World Uyghur Congress Holds Side Event During UN Minority Forum

World Uyghur Congress, 4 December 2017

The World Uyghur Congress held a successful side event on December 1st, during the 10th UN Forum on Minority Issues, Native Languages in a Contemporary World: Threats and Challenges for Youth, co-organised by the Society for Threatened Peoples.

The event gathered together speakers from diverse backgrounds to speak about the problems faced by ethnic minorities and restrictions on the use of their mother languages in particular.

The first speaker from the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Tommaso Nodari, spoke about the situation faced by minority communities around the world who suffer from parallel issues in terms of the use of their mother tongue. He then went on to speak broadly about the means by which these communities have worked together under the banner of the UNPO to raise the issue in international fora.

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, then spoke about historical restrictions on the Uyghur language, particularly since the introduction of the so-called ‘bilingual’ education system. Isa elaborated on the recent efforts of the Chinese government to prevent young Uyghurs from being educated in their mother tongue as well as the recent Uyghur language ban in Hotan prefecture and the its likely effects.

Director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, Enghebatu Togochog, then spoke about parallel issues faced by the Southern Mongolian population  within China. Togochog made specific reference to the dramatic reduction of in the number of Mongolian students enrolled in schools teaching in their mother tongue as a direct result of the closing and merging of schools and rapid urbanisation throughout the region.

The final speaker, Rizwana Ilham, a young Uyghur living in Switzerland spoke eloquently about her own experience with the Uyghur language outside of East Turkestan. Ilham spoke specifically about her experience growing up speaking Uyghur and going on to learn a number of other languages as well as the importance of maintaining her Uyghur identity abroad.

In closing, two young Uyghurs who submitted brief video messages for the Forum were shown describing their experience with the Uyghur language living primarily outside of China and the difference between their perspective and that of the older Uyghur generation living abroad.

The event was attended by a number of participants to the Minority Forum and allowed for important discussion of some of the most relevant issues regarding language rights in China in particular. The World Uyghur Congress will continue to raise the Uyghur language issue in international fora to ensure that the international community is well aware of the developing problem.