Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)

I remember first learning about the Nazi concentration camps while I was at school. Years later, I would learn about the slave trade. Those events come to mind because I very clearly recall thinking that such events would never take place in this day and age. I reassured myself that individuals and world leaders had learnt enough from history to not let such events happen again. But then I learnt about the Uyghurs.

It was recent as 2020 that a friend of mine mentioned the Uyghurs – a Turkic people living in the areas of Central Asia, commonly known as East Turkistan.Quickly I began learning about the systematic patterns of abuse that have been inflicted on innocent Uyghurs – with reports of political imprisonment, torture, and disappearances, as well as compulsory unpaid labour, and indefinite periods spent in ‘re-education camps’.

All of this is happening now. Very few governments are really doing anything about it. And very few people know that the Uyghurs even exist.

All of that led me to start working with the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) – a US based charity which promotes the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples in East Turkistan, through research-based advocacy.

Survivor stories

By UHRP’s own admission, they have often struggled to convey the urgency of their work to their audiences.

As a result, I was first asked to transcribe a series of interviews that UHRP had conducted with survivors of the education camps, before turning these into succinct stories that could feature in reports and media stories.

These built on the interpretation of a live English/Uyghur-speaking translator – and spanned over 15 hours of recordings. At times the audio quality was lacking, and this meant that some of the translations were even harder to follow.

Regardless, it was immediately obvious that those survivors of the Uyghur camps had lived through the stuff of nightmares. Having often committed no discernible crime, many of the individuals talked about their experience of being raped, being forcibly sterilised, beaten, or kept in crowded cells with facilities that fell devastatingly far from being hygienic, and which as a result, had led to all manner of mental and physical ailments. Others spoke of being locked away without hope of being released – or otherwise having to suffer the ordeal of having their family members locked up, without any means of being able to contact them.

As part of the case studies I produced, I made sure that I retained the voice and identity of the Uyghurs who were brave enough to tell their stories. I also made sure that I didn’t shy away from including experiences that were often difficult to hear.

In a nutshell, I made sure that these stories were authentic. And as a result, I was proud and humbled to be able to give UHRP the content they need to connect with their audiences, and really highlight that the plight of the Uyghur people is very real.

To find out more about UHRP, visit their website.