‘Movement for Uyghur Mother Language Based Education’ Report Highlights Detrimental Effect of Linguistic Rights Violations in China
In light of UNESCO’s International Mother Tongue Day, which took place on 21 February 2014, the World Uyghur Congress is publishing a report entitled ‘Movement for Uyghur Mother Language Based Education’ with the aim of raising awareness about the current linguistic injustices of China’s ‘bilingual’ educational policy. It underlines the importance of protecting minority language rights as a question of both Uyghur cultural preservation and improving inter-ethnic relations, as a strategy of maintaining peace and stability in East Turkestan.
The report focuses on the centrality of education in preserving ethnic identity. It outlines how Chinese ‘bilingual’ education policy is marginalizing the Uyghur language through coercive tactics forcing Uyghur children to learn in Mandarin without being able to attain a strong mother tongue foundation. The reduced status of Uyghur language in China’s mono-cultural education policy has a devastating effect on the personal development and academic achievements of Uyghur children. The report argues that China’s assimilation policies have contracted employment opportunities and stalled overall economic development for Uyghurs.
The report describes in great detail how three prominent Uyghur activists, Abduweli Ayup, Muhammad Sidiq and Dilyar Obul, advocated for the right to mother tongue-based education. It provides the reader with a timeline following their actions in establishing an Uyghur kindergarten in Urumqi; the ATBB Kindergarten. The report exposes the insurmountable hurdles faced by the three activists, despite domestic legislation, which guarantees the freedom of all nationalities to practice and preserve their own spoken language and customs.
The publishing of the ‘Movement for Uyghur Mother Language Based Education’ report is timely, as China’s current assimilation policies are increasing inequalities and exacerbating frustrations within minority communities. The report also opens the question of finding viable solution to ethnic tensions and conflict in the region; any solution addressing the destabilization of the region must take in consideration the impact of China’s language policy and include linguistic and cultural autonomy for the Uyghurs and all other ethnic minorities within the region.
Read the report in full here.