World Uyghur Congress Stockholm Youth Advocacy Training Seminar Concludes

World Uyghur Congress, 16 October 2017

The World Uyghur Congress held a successful Uyghur youth advocacy training workshop in Stockholm, Sweden over the weekend, which brought together many interested Uyghur participants eager to speak and eager to learn about how they may contribute to the Uyghur cause.

The workshop began with an opening ceremony allowing WUC president, Rebiya Kadeer, to speak to the participants and welcome them to Sweden. Ms. Kadeer spoke about the opportunities available to the young listeners and expressed her appreciation for those that wish to carry on the torch once held by the older generation.

Following the opening ceremony, we were glad to welcome Joshua Castellino, Professor of Law from Middlesex University, to speak about the issue of self-determination in international law and in the context of East Turkestan more specifically. His presentation engaged the participants on the challenges and lessons learned from past and ongoing efforts at self-determination, particularly for oppressed peoples.

Following Professor Castellino was Maja Åberg, a Senior Policy Adviser at the Swedish section of Amnesty International in Stockholm. Ms. Åberg was able to effectively and interactively engage the participants on human rights advocacy from the perspective of a major NGO in Sweden. Ms. Åberg provided concrete, practical information for the participants looking to make an impact at the local and national level in Sweden and how best to approach issues with Swedish parliamentarians in their own regions.

Day two of the training began with a dialogue concerning Uyghur advocacy in the American context with Nury Turkel, Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) Chairperson and UHRP president, Omer Kanat. Mr. Kanat spoke about making opportunities in the US for the Uyghur cause and Mr. Turkel spoke about the importance of understanding the political environment in which one works as well as the value of writing and telling stories to an audience typically unfamiliar with the Uyghur issue.

The middle session on day two then led in to the importance of advocacy at the United Nations in Geneva and European Parliament in Brussels with WUC Project Manager, Peter Irwin and UNPO Advocacy Officer, Lucia Parrucci. Beyond simply demonstrating the important work done in these fora, the participants were engaged throughout the session on their perceptions of these bodies, how to improve engagement there and take input from a broader range of voices. The participants were also informed of possible engagement points at the individual level such as the UN Minorities Fellowship Program and Young Professionals Programme.

The remainder of the day was focused on the importance of communicating their message effectively in person and online. The penultimate session focused on the use of social media in human rights advocacy with WUC Project Assistant, Ryan Barry. The participants were very engaged throughout the session and gave crucial feedback on how young people in particular respond to messaging on social media. Communication specialist, Pemma Fox rounded out the day with a very engaging and interactive session on crafting a concise and compelling message at the individual level. Ms. Fox successfully motivated the participants themselves to speak about the Uyghur issue and why it matters to them. This session in particular left the participants much more open to dialogue and had them expressing themselves in new ways.

The third day of the session focused first on the history of the Uyghur population in Sweden with a presentation by Abdulla Kokyar, who also spoke of the state of human rights advocacy there. The second session then allowed Uyghur leaders to speak about their own history, how they initially involved themselves in advocacy generally, and some of the important lessons learned over the years.

The final session of the weekend gave participants plenty of time to speak about their own personal feelings about advocacy and how they see the Uyghur movement today. Four youth participants facilitated the session and first clearly expressed what they learned from the training and voiced their own thoughts about strategy and direction of the movement going forward. The four effectively facilitated conversation between other youth participants who spoke about Uyghur identity and the challenges that they face living in Western countries as well as the ways in which they have been able to engage in their political systems.

The workshop closed with a short speech from Rebiya Kadeer that expressed real hope that we will continue to work with members of the Uyghur youth community in order to develop and advance our message and our approach in a changing world. The WUC came away with critical insights into how we can improve our own work in the future and maintain these important connections in Sweden.