CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT: Uyghur Mother Tongue Rights in China – Perspectives, Challenges and Policy

Press Release – For immediate release
05 February 2014
Contact: World Uyghur Congress www.uyghurcongress.org
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or contact@uyghurcongress.org

WUC LogoThe World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is pleased to announce that it will be holding a conference on 21 February 2014 in Paris, France entitled ‘Uyghur Mother Tongue Rights in China – Perspectives, Challenges and Policy.’ This will coincide with the 15th Anniversary of UNESCO’s International Mother Tongue Day, and will be held in collaboration with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), PEN Uyghur Centre and French PEN. The conference will bring together various stakeholders to discuss the situation facing the Uyghur language in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The conference will be held at the following location and time:

Centre de Conférences Capital 8
32 rue Monceau – 75008 PARIS
9:30 – 13:30

The WUC seeks on to bring together experts, scholars, NGO representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the current situation facing the Uyghur language in the PRC so as to identify the problems, strategies, challenges and prospective goals for future amelioration and preservation of the language. The date of the conference has been especially chosen as 21 February 2014 so as to coincide with the 15th Anniversary of UNESCO’s International Mother Tongue Day and thus use this important day to highlight the threats currently facing the Uyghur language.

Following the conference, there will be a protest march called ‘Let me speak my mother tongue’ which will commence at 14:00 from the Chinese Embassy in Paris and ending at 18:00 outside UNESCO at the following addresses:

Chinese Embassy
11 Avenue George V
75008, Paris

UNESCO
7 Place de Fontenoy
75007, Paris

Uyghur language is increasingly facing an uphill battle to be preserved in the PRC. With the overbearing dominance of the Mandarin language and state policies that ensure that the Uyghur language is relegated to a state of folklore through disingenuous “bilingual education programmes”, Uyghurs are finding as a result their own language’s preservation being placed under serious threat. This is exemplified by the restrictive and oft-discriminatory policies that are in place in the PRC, and especially in East Turkestan where the Uyghurs and their language hold sway.

The difficulties with which preserving the Uyghur language is faced is elucidated in the treatment afforded to Mr Abduweli Ayup, who is currently languishing in prison for “illegally collecting donations to run Uyghur schools” in East Turkestan. Prior to his arrest and detention, where his health is reportedly deteriorating, he had been a highly active promoter of the Uyghur language, and had been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the Chinese authorities. He had recognised correctly that the official Chinese state policy of removing the Uyghur language from schools was dramatically affecting the posterity and richness of the language.

Uyghur poetry, literature and scholarship are diverse in their content and experimentation with the language. The language has developed its richness through hundreds of years of cross-cultural and cross-linguistic exposure due to its place on the famous Silk Road that connected East to West, and North to South throughout Eurasia. The Uyghur language has also been influenced due to the variety of religions that have ebbed and flowed in the region, including Shamanism, Tengrism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, Buddhism and today Islam, which continues to enrich the language today.

It is important that the international community be well informed of these issues so that they can find pragmatic and workable solutions to these threats before the language becomes endangered. It is therefore hoped that this conference will both address and educate the participants about these major issues and obstacles, whilst also formulating strategies in advocacy and language preservation to help conserve and maintain the Uyghur language.

To register for this event, please contact the WUC (contact@uyghurcongress.org).

For media enquiries, please contact WUC Executive Chairman Mr Dolkun Isa (dolkun@gmail.com).