By Juliegrace Brufke
Board Chair of Uyghur Human Rights Project, Nury Turkel, speaks during a panel titled "China's Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang and the U.S. Response" on December 18, 2019.Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
As the 2022 Winter Olympics get underway in Beijing, a pair of House lawmakers are jointly nominating the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the Campaign for Uyghurs to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their work exposing ongoing atrocities committed by the Chinese government.
In a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) — who co-chair the bipartisan Congressional Uyghur Caucus — wrote that both groups have raised critical awareness of abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups by Beijing in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
“The UHRP and the Campaign for Uyghurs have made significant contributions to building fraternity between nations and promoting peace by defending the human rights of the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has targeted with genocide and other crimes against humanity,” they wrote.
Campaign for Uyghurs Executive Director Rushan Abbas holds a photo of her sister, Gulshan Abbas, who is currently imprisoned in a camp.AFP via Getty Images
Both lawmakers stressed the gravity of the abuses, which include documented instances of mass detention, sexual violence, torture, forced labor, forced abortions, and sterilization of Uyghur Muslims.
“One day, the genocide and other abuses suffered by the Uyghur people will end, and the international community will seek to hold the perpetrators accountable. The UHRP’s extensive documentation and evidence-based research will be crucial to that effort,” they continued. “The brave work of both organizations will also help the world avert another such tragedy by ensuring that no individual leader or government, no matter how powerful, can escape accountability for crimes against humanity.”
Uyghurs praying at a mosque in Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region.Kyodo News via Getty Images
People are seen walking on the street of Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, China.Getty Images
The lawmakers noted that despite facing retaliation from the CCP, the organizations have not been “intimidated into silence.”
“History will remember their persistent efforts to stop one of the largest coordinated human rights abuse campaigns of the 21st century as among of the bravest of any civil society organization,” they concluded. “Honoring their work will ensure that the risks taken by whistleblowers, victims’ families, survivors, and human rights defenders are not in vain.
The nomination comes with the Games set to open on Friday against the backdrop of a US-led diplomatic boycott and and relations between Washington and Beijing reaching new lows over the coronavirus pandemic, trade, and China’s military and economic ambitions.