged with another organization to form the World Uyghur Congress. He commended the organizer of the seminar, the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation (IUHRDF), for recognizing the vital importance of women’s participation in defending human rights.
MEP Tunne Kelam recalled his experience organizing pro-democracy statements and solidarity in the 1980s when Estonia was under communist rule and encouraged the participants to have courage and persistence in their struggle for democratic rights and freedoms.
Marino Budaschin, UNPO Secretary General, called attention to a “serious and grave problem beyond the borders of East Turkestan,” the forcible return of Uyghur refugees to China. In recent high-profile cases, the governments of Cambodia, Thailand, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Myanmar have forcibly returned Uyghur refugees to China, where they are likely to face torture, unfair trials and the death penalty. He called for urgent international attention to concerns that Indonesia and Malaysia may soon similarly bow to Chinese pressure.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project has just released a detailed report this week, “They Can’t Send Me Back: Uyghur Asylum Seekers in Europe,” on the threat of refoulement of Uyghur asylum-seekers who fled to Europe in the wake of the July 5, 2009 incident and government crackdown.
Louisa Greve, Vice President for Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy, opened the three-day seminar by welcoming the participants on behalf of IUHRDF President Ms. Rebiya Kadeer and by paying tribute to the commitment and perserverence of the participants in their peaceful struggle for democratic rights in their homeland.
The seminar was organized by the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation (IUHRDF), cosponsored by the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO), supported financially by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and graciously hosted by the Estonian Parliament and the Estonian National Library in Tallinn.