Mr Omer Kanat (USA)

Chairman Executive Comittee

Mr. Omer Kanat was born in 1961 in the city of Ghuljain East Turkistan. In 1971, at the age of 10, his family emigrated to Afghanistan. He moved to Turkey in 1979. He started his advocacy work on behalf of the people of East Turkistan in early 1980. He worked as secretary to the late leader of the East Turkistan National Movement, Isa Alptekin, from 1980-1987. Mr. Kanat also worked for Riza Bekin, President of East Turkistan Foundation. Mr. Kanat editd the Uyghur section of the quarterly magazine “Voice of East Turkistan,” published by the East Turkistan Publishing Center, which was established under the guidance of Isa Alptekin.

In 1989 Mr. Kanat moved to Germany to work as a broadcaster for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and to promote Uyghur advocacy in Europe. In October 1990, he worked with Erkin Alptekin, Enverjan, Askerjan, Jalil Karim, Ablikim Hotan, and other brothers, to form the East Turkistan Union in Europe. Mr. Kanat played an important role in organizing the first East Turkistan National Assembly and was elected as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In 1996, together with Parhat Muhammad and IlyarOmar, he launched the first Uyghur-language magazine published in the West, “Unity.” In November 1996, following a lot of work and preparation, Mr. Kanat, together with Dolkun Isa and other young activists, founded the World Uyghur Youth Congress. Mr. Kanat served as the president of the organization until 2000.

Mr. Kanat moved to the US in 1999 to work at Radio Free Asia as a senior editor. In 1999, he was elected to the board of the Uyghur American Association as Secretary, and 2000 he was elected as Vice President. He was re-elected as Vice President several times, ultimately serving on the Board for 17 years. In 2003, Mr. Kanat co-founded the Uyghur Human Rights Project with Nury Turkel and AlimSeytoff, as a project of the Uyghur American Association. When UHRP became an independent organization in 2016, the UHRP Board of Directors conducted an executive search and appointed Mr. Kanat as the Executive Director in 2017.

Mr. Kanat played a key role in the establishment of the World Uyghur Congress in 2004, as well as a key role in the effort to secure funding for WUC from the National Endowment for Democracy. He was elected WUC Vice-Chairman at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Congresses. At the 6th General Assembly in November 2017, Mr. Kanat was elected Chairman of the Executive Committee.