The Uyghur PEN Centre stands for the rights of the Uyghur people, for their freedom of expression and freedom of write!
- About Uyghur PEN and PEN International
- Establishment of Uyghur PEN Centre
- Who are the Uyghurs?
About The Uyghur PEN and PEN International
The Uyghur PEN Center is one of 145 International PEN centers across the globe dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, thought and information for all. It stands in solidarity with writers everywhere who have been forced into silence by censorship. It stands for the rights of the Uyghur people, for their freedom of expression and freedom of write. It also campaigns for the release of imprisoned writers, for free media, for the right to one’s mother tongue, and for other rights related to freedom of expression. Uyghur PEN’s focus of expertise is on Uyghurs (Uyghur Autonomous Region, China) and Central Asia.
As a chapter of International PEN, Uyghur PEN sees the right to express ourselves as essential to a free and just world. It recognises that literature is essential for understanding and engaging with people around the world, and it also promotes freedom of expression.
PEN International’s history dates back to 1921. As a writers’ association, its membership is open to all published writers who subscribe to the organization’s charter, regardless of nationality, race, mother tongue or religion. It is a non-political and non-religious nonprofit organisation and has special consultative status at the UN and UNESCO.
Like PEN International, Uyghur PEN’s membership is open to all writers. Its members, mostly Uyghurs, bring a wide spectrum of experience and work in fields ranging from academia and media to film production, translation and literature.
Uyghur PEN is based in London, UK, but its board and members are scattered across the globe – particularly in Central Asia, northern Europe and North America. PEN International’s headquarter is based in London.
Establishment of Uyghur PEN Centre
Photo caption: Kurash Kusen, a founding member of Uyghur PEN Centre, deceased on 29 October 2006.
The Uyghur PEN Centre was founded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2006 by the Uyghur musician Kurash Kosen, and other Uyghur writers in exile. Unfortunately, only eleven days after announcing the establishment of the centre, Kurash Kusan passed away. We will always remember his name with pride.
The Uyghur PEN Centre follows the charters of PEN International. Membership is open to all writers; the majority are from Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, and the others are based in Europe and North America. Members bring a wide spectrum of experience, and work in fields ranging from academia, media and film production, translation and literature.
Uyghur PEN Centre was formally accepted as a member of PEN International during the Assembly of Delegates of the 74th International PEN World Congress on 6th October 2008 in Bogota, Colombia.
Uyghur PEN Centre is dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, thought and information for all. It stands in solidarity with writers everywhere who have been forced into silence by censorship. Uyghur PEN’s main activities are to protect and raise awareness of arrested Uyghur writers, poets, journalists and artistsin the Uyghur homeland of East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China).
Currently, the Uyghur PEN Board Member Aziz Isa Elkun, a London based Uyghur poet and academic, is the Director of Uyghur PEN Centre Online Revitalisation Project.
Uyghur PEN Centre currently has 44 active members.
Uyghur PEN is now 13 years old; what we have achieved?
Uyghur PEN Centre is now 12 years old.When he established Uyghur PEN Centre in 2006, the first president Kurash Kusan believed in peaceful dialogue in the face of ethnic tension, suspicion and hatred, and this remains the core of Uyghur PEN’s philosophy. Today, his dream of a PEN centre dedicated promoting free speech in East Turkistan and Central Asia is thriving. Our membership is steadily growing, as well as our programs. In 2009 we helped launch the Ural-Altaic PEN Network and in February 2010, then Uyghur PEN opened an office in Lund, Sweden. It’s office moved to London since 2017.
In April 2010, Uyghur PEN Centre launched its English-Uyghur bilingual official website www.uyghurpen.orgwhich is active until today. 2010 also marks our first international campaign for the release of the writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin. We are also working on a public database to track the harassment and imprisonment of writers in Xinjiang.
Through the efforts of our members in Kazakhstan we publish a seasonal literary magazine “Uyghur PEN Magazine” (in Uyghur and Russian languages) beginning in 2013.
Uyghur PEN believes the lack of free speech is a grave problem not only in China, but also in most of Central Asia. Restrictions on freedom of speech, thought and information hinder discussions about the problems our world faces and thus hinder solutions. In China, heavy censorship is exacerbating ethnic and other tensions and preventing any dialogue about public grievances.
Our program includes researching censorship and the persecution of Uyghur writers in East Turkistan, China; campaigning for imprisoned writers; and encouraging civil society and intellectual exchanges across Central Asia.
In 2009, Uyghur PEN Centre and other PEN centres teamed up to create a new regional PEN network, the Ural-Altaic PEN Network. The network groups a string of countries across Europe and Asia (from Finland and Hungary in the west to Korea and Japan in the east) where Uralic or Altaic languages are spoken.
The goal is two-fold. The network promotes literary and academic contacts among these countries that foster debate and intellectual exchanges in a variety of fields. These exchanges can challenge our assumptions and lead to new perspectives. The network also brings together veteran and young PEN centers on a variety of projects.
Kaiser Abdurusul (former Uyghur PEN Secretary and two term president of Uyghur PEN) acted as a chair of the Ural-Altay PEN network from 2009 to 2014, which spans PEN chapters from Finland to Japan. In February 2011, we held Ural-Altay PEN networks Conferences in Budapest and at the same year July in Mongolia. The Ural-Altay PEN network also included some PEN centres such as the Basque Centre, which has no linguistic ties with other regional PEN networks. The PEN conference had never been hosted in Ukraine, and our network was the first regional PEN Networks that were able to achieve this goal. During the conference we discussed problems faced in Crimea and by the Uyghurs in East Turkistan (China). We also held two more conferences in Istanbul, talking about regional issues. We had more conferences in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and later on, during the 2014 PEN congress, we hosted it in Kyrgyzstan together with PEN Central Asia. This was the first time in PEN’s history that it hosted a congress in Central Asia, in a former Soviet country.
On 28 August 2017, for the first time, Swedish, Uyghur, Tibetan and Independent Chinese PEN Centres came together and successfully held “The First International Conference of Four-PEN Platform” in Malmö City hall in Sweden. At the end of the conference, Uyghur Centre held its board members meeting and member’s election. During the meeting, Aziz Isa Elkun, board member, was elected as secretary of Uyghur PEN Centre.
Since 2017, many western media have reported that more than a million Uyghurs are detained in China’s internment camps in East Turkistan (Xinjiang/China) including numerous Uyghur academics, writers, journalists, artists and public figures. China has enforced a communication blockade for the Uyghurs between home and abroad, and foreign reporters have been banned from reporting from the region.
Uyghur PEN Centre has been focusing on the internment camps, working in collaboration with other PEN Centres and Human Rights NGOs to protect and raise awareness of arrested Uyghur writers, poets, journalists, artists. We were very pleased to be able to attend PEN International 84thWorld Congress in Pune, India from 25-29 September 2018. During the Congress, we attended the panel of Writers in Prison Committee, where we presented on the situation of arrested Uyghur writers and academics, as well as the crisis of “concentration camps” in East Turkistan, and we urged worldwide PEN Centres to take action to defend Uyghur rights. At the end of Congress, a resolution on the People’s Republic of China was approved by the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International.
In November 2018, we organized a large-scale “Uyghur Culture Night” event in Londonin collaboration with the Uyghur Community UK, to raise awareness of the issues.We are actively searching for future collaborations with other PEN Centres, as well as maintaining effective communication with PEN International Secretariat.
Who are the Uyghurs?
Over the past year, many western media have reported that more than a million Uyghurs are detained in China’s internment camps in East Turkistan (Xinjiang/China) including an unaccounted number of Uyghur academics, writers, journalists, artists and public figures. There are growing concerns within the UN and the international community, including governments and NGO organisations. China has enforced a communication blockade for the Uyghurs between home and abroad, and foreign reporters have been banned from reporting from the region.
The peace-loving Uyghurs have a rich and distinctive cultural heritage that flourished in the heart of the ancient Silk Road. The Uyghurs are are a Turkic people and indigenous inhabitants of East Turkistan /Uyghuristan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China) ask ), which has over 20 million population. Uyghurs are ethnically Turkic with Islamic belief, and during the millenniums of their histories, their rich culture developed under diverse influences from around the region, from nomadic shamanic beliefs to the Buddhist era, to their conversion to Islam beginning in the 10th century. Today Uyghur culture is under severe threat as China carries out systematic policies to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur cultural and ethnic identity into the Han Chinese.
China is pursuing for decades of apartheid policies towards the Uyghur people, and because of these racially discriminated treatment, Uyghurs are heavily marginalised economically, politically and culturally. Since 2017, China is implementing state sponsored ethnic and cultural genocide on Uyghur population.
Although the Chinese government has a formal policy of protecting the cultures of the all nanionalities, and regardless it also written in the Chinese constitution about protecting the rights ethnic nationals of the Autonomous Regions, but it never implemented. Mosques were destroyed and Islamic believe and practices were banned. There is no exist any independent medias and visiting by international journalists to the regions restricted. All literature and academic research into Uyghur history, culture and language is forbidden.
Only a few years ago, news reports about the Uyghurs and their homeland East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China) were rare and few people outside of the region knew about the main ethnic group there, the Uyghurs but nowadays, Uyghur problem in the world media become more frequent because of Chinese government’s ethnic and cultural genocide policies and this has been a contributing factor to why China, how they were able to maintain some of its harshest apertheid policies in this region. But information abroad is increasing, therefore, Uyghurs in exile become a voice for their people, communicating through NGOs and media. This campaign of the Uyghurs must continue in order to increase pressure on China and force to stop it’s genocide criminality against the Uyghur people.
(Last up dated on 1July 2021)