UK Uyghur-led campaign to highlight China’s abuse of Muslims launched, boosted by large donation from Pears Foundation
The cause of Uyghur Muslims facing repression in China has received a significant boost, with a £90,000 donation by Pears Foundation, a major funder spearheading the British Jewish community’s support.The donation has been made to ‘Stop Uyghur Genocide’, a campaign group set up by Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur exile living in north London. Although she receives a small stipend as the UK representative of the World Uyghur Congress, until now Rahima and a group of dedicated supporters have run the campaign on an entirely voluntary basis. The recent flood of reports of atrocities against the Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups – mass detention, forced labour, forced sterilisation, destruction of religious sites, near-total digital surveillance – and the growing awareness of the issue in the UK has meant that Rahima has had to juggle her campaigning with her day job as a translator. The donation was facilitated by the Jewish human rights charity, René Cassin, which has been supporting Rahima and campaigning on the Uyghur issue for the past two years.
Pears Foundation’s generous grant has enabled the campaign to launch as a national grassroots organisation and to carry out work building Uyghur campaigns in countries around the world.
The Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign has already won two significant victories. In April, the UK Parliament voted to recognise the genocide; and on 19th July, it decided to stage a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Stop Uyghur Genocide’s Executive Director Rahima Mahmut said:
“It is hard to put into words my gratitude for this gift, and the support for my fellow Uyghurs that it represents. In practical terms, it will mean that we will have the resources to make a real impact with our campaigns to label the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics ‘the Genocide Games’ and expose the extent to which western companies benefit from forced Uyghur labour. And in moral terms, to know we have the support and empathy of a community that has a real understanding of what we are suffering has a value beyond measure”.
René Cassin’s Executive Director, Mia Hasenson-Gross said:
“This gift is both a testament to Rahima’s hard work and tenacity and a practical expression of the revulsion the Jewish community feels about ethnic and religious repression so brutal and so widespread that the UK and US have labelled it ‘genocide’.
When I first met Rahima two years ago I pledged that René Cassin would work to bear witness to what is happening to the Uyghurs and raise awareness among the Jewish community. This generous gift is enormously encouraging. But it is just the first step on the road that will only end when China ceases persecuting its minorities. We were with Rahima at the beginning of that journey, and we intend to be with her at its end.”
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Notes for editors:
- Uyghurs or Uighurs – are ethnically Turkic Muslims living in Xinjiang Province (East Turkestan to Uyghurs) in China
- Human rights abuses against Uyghurs – speaking in the House of Commons on 22 March 2021, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab catalogued the scale and extent of the repression:
“Expressions of religion have been criminalised; Uyghur language and culture discriminated against on a systematic scale; there is widespread use of forced labour; women forcibly sterilised; children separated from their parents; an entire population subject to surveillance, including collection of DNA, use of facial recognition software, and so-called ‘predictive policing’ algorithms.
State control in the region is systemic: over a million people have been detained without trial; there are widespread claims of torture and rape in the camps, based on first-hand survivor testimony. People are detained for having too many children; for praying too much; for having a beard or wearing a head scarf; for having the wrong thoughts.
In terms of scale, it is the largest mass detention of an ethnic or religious group since the Second World War”
- Stop Uyghur Genocide – is a UK-based campaign in response to China’s repression of Uyghurs. The campaign will be launched at an event on Thursday 29 July at 7pm at René Cassin’s offices at 853 Finchley Road, NW11 8LX. For a press invite to this event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- René Cassin – ‘the Jewish voice for human rights’, is a UK-based Jewish charity advocating for the universal rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-authored by the French-Jewish jurist Monsieur René Cassin, after whom the charity is named.
- Pears Foundation – is a UK-based family foundation, rooted in Jewish values.
- Jewish community support for Uyghurs – over the past two years, René Cassin has mobilised Jewish community support on this issue, culminating in a communal response in the period leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2021):
- On 15 December 2020, the Chief Rabbi announced: “I can no longer remain silent about the plight of the Uighurs”
- On 12 January 2021, Board of Deputies President, Marie van der Zyl said: “We are not willing to stand aside and do nothing as millions of people are herded into concentration camps”
- On 18 January 2021, Jewish News justified only the second special front page in its history: “ … few issues could be more urgent than the human rights atrocities currently taking place against Uyghur Muslims under the world’s nose”
- On 24 January 2021, the Observer reported: “Jewish leaders use Holocaust Day to decry persecution of Uighurs”.