April 21, 2008

First Day WUC Training a Great Success

Uyghur Leadership Training

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) together with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) organized their second leadership training seminar in two years, which opened today the 21st of April 2008.

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) together with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) organized their second leadership training seminar in two years, which opened today the 21st of April 2008. Over 50 members of the Uyghur Diaspora from around the world together with prominent academics, government representatives and members of the civil society gathered in Berlin Germany to discuss this year’s topic “Self-Determination under International Law”.

Mr. Dolkun Isa, Secretary General of the World Uyghur Congress, opened the occasion, welcoming participants to the training seminar, many of whom traveled some distance to attend the event, including from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Norway and the United States.

President of the WUC and internationally renowned advocate of the Uyghur cause, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, warmly greeted the audience with great energy, enthusiasm and determination. Ms. Kadeer spoke on the lack of freedom afflicting Uyghurs since the communist clamp of power in 1949, including a constant constriction of human rights by Chinese authorities. People in East Turkestan cannot imagine the amount of freedom people in the western world enjoy, explained Ms. Kadeer, and individuals in the west cannot imagine the extent of suppression people in East Turkestan are experiencing.

The international community is very familiar with the situation of Tibet, however knowledge of the situation of East Turkestan is quite limited in comparison. Nonetheless, the last two years have seen many efforts to educate the world on the poor human rights situation in East Turkestan. It is therefore essential, reminded Ms. Kadeer, to continue to educate and inform all about the Uyghur situation.

Mr. Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary, further noted that survival of the Uyghur culture and identity are vital issues Uyghurs are faced with today. Introducing the topic of self-determination, Mr. Busdachin recognized the difficulty and controversy surrounding the subject. It is important to recognize that Chinese authorities are not willing to grant full autonomy or full federal solutions to East Turkestan, he explained, however we should stay positive in the situation and focus on means of raising awareness for the Uyghur cause and on the survival of their culture.  Members of the Diaspora should be weary of tendencies towards radicalization and need to stay in constant dialogue with the people in East Turkestan so as not to become estranged by their position.

UNPO and WUC were thrilled to welcome multiple guests of honour on the opening day, including Mr. Günther Nooke, Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dirk Pleiter of Amnesty International, Ms. Frances Eqerer, representative of Mr. Margarete Bause from the Green Party of the Bavarian Parliament, and Mr. Feruk Unsal, Member of Parliament in Turkey.

Mr. Nooke spoke of the importance of pursuing a nonviolent path and avoiding any further escalation within minority groups in China. He called for an analysis into the roots of recent uprisings in China and reminded China that it is in their interest to review their policies towards minority groups. These actions would then necessitate a dialogue between the government and minorities – the exact path which could nonviolently reach a solution.

Furthermore, Mr. Nooke touched upon the situation of the Uyghurs currently incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, individuals who have been found not guilty of any charges and are ready to be released immediately. The Uyhgurs cannot however return to China, as they will undoubtedly suffer severe persecution.  Ironically, Mr. Nooke points out, they are largely safer in prison than they would be in China. He therefore called for civil courage in Europe and the United States to grant these individuals immigration visas. Ms. Seema Saifee, pro bono attorney for several Uyghurs at Guantanamo, confirmed this argument, underlining that they could be released tomorrow as long as a country will admit them.

Following a lively and well-attended press conference, to which members of various media sources including Deutsche Welle TV, WDR and the Associated Press attended, participants dove right into their training material.

With the aid of moderators Mr. Ulrich Delius of the Society for Threatened Peoples and Senator Marco Perduca, newly elected Member of the Italian Parliament, participants were guided through an introductory series of lectures on the concepts of international law, avenues of self-determination and case studies of such.

Ms. Anna Batalla, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Hans-Joachim Heintze, Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, Mr. Michael Gibb, Oxford University, Mr. Pedro Pinto Leite, International Platform for Jurists for East Timor, and Mr. Mohamoud Daar, Somaliland Ambassador to the European Union provided participants with a series of insightful and informative lectures which sparked dynamic discussion from all present.

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