Statement of Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty for Item 8 of the Eighth Session of the UN Human Rights Council’s Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Nonviolent Radical Party, 18 October 2010

I am speaking on behalf of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty.  The Nonviolent Radical Party would like to thank you, Mr. President, and the panelists for their presentations.  The Nonviolent Radical Party is deeply concerned that nine years after the Durban Conference, a significant number of States continue to engage in the following form of structural discrimination – the denial of minorities and indigenous peoples of the right to maintain and use their own languages.  The promotion and protection of this right was a key element of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  This right is enshrined in several UN treaties and declarations, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which specifically asserts, “States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue.”

The NRP is particularly concerned about the following examples of linguistic discrimination.   The Chinese government has taken measures that have threatened the survival of the language of the Uyghur people, who are indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  In 2002, Wang Lequan, former Communist Party Secretary for the region, declared that the Uyghur language was “out of step with the 21st century.”  Soon thereafter, in 2004, the government ratcheted up efforts to shift the medium of instruction throughout the entire education system in the region – from preschool to high school –from Uyghur to Mandarin Chinese. The authorities claim that the language policy is making the region’s school system “bilingual”, but the trend has been toward eliminating instruction in the Uyghur language completely or relegating Uyghur language to language arts classes and making Mandarin the instruction medium in all other classes.  The “bilingual” education policy breaches provisions in Chinese law to protect ethnic minority languages and undermines the autonomous status of the Uyghurs’ region.

The NRP is also concerned by the Iranian government’s failure to grant the Baluchi minority access to education in their own language.  According to a 2007 report by Amnesty International, all state schools in Baluchi areas of Iran were conducted exclusively in Persian.  The NRP has not discovered any information to suggest that this situation has changed.

The NRP believes that all promises made by Vietnamese authorities to allow indigenous Montagnards to speak, study and pray in their own language have not been met, denying the perpetuation of the millenary culture of Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

Lastly, NRP is concerned about the especially egregious linguistic discrimination against Kurds

in Syria.  The publishing and printing of materials in Kurdish and the teaching of the language are forbidden in Syria and punishable by imprisonment.
Mr. President, NRP urges the Intergovernmental Working Group to take further steps to end linguistic discrimination, a form of structural discrimination that unfortunately still thrives. Language is the most fundamental element of an ethnic group’s identity and to deny a group the right to maintain and use its language is to deny that group the ability to maintain its identity.  Thank you Mr. President.