Uyghur-American lawyer Nury Turkel has been unanimously chosen by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to serve as the US commission’s chair from 2022 to 2023. According to a press release by USCIRF, he is the Chairman of the ‘Board for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)’, a Council on Foreign Relations member and a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom today unanimously elected Nury Turkel (@nuryturkel) as its Chair to lead the Commission for 2022-2023.
USCIRF Commissioners also unanimously elected Abraham Cooper as its Vice Chair.https://t.co/LtF1L2ickG — USCIRF (@USCIRF) June 21, 2022
Nury Turkel who is a lawyer, foreign policy expert, as well as a human rights advocate, is considered to be the first Uyghur-American appointed to the Commission by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in May 2020. Further, she reappointed him in May 2022. He has taken part in several hearings, gatherings, and delegations organised by USCIRF, including trips to Uzbekistan.
‘Working to addressing threats to freedom of religion and belief around the world’: Nury Turkel
According to the press release, Turkel, who was born in a re-education camp at the time of China’s turbulent Cultural Revolution and spent the first few months of his life detained with his mother, said, “I am truly honoured to be elected as Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and privileged to lead the Commission as we work towards addressing threats to freedom of religion and belief around the world – a fundamental human right”.
The Uyghur American lawyer went on to say that the bipartisan group of USCIRF Commissioners offers a variety of complementing experiences and a common dedication to the promotion of religious freedom of all faiths, which includes those who choose not to exercise a belief. He also said, “I look forward to working with Vice-Chair Cooper and my fellow Commissioners in urging the White House, State Department, and Congress to implement USCIRF’s policy recommendations.”
As per an ANI report, the 12 million Uyghurs living in the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have suffered much during the course of Turkel’s lengthy career in advocacy.
It is worth mentioning that the US and other western nations have labelled China’s persecution of Uyghurs in XUAR as genocide. This persecution of the minority community and its language, religion, and culture became more severe in 2017.
As part of his objectives as USCIRF chair from 2022 to 2023, Turkel told RFA, that they will keep monitoring China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs and other vulnerable ethnic and religious groups, ensuring that their government continues to “call China out for the ongoing Uyghur genocide and advocate for a strong policy response to stop the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs and others in communist China.”
When asked about the USCIRF’s outreach to Muslim nations to raise China’s genocide against Uyghur Muslims, Nury Turkel added that the organisation will collaborate with US State Department counterparts to work with Muslim majority nations in order to speak out against China’s horrific acts and support US-led efforts to put an end to it.