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Episode 25, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube

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“There are some actions, there are some movements, there are some condemnations, but there has not been a coordinated international action to stop China from this genocide.”

Today's episode of Keep Talking features Omer Kanat, Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project and Executive Committee Chairman of the World Uyghur Congress. During the conversation, Omer talks about his journey to the U.S., Uyghur history and culture, China's historic oppression of the Uyghur people, and the current Chinese genocide of the Uyghur people, which includes concentration camps, brainwashing, murder, rape, sterilization, and mass surveillance.

About Omer Kanat (Quote from Wikipedia):

“Omer Kanat was born in Ghulja city in East Turkestan and is the current Chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Uyghur Congress. He helped found UHRP in 2003, as well as the World Uyghur Youth Congress, where he served for two terms as President from 1996 to 2000. He helped found and has served as the Vice-President of the World Uyghur Congress since 2006, prior to taking up the position of Director of UHRP in 2017. In addition, he served as the Editor and later Senior Editor of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service. Mr. Kanat is fluent in English, German, Uyghur, Turkish, Persian, Tajik, Dari, Uzbek, and is functionally proficient in the Kyrgyz and Kazakh languages.”

Time Stamps:

(00:00) Intro
(00:45) Get to know Omer Kanat
(01:46) Omer’s upbringing and the life events that led him to participate in human rights activities on behalf of the Uyghurs
(08:27) Who are the Uyghur people and what is their history?
(17:14) About the Uyghur population: the numbers, their culture, and other specifics
(19:19) The attempts of the Chinese government to assimilate the Uyghur population into the Chinese population
(24:45) Omer explains the Chinese approach to the Uyghur community
(33:02) How does Omer describe the Uyghur people?
(37:09) How did the unsuccessful integration of the Uyghur people into Chinese culture trigger changes in the Chinese government’s approach towards Uyghurs?
(40:17) Omer explains the changes to the Chinese leadership post 2017
(49:02) How does China detain and oppress Uyghurs?
(56:35) What goes on inside Uyghur concentration camps?
(01:05:22) A list of Uyghurs who have escaped Chinese concentration camps
(01:09:45) What percentage of Uyghurs are living in concentration camps?
(01:17:55) What hope does Omer have for the Uyghurs?

Quotes:

“The Chinese Communist government tried to destroy all the Uyghurs as a nation, as an...ethnic group, as a religious group, and they have been pursuing a very systematic assimilation policy. They have sensed their occupation of East Turkestan, they have transferred millions of Han Chinese, from mainland China into East Turkestan to change the demographics of East Turkestan.”

“Most of the people in Kashgar live in a very traditional way, and most often cannot speak Chinese...because we don't have anything culturally, linguistically or traditionally (similar) with the Chinese...(W)e are more part of Central Asia.”

“East Turkestan is very rich in natural resources, in oil, in natural gas, in gold and all kinds of rare minerals -- it's a very rich country. So, therefore, they (the Chinese) want to use that richness to realize their dream...and also the strategic location as it is very essential for them to realize their China dream.”

“(The Uyghurs) are honest people, very loyal people, (and are) also very strict to their culture...to their traditions.”

“In school, the so-called 'boarding schools,' (the Muslim children) change their names, and they are not allowed to speak Uyghur. They are dressed with the traditional Chinese dresses even though (that dress is) not common in (mainland) China.”

“There are some actions, there are some movements, there are some condemnations, but there has not been a coordinated international action to stop China from this genocide.”

“There are a lot of even old people, people as old as 90 years old, (even) over 90 -- people are being kept in the concentration camp. And we have some cases where these old, very...religious people...died in custody.”

Relevant Links:

People mentioned (quotes from Wikipedia and other sources):

  • Mihrigul Tursun - "Mehrigul Tursun is a former Uyghur detainee from Xinjiang, China. After emigrating to the United States in 2018, Tursun said that she was taken into the custody of Chinese authorities several times, including being imprisoned at one of a network of political 're-education camps' for Uyghurs, subject to torture, and that one of her sons died while she was in the custody of Chinese authorities in 2015."
  • Omir Bekali - "Omir Bekali, one among perhaps a million people reportedly arrested and held in mass re-education camps, said he was detained without trial or access to a lawyer and forced to disavow his beliefs while praising the Communist Party. Mr Bekali, a Kazakh citizen, said he contemplated suicide after 20 days in the facility – which itself followed seven months in a prison."
  • Xi Jinping - “Xi Jinping is a Chinese politician who has been serving as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission since 2012, and President of the People's Republic of China since 2013.”
  • Zumrat Dawut - "Dawut, who survived internment and an unwanted sterilization, fled first with her family to her husband’s native Pakistan. The next leg of their journey took them to a basement apartment in Virginia outside Washington."

Connect with Omer:

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