On January 30th UHRP’s Chinese Outreach Coordinator Zubayra Shamseden was invited by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to speak on a panel on religious freedom. This series of panels was held in honor of National Religious Freedom Day on January 16th, the day the Virginia General Assembly adopted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, and the basis for the First Amendment.
One of Ms. Shamseden’s co-panelists, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, from Boat People SOS, pointed out that religious freedom is the meeting point for many important freedoms- without freedom of speech, assembly, movement and association there can be no religious freedom. This fact can certainly be applied to the Uyghurs’ situation, who face harsh repression of all of those freedoms. Ms. Shamseden pointed out that the Chinese authorities attacks on Uyghur religious are attacks on their identity, culture and history.
Ms. Shamseden’s other co-panelist, Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, discussed the on-going ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar, stated that as in the Uyghur case a challenge for the Rohingyas is the fact that their Muslim identity makes it more difficult to raise international sympathies. The fact that the international community is not strongly reacting to the situation means that the military regime thinks it will be able to get away with their actions and escalate attacks against other minorities as well. This can also be said about the Chinese government; if the international community does not condemn Chinese government actions and take concrete steps to discourage it, it is likely to continue and become worse.
Ms. Shamseden helped place the situation in East Turkestan in the context of worldwide challenges to religious freedom by repressive authoritarian governments. Please watch the entire panel here: