Dear friends of the Uyghurs,
I am, like many other people, an immigrant in the US. I came to America in the late 1980s when I was 30 years old, with no money and two children, dedicating my life to do the best I could to have a successful and happy life for me and my whole family. I can say that I did achieve the American dream. Not only did I and my wife work hard, managing multiple jobs while going to schools and raising children, but our success was enabled by a system based on freedom and equality that enabled social mobility. I’m not saying that the system in America is perfect, but compared to many places in the world, we are very fortunate.
We have a system here built on a fundamental human desire – freedom. Everyone always talks about it, but what is freedom? Many people define it differently. However, no matter where you’re from or where you grew up, what “race” you are, what religion you follow or if you don’t believe in a religion at all, humans at the most basic level desire some sort of freedom. To me it’s the ability to make the choice of how you would like to live your life, as long as you are not causing harm.
Uyghurs, a population of more than 20 million people, represent a unique language, culture, cuisine, history and traditions. For centuries, Uyghur culture has kept a unique way of expressing the essence of different religions, cultures and civilizations that have crossed its path. By being important contributors to the cultures of Central Asia and “the ancient Silk Road”, Uyghur artists always have formed their cultural heritage through their music, dance, theatre, poetry, craftsmanship, and other forms of expression. Uyghur culture and art have touched millions of hearts, taking inspiration and moving it forward. Uyghur culture is an example of mutual understanding and continuous exchange between great minds along historical roads.
Unfortunately for the Uyghurs, we have now been stripped of all basic and fundamental human rights. The Chinese government is hell-bent on destroying the culture, the customs, the language and the religion of the Uyghur people, and the Uyghur ethnic identity. The Uyghur homeland is no longer a sacred keeper of its heritage. This page is not an appropriate place for me to describe in enough depth what is happening and why it is happening to the Uyghurs in East Turkestan. In 2013, prof. Ai Yuejin of Nankai University of China summarized well what China is doing to the peoples like the Uyghurs, when lecturing a class of military students (quote):
“Do you know what is the foundation for our nation to become stronger? It is not national defense, not education, and not economics. It is the vast territory we own. We have 9.6 million square-Km of territory. It is the pride of us, the Han people. During the past 200 years we have assimilated all of the minority ethnic groups in the periphery of China into our race. The nature of our culture is to assimilate. We change and accept the good races into our own society, and torture and eradicate the bad ones.”
This means that the current Chinese rulers have decided that the Uyghurs are “a bad race” and need to be eradicated. They have decided to do this now because of the current urgent needs of their Belt Road mission. For that reason, China is destroying an evolving Uyghur society, a sustainable development pattern in terms of architecture, culture, including literature, performing art, etc.
However, there is no justification for that. Uyghurs have moved along with the society, with the world, making valuable contributions to linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, and biodiversity. We have developed our culture, our way of life that is compatible with a modern society. The eradication of the Uyghur “race” from the surface of the Earth represents the partial loss of all three diversities. If the world does not stop this process now, it can lead to the total loss of diversity at all levels, and that will spell dramatic consequences for humanity and the Earth.
We believe that there is absolutely no excuse for China to commit linguistic, cultural and ethnic genocide, to wipe out such a brilliant civilization, whether for economic reasons or for China’s ego problems. China has no excuse for what they are doing to the Uyghurs.
The Uyghur people in East Turkestan do not now have any freedom, or any power to protect not only their language and culture, but also their lives. Therefore, it has now become the duty of the Uyghurs in diaspora to preserve the Uyghur language, Uyghur culture, and Uyghurs’ ethnic identity, and to promote Uyghur culture.
I have teamed up with some highly educated, experienced and dedicated Uyghur intellectuals and professionals. Together we have established an organization, Uyghur Projects Foundation (UPF). Our goal is to generate some funds from donations and use them to finance some important projects that benefit Uyghur diaspora in their struggle to preserve and promote Uyghur cultures, and to save Uyghur ethnic identity.
The Uyghur diaspora community is very small in size and is very weak financially. That is why I am writing to you today. We cannot achieve our goals with our own financial capability. So we need your generous support.
Your support will help provide the necessary financial means to save the Uyghur language and the Uyghur culture in diaspora, and we are deeply grateful for your continued support. Your gift today makes a big difference tomorrow and every day!
Erkin Sidick, PhD