World Uyghur Congress, 18 July 2018

The World Uyghur Congress held a successful Uyghur youth advocacy training workshop in Istanbul, Turkey from July 13-15, 2018, which brought together many interested Uyghur participants eager to speak and eager to learn about how they can contribute to the Uyghur cause.

The workshop began with an opening ceremony allowing WUC Executive Committee Chairman, Ömer Kanat, to speak to the participants and welcome them to Istanbul. Mr. Kanat spoke about the program arrangement for the 3-day event and what the young listeners will learn from this training session.

Erkin Ekrem, Vice President of the WUC also spoke briefly during open ceremony about his work with the WUC and in Turkey. The participants showed great interest in the introduction of his presentation for the following day and they all seemed familiar with his work in Turkey.

The East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association president Hidayetullah Oghuzhan was also at the opening ceremony to welcome the young participants to the workshop.

The Isa Yusuf Alptekin Foundation President Ömer Kul attended the workshop and discussed with the young participants his understanding of the history of East Turkistan and how this history interacts with what is happening today for Uyghurs in China and Turkey.

Following the opening ceremony,participants introduced themselves to each other and spoke about their own experiences being a young Uyghur living abroad, their relationship to East Turkistan, some of the challenges they face, and how they see the human rights movement for the Uyghur people. The session also allowed time for the group to ask preliminary questions and have an initial discussion.

In the afternoon WUC Project Assistant Shahrezad Ghayrat spoke about the role of Uyghur youth in advocacy and effective ways of presenting reports and speeches during public speaking opportunities. Her presentation engaged the participants on the challenges of public speaking and lessons learned from giving speeches on Uyghur issues.

Following Ms. Ghayrat, Ankara University Professor and Radio Free Asia reporter Dr. Erkin Emet spoke to the participants about the current situation in East Turkistan in 2018 and how the Chinese government has developed its policy in the region for many years. Dr. Emet also spoke about some of the practical steps that can be taken given the situation today.

Day two of the training began with the WUC Project Manager Peter Irwin discussing human rights advocacy in Europe and the United Nations. The discussion focused with engagement with Uyghur human rights advocacy at the EU and UN level as well as the state of advocacy in the European context.

The session continued with discussion on international advocacy by Zsuzsa-Anna Ferenczy, an assistant to MEP László Tőkés. Ms. Ferenczy spoke about human rights advocacy at European institutions in Brussels. Participants learned basic strategies to engage with politicians and other civil society groups in order to build an advocacy network.

Gheyyur Kurban, who is a former WUC staff member and leader of the WUC Youth Committee and experienced youth advocate, spoke at the workshop discussing concrete and practical ways that participants can first understand the problems faced by Uyghurs with an eye to understanding potential solutions.

Day two of the workshop ended with WUC Vice President Dr. Erkin Ekrem who presented to the participants about the current state of Uyghur activism around the world given the political climate. Dr. Ekrem provided his thoughts on a strategic approach going forward and spoke with the participants and answered questions about how best to engage with states and other civil society actors.

Day three started with an activity introduction and group work. Participants were given a short advocacy task to work with in groups of five people. The goal of this segment was to apply the skills acquired in the previous sessions to a real-life situation that requires attention in their local community and at the national level in Istanbul. Participants were guided in their work by workshop facilitators so that they can create an advocacy plan.

After the activity the participants then presented their advocacy plans to the audience. Each participant explained one aspect of their plan and why they have chosen this approach. Each group also took questions from the audience on specific details.

Finally, the workshop closed with a short speech from Omer Kanat 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 Turkey.