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Uyghur American elected as chairman of US Commission on International Religious Freedom

News Agencies | Updated on: 25 June 2022, 8:39 IST
Uyghur rights advocate Nury Turkel. (Photo/ANI)

Uyghur-American lawyer Nury Turkel, who was born in Kashgar in a detention camp during China's Cultural Revolution was unanimously elected chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

He was the first Uyghur-American to be appointed in USCIRF in 2020 - a bipartisan and independent federal government body. The new religious freedom chair takes up lead role as "immigrant and indirect victim of the Uyghur genocide," reported Radio Free Asia (RFA).

In a long career in advocacy, 50-year-old Turkel also served as chairman of the board for the Uyghur Human Rights Project in Washington, he has played a major role in raising global awareness of the plight of the 12 million Uyghurs in the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).


China's targeting of Uyghurs in XUAR in a crackdown on the minority group and its language, religion, and culture that intensified in 2017, has been declared a genocide by the United States and other western governments.

He spoke with RFA about his goals as 2022-23 USCIRF chair and said, "As part of our legislative mandate, we will continue to monitor China's atrocities against the Uyghurs and other vulnerable ethnic and religious groups, making sure that our government continues to call China out for the ongoing Uyghur genocide and advocate for a strong policy response to stop the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs and others in communist China."

Speaking about the USCIRF work with its counterparts in other democracies to address the Uyghur Genocide, he said, "USCIRF has advocated for multilateral and bilateral responses to the Uyghur crisis in light of its complex and global nature. As a result, the US has led the efforts to raise awareness and press China to end persecution, shut down the camps, and end the enslavement of the Uyghurs."

He also said that the organization will work with US State Department counterparts to engage with Muslim majority countries to speak out against China's atrocities and join the US-led efforts to end the Uyghur genocide, when asked about the USCIRF reach out to the Muslim countries to raise China's genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

Since 2017, Chinese authorities have committed crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the northwest Xinjiang region, detaining as many as one million people and subjecting detainees and others to forced labour inside and outside Xinjiang.


First published: 25 June 2022, 8:39 IST