PRESS RELEASE: WUC COMMEMORATES VICTIMS OF YARKAND MASSACRE
On the ninth anniversary of the Yarkand massacre, the World Uyghur Congress remembers all those who were killed during and in the aftermath of July 28, 2014. Nine years ago, Chinese security forces violently suppressed a largely peaceful protest in Yarkand, leading to the deaths of many innocent Uyghurs.
In the year preceding Yarkand, Uyghurs had been killed consistently in a number of violent incidents as a result of security forces and police brutality. What occurred in July 2014 and in the days following, however, would mark the deadliest episode since the unrest in Urumchi in July 2009, and many details about what transpired remain obscure to this day. All communication to and from the region was suspended in the months following the incident as internet and cell communication disappeared.
‘’Every year, we commemorate victims of different massacres, but the Yarkand massacre remains the deadliest’’ said WUC President Dolkun Isa. ‘’The international community cannot continue to ignore atrocity crimes and genocide in East Turkistan. These massacres should’ve warranted independent investigations.’’
According to Uyghur sources, the major cause of the initial protests was the response of the Chinese government to a protest that took place in Bashkent Township that led to the extrajudicial killing of an Uyghur family of five during house searches in the area. As a result, many Uyghurs fled to nearby Elishku Township, where they took part in the protests.
According to the Chinese government, 96 civilians, including 59 Uyghurs were killed when police and security forces clashed with protesters. Chinese state media labelled the incident a “premeditated terrorist attack on a police station in Xinjiang.”
Uyghur groups, however, reported that the incident involved residents protesting against “Chinese security forces’ heavy-handed Ramadan crackdown and extrajudicial use of lethal force in recent weeks. Uyghur sources estimate that at least up to 3000 Uyghurs may have been killed during and in the aftermath of the protests. The true number of those arrested, killed and disappeared remains unclear, given the lack of transparency and judicial accountability.
The Chinese government has used the spectre of ‘terrorism’ to justify harsh repressive measures against the Uyghurs. A Counter-Terror Law that was passed in 2016 and criticized by UN experts for its overly broad and vague language, has provided further legitimacy for the state to carry out genocidal policies against Uyghurs and Turkic people.
Religious practices have been effectively criminalised, freedom of press and expression are nonexistent and freedom of movement is extremely limited, thus transforming the region into an Orwellian state.
The lack of transparency, accountability and any semblance of justice for the families of the missing and deceased has been striking.
The WUC demands that the Chinese government acts immediately and transparently to disclose the whereabouts and fate of the missing and deceased to their family members and the wider community.
We, once again reiterate the urgency of the crisis in East Turkistan and call on the wider international community, including states, NGOs and international organizations to come together to address the Uyghur genocide in a meaningful way.