Campaigns We Have Done
by M.H Uyghur
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Sunday, 15 September 2019 (UyghurAid zoom meeting opening speech)
Glad to be with you all here on this telephone conference. Before we start our discussions and reports, let me briefly talk to you what we have done so far.
Our organization was registered in August 2018, and so far, we have successfully organized and operated many different campaigns.
Our very first campaigns were actually started way before our organization started. It was the #FreeMyParents campaign, and its main focus was to create awareness of my parent’s situation and use it as an example to expose what was happening to the Uyghur people.
This campaign greatly impacted many Uyghurs. I started the campaign with a testimony video of me cutting off my hair and demanding the immediate release of my parents. Then other Uyghurs started to give their testimonies for their relatives.
Later we saw the importance of unity and collective movement of people. We have tried to try to mobilize other Uyghurs, we have made videos to encourage other Uyghurs to give testimonies. We have given public speeches and organized different demonstrations. We have collected about 400 testimony videos.
The first campaign successfully ended on 24th December 2018 when my parents were suddenly released. I am so grateful to everyone who has joined and helped the campaign.
We should be proud because this project is the starting point for Uyghurs to wear slogan t-shirts to promote awareness. After Anne designed the t-shirt and we use it for our activities, Uyghurs start to learn the importance of using different tools and patterns for promotion.
Our second project was a letter sending the campaign. At least 70 people claimed they had sent a letter to Chinese embassies in 20 different locations to ask them about my parents’ situation and other Uyghur and Kazakh detainees. This was part of #FreeMyParents campaign, but with its significance, it can be categorized as a different project. We only have few people send us a video of them sending a letter to the Chinese embassy, however, this is one of the very first projects aiming to create direct pressure on Chinese authority. I think this is the one and only campaign in which we gave clear and approachable demands to Chinese authority, and it is our strong attempt to build communication, remind them there are more civilized ways to deal with the problems. They don’t have to violently crackdown or send millions of people to the camps. However, they have never responded us, but this will not change our plans, we will continue to seek and find different ways to build possible communication and diplomatic channels to let them know what we are asking.
Our demands were: 1. Give information about detainees, reason why they have been detained, their wellbeing and length of so-called study.
- Immediate release of my parents and other detainees, because they don’t need so-called vocational training.
- To Stop controlling and interfering our communication with our family members
- Stop banning and abusing Uyghurs freedom of movement, our relatives should have the right to travel abroad to visit us and unite with us.
Our third project was “Freedom tour” chain demonstration in major European cities, this project had two different missions, one was to create awareness of the current situation of Uyghur, and the second was to build networks among Uyghurs.
The tour was a great success, and this campaign made us better known. This project gave the opportunity for Uyghurs to be involved at the grassroots level with Uyghur cause, and to network with other activists. This campaign has encouraged many others to stand up for their relatives, start different campaigns or join existing campaigns.
Our fourth project actually has started spontaneously following our relationship with media and journalist. Since the beginning of 2018, we have tried to build contact with media, I have been interviewed over 600 times by different journalist on different topics. I have played the role of bridging Uyghurs in the diaspora with the media. We have helped journalist friends to find people to interview for their different topics. We have gathered over 2 thousand people in 6 different WhatsApp groups, mobilized them to find people whose stories match the themes the journalist is writing about.
Lately, we have dismissed the WhatsApp groups because of abuses and misuses of people, that has greatly damaged our work. We helped journalist who planned to visit the Uyghur region, collect information for them, give suggestions and recommendations, to find people to contact within region, etc.
Thanks to this relationship and network, it became a very good cornerstone for our project and online campaigns.
Our very first successful online campaign actually started by our friends in England, they have contacted me and told me they are going to start a campaign for Uyghur and ask me to send them a video of me.
It was at the time I was preparing for the freedom tour, and my car was vandalized and we were hiding in a secret location. The video I made about my parents went viral, within 24 hours had been retweeted and watched over 60 thousand times. This directly resulted in people sign the petition, that was have started by Mohammad, a volunteer who is part of the #WhoAreUyghur campaign. Within a month time, over 6 thousand people had signed the petition, which resulted that the Uyghur issue was brought into discussion in the British parliament.
As a result of previous successful campaigns, we start to have credits to build relationships and network with politicians and diplomats. We have been to different countries to meet with human rights organizations, foreign ministries, and other activists. The success of #MeTooUyghur opened new doors, and it was one of the most successful campaigns that Uyghurs had done since the concentration camps started.
Within a week thousands of reports done, thousands of people joined the campaign, uploaded their testimonies to their social media accounts, use the hashtag to link to the campaign. USA state department used the hashtag for their Uyghur related tweets, Senator Marco Rubio joined the campaign.
This campaign also encouraged Uyghurs to start to use a hashtag on a grassroots level. Before the success of this campaign Uyghurs rarely used hashtags. It gave an example for Uyghurs to initiate other similar online campaigns. Unfortunately, some Uyghurs have been misguided by some people, they tried everything possible to destroy the movement. This has greatly harmed not only the movement but also the Uyghur cause.
Last winter we organized a successful Uyghur Awareness day in Helsinki University, the speakers included people from Amnesty International, Pen Finland and post Doctor of Copenhagen University and Uyghur activists from 6 different countries attended the event.
Following the event, we organized a demonstration in Helsinki, at the Senate Square, a historic tourist attraction. Both events were live-streamed online. France 24 and a Danish filmmaker came to the event for filming and used the film for their documentary.
I have traveled to over 20 different countries, attended panels and conferences organized by international nominee organization like the United Nations, Amnesty International, and different universities. I have met with officials, activists, and communities. Now we have a few different ongoing projects.
I will stop my speech here, thank you for your time.