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Interview with Dolkun Isa (President of World Uyghur Congress)

Dolkun Isa


  1. Can you provide a brief overview of the World Uyghur Congress and its objectives?

→ The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is an international organization that represents the collective interest of the Uyghur people both in East Turkistan and abroad. The main objective of WUC is to promote the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkistan.

  1. What are the main challenges faced by the Uyghur community today?

→ The Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples are currently facing genocide. Over the past few years, the Chinese government’s repression of the Uyghurs and other Turkic people living in East Turkistan has increased significantly. An estimated 3 million Uyghur Muslims are arbitrarily detained in a mass network of concentration camps and subjected to indoctrination, mental and physical torture, rape, forced sterilization, and other forms of inhumane treatment to erode their religion, ethnicity, and culture. These widespread and systemic violations are supported by a pervasive, technology-enabled system of surveillance that includes collecting extensive biometric data of large groups of Uyghur residents. In addition, millions of Uyghurs are subjected to state-sponsored forced labor schemes, tainting global supply chains. 

Human Rights Violations

  1. Could you shed light on the reported human rights violations and cultural suppression faced by the Uyghur community?

→ The Chinese government is actively committing crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples.

  1. What evidence or documentation supports these claims?

→ There is various evidence and documentation on the human rights abuses committed by the CCP. These include first-hand witness accounts by camp survivors, who have testified in front of national parliaments, and governments on the torture, sexual abuse, and forced labor that Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslim people are subjected to inside China’s concentration camps. Countless expert reports on human rights abuses are also widely available, these reports focus on various issues, such as forced labor, transnational repression, and the use of biometric mass surveillance of Uyghurs. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) furthermore documents and reports on various issues related to the Uyghur genocide and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) regularly issues submissions to the UN human rights mechanisms (ex. CERD, CEDAW, Universal Periodic Review).

Furthermore, the independent Uyghur Tribunal, an independent people’s tribunal that was launched on 3 September 2020 at the request of WUC President Dolkun Isa to investigate the CCP’s heinous crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples has heard and documented countless witness reports and expert testimonies. A final judgment was delivered on the 9th of December 2021, ruling that China is committing genocide against Uyghurs.

The report of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) offers the most definitive assessment of the issues faced by Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples from the world’s leading human rights body. The report finds that the abuses committed by the Chinese government “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

International Response

  1. How do you assess the international community’s response to the Uyghur crisis?

→  The OHCHR report was an important step towards recognizing the Uyghur genocide, as was the recognition of crimes against humanity and/or genocide from 11 national parliaments, including the European Parliament. Nevertheless, concrete actions are limited if not missing.

For example in October 2022 the UN Human Rights Council voted not to discuss allegations of abuses against Uyghurs. An example of positive action is the US Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (UFLPA) to combat forced labor products coming into the US. This is a concrete step on how Uyghur forced labor can be tackled. It is on international community to work together on finding joint resolutions to end the genocide against Uyghurs.  A global answer is needed.

  1. What steps can governments and organizations take to address the situation effectively?

There are various things governments can do to address the situation effectively, below listed are some recommendations:
1. Governments and organizations must hold China accountable for crimes against humanity and genocide and openly denounce the human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic people.
2. Human rights should be prioritized in all policy areas instead of the economic partnerships countries engage in with China.
3. Governments should support the creation of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on China to report on and investigate the human rights situation in the country and urge the Chinese government to allow independent country visits composed of UN Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs to East Turkistan.
4. Countries and international organizations must impose targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, on Chinese officials and institutions complicit in the genocide of the Uyghur and Turkic people.
5. Risks related to Chinese foreign interference should be investigated and mitigated.
6. Diplomatic pressure should be applied on states who are deporting Uyghurs to China, in violation of the principle of non-refoulment, and to protect Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers. Furthermore, countries should repeal existing extradition treaties with China.

Advocacy and Awareness

  1. How does the World Uyghur Congress raise awareness about the Uyghur cause on a global scale?

→ The WUC conducts advocacy on the national level with different national parliaments and on the international level, through regular engagement with the United Nations system to raise human rights violations against the Uyghur people. Engaging with the UN bodies and mechanisms gives the WUC the opportunity to raise these issues before representatives from national governments and international human rights experts. This includes engagement at the Human Rights Council, meetings with permanent missions in Geneva, engagement at the UN Minority Forum, and submitting various reports to UN Treaty Bodies.

Furthermore, the WUC engages with various EU institutions, including the European Parliament, the European External Action Service, and the European Commission. This work ranges from working together with MEPs and briefing European Officials, to addressing committees and subcommittees. Our advocacy efforts and good relationships with MEPs have helped to put Uyghur-related issues on the agenda for resolutions inside the European Parliament, such as the genocide resolution of 2022.

  1. What efforts are being made to ensure justice, accountability, and support for the Uyghur community?

→ The WUC is exploring different justice and accountability mechanisms to support the Uyghur community and hold the CCP accountable. One of these avenues is a criminal complaint in Buenos Aires, Argentina under the universal jurisdiction provisions as set out in the Argentinian Constitution. If a case is opened against the individuals most responsible for the crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs, the judge can summons witnesses to attend court to give their evidence on oath. This would mark a historic opportunity for the Uyghur people and the first time that the evidence of the atrocities being committed against them is presented in a court.

Further, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), has filed a complaint against VW, BMW, and Mercedes Benz with the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA). To date, the companies have not presented supporting documents proving that they are adequately responding to the risk of state-imposed forced labor in supplier factories in East Turkistan. Since 1 January 2023, companies have been required to comply with human rights due diligence obligations under the German Supply Chain Act and to take appropriate measures to prevent or eliminate forced labor.

Other support efforts include the M-62 motion, passed in the Canadian Parliament, which calls on the Canadian government to leverage Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims needing protection.

Future Outlook

  1. What are your hopes for the future of the Uyghur community?

→ For Uyghurs to live free of repression and to be able to live in our homeland in peace with our history, heritage, religion, and identity respected. Additionally, for the perpetrators of the Uyghur genocide to be brought to justice.

  1. How can individuals, organizations, and governments contribute to positive change?

Positive change can be achieved through holding China accountable and supporting Uyghur and Uyghur-led organizations. One step can be the signing of petitions and donating to Uyghur-led organizations to support their crucial work. Being aware of which brands are complicit and profiting from Uyghur forced labor and calling them out by taking part in the various social media actions organized is another way to bring about positive change. The call to action by the coalition to end Uyghur Forced Labour is important for brands and companies to be aware of and act.

About Dolkun Isa

Mr.Dolkun Isa is the President of the World Uyghur Congress. He is a former student-leader of the pro-democracy demonstrations at “Xinjiang” University in 1988. He founded the Students’ Science and Culture Union at the university in 1987. he was expelled from the university in September 1988 after four months of house arrest and a six-hour-long dialogue with government officials about the students’ demands. After enduring persecution from the Chinese government, Isa fled China in 1994 and sought asylum in Europe, and became a citizen of Germany in 2006.

In April 2004, he played an important role in the establishment of the World Uyghur Congress and was elected General Secretary. He has since been presenting Uyghur human rights issues to the UN Human Rights Council, European Parliament, European governments, and international human rights organizations.

He has worked to mobilize the Uyghur diaspora community to collectively advocate for their rights and the rights of the Uyghur population in East Turkistan (the Uyghur Autonomous Region in China). He was recognized for his efforts in raising awareness of the human rights situation facing the Uyghur people and for calling for greater democracy and freedom in China by receiving the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Human Rights Award on 30 March 2016 and receiving the World Democracy Award by NED on June 2019. In 2017, he was elected as the Vice-President of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), of which the World Uyghur Congress is a member. In this capacity, he works with other marginalized or unrepresented peoples to collectively strive for democracy, freedom, and respect for basic human rights.