DC Event recap: Uyghur women on the ongoing human rights crisis in their homeland


The first panel event of the new Washington DC NüVoices chapter was held last week, providing the perspective of two Uyghur women on the ongoing human rights crisis in their homeland. All three discussants provided valuable insights into the effects of the human rights crisis on Uyghur women.

The panel was moderated by Elise Anderson, an ethnomusicologist who is fluent in Uyghur and has done extensive field work in the region. She opened the panel with some of her observations on Uyghur women as professional musicians. She also observed that numerous prominent Uyghur women have been taken to the camps, while others have been left to shoulder social, economic and emotional burdens alone as the men in their families have been taken away.

More information on Elise Anderson’s research, including discussion and examples of the work of Uyghur women musicians, can be found on her website.

Zubayra Shamseden, the Chinese Outreach Coordinator for the Uyghur Human Rights Project, has been actively working for Uyghur human rights for three decades. Ms. Shamseden runs UHRP’s Chinese language website and social media, and leads its efforts to engage Chinese-speakers on Uyghur human rights issues. She presented the cases of Uyghur women political prisoners, including Gulmire Imin, Gulgine Tashmemet and Rahile Dawut. For more detail on these women, see her capstone project for her fellowship with the Center for Global Engagement’s Center for Women, Faith and Leadership.
Also speaking on the panel was Irade Kashgary, who discussed her experience as a young Uyghur-American and helping found and run a Uyghur language school aimed at helping Uyghur American children learn and maintain fluency in their mother tongue. The Washington DC area is home to the largest Uyghur diaspora community in the United States; she spoke about how the human rights crisis in their homeland is affecting the community, which is becoming more vocal and feeling more urgency about the task of preserving Uyghur language and culture as it is attacked and marginalized at home. Ms. Kashgary also recently spoke at the UN Youth Forum in New York.