Let’s Honor Justice and Save Serikzhan Bilash
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Torchlight Uyghur Group
June 18, 2019
As China was getting away with its appalling human rights violations in occupied East Turkestan (aka the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China), through systematic ethnic cleansing on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs and others, a beacon of hope emerged not too far from where the atrocities were taking place. A hope not in the sense that the Chinese government’s inhuman practices were going to come to an end, but the tightly controlled information about the brutal human rights violations in the occupied territory could finally be exposed to the outside world. The world turned its attention to Kazakhstan, occupied East Turkistan’s north-western neighbor. News reports started coming out of the country, through international media and human rights organizations, revealing more and more attested personal accounts of Kazakhs detained, tortured and even disappeared without trace in numerous concentration camps in East Turkestan.
Among the brave men and women who were connecting all the dots and helping international human rights organizations to disclose these atrocities to the world was Serikzhan Bilash, an East Turkestan-born and later-naturalized citizen of Kazakhstan. The world started learning about China’s lies to cover up its crimes against humanity through the outstanding work of Ata-Jurt, the human rights group Serikzhan Bilash had founded. This new channel of information with a totally new perspective marked a turning point in shedding light on China’s unprecedented brutalities. More importantly, it gave hope for all the Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz communities all around the world, that maybe this time they could convince the world that the Chinese government’s actions need serious attention. Through the personal testimonies collected and compiled by Ata-Jurt, international human rights organizations came to learn that the reality in occupied East Turkistan was far more severe than what had previously been known. In addition to documenting personal testimonies, Serikzhan was also organizing events to raise awareness among Kazakhs and Uyghurs in Kazakhstan and encouraging them to stand with him to voice their concerns.
Unfortunately, as the testimonies were accumulating, a bad news broke out on March 10, 2019 that Serikzhan Bilash was arrested by the Kazakh authorities. According to official accounts of the Kazakh government, Serikzhan was accused of “sowing discord and inciting hatred.” He has been put under house arrest ever since. Both his wife and his lawyer fear that he might either face long-term imprisonment in Kazakhstan or be handed over to China. With his arrest, not only has one of the few extremely precious sources of information on China’s concentration camps in occupied East Turkistan gone dark, but it has also further emboldened the Chinese government. This is utterly disturbing, and it should make every democratic society worry. The Chinese government’s crimes are undeniable, and it must be held accountable without any delay. What is more disappointing is that Kazakhstan, despite being a sovereign nation, is punishing it is own citizen at the behest of the Chinese government, the original perpetrator of the crimes against the humanity.
We ask the Kazakh government not to tarnish their image by abetting a totalitarian regime like China. We call upon the Kazakh government to put the lives of more than 3 million innocent people locked up in China’s concentration camps over their financial interest and release Serikzhan Bilash immediately and unconditionally, and let him continue to be the voice for the voiceless until China closes all the concentration camps, and until the Chinese government is held accountable for its crimes.
Your support is needed more than ever as we stand up against the Chinese government’s cruel acts. Let justice be honored. Let human rights overcome tyranny!
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