Holocaust survivors urge UK to stand up for Uighurs ahead of Genocide Bill vote

Holocaust survivors urge UK to stand up for Uighurs ahead of Genocide Bill vote
The UK could be the latest country to implement legislation targeting China over its repression of the Uighur minority.
4 min read
09 March, 2021
Uighur Muslims in China have suffered huge repression according to

Two Holocaust survivors have started a petition urging UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet with them ahead of a vote on the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill

The petition, launched by Dorit Oliver Wolff BEM and Ruth Barnett MBE, has racked up over 50,000 signatures at the time of writing and aims at tackling ongoing genocides in the world.

Both Barnett and Wolff were young children when the war broke out in Germany in 1939.

Their lived experiences of the Holocaust motivated them to write an open letter to the prime minister calling on the UK to recognise genocide, in light of China's current repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

"Whilst I still can, I want to help and take a stand against genocide. There are many similarities between what is happening to the Uyghurs and what has happened to us," Wolff stated.

"Every human should have the right to live and no other human being should feel that they are better than them or have the power to take away their rights."

The new Genocide Amendment Trade Bill aims at restricting trade with countries who have committed genocide but has stalled after going back and forth between MPs and Lords, following a row on its implementation.

Cross-party peer David Alton put forward an updated amendment at the House of Lords on the 22 February and this will be voted on again in March at the House of Commons.

Barnett stated that "the Genocide Trade Bill is enormously important because for 76 years we have quietly colluded with tolerating with genocide after genocide. This is a chance to take a first vital step naming genocide. You can't begin to control and get rid of it if you don't first name it".

There are an estimated one million Uighur Muslims that have been put in concentration camps in Xinjiang China with reports of human rights abuses imposed that amount to genocide.  

Uighur Muslims who have managed to escape camps in Xinjiang have revealed harrowing details of systematic rape, abuse, and discrimination.

"As a Holocaust survivor I was a victim but I decided as a child that I am going to be a survivor and not a victim. It was very hard because I experienced discrimination for being Jewish and I have gone through this. I don’t think anybody should experience the same things which I have been through," said Wolff.

"I have seen people being raped, being beaten to death in front of my eyes and people without food. I myself was in hiding for 9 months in a derelict cellar with very little food and I ended up weighing 3 and half stone."

Both Wolff and Barnett hope to discuss with Boris Johnson the importance of supporting the amendment and how it would help those who have suffered from genocide.

Rahima Mahmut, a human rights activist and UK Project Director at the World Uyghur Congress is an Uighur Muslim who has not seen her family in Xinjiang in years due to the crackdown by the Chinese Communist Party.

"As survivors of the worst atrocity crimes that took place during the Holocaust, they know what it is like being in the situation of what Uyghurs are going through at the moment," said Mahmut.

"This will really help the Uighur cause and therefore paralleling the Holocaust and current Uighur genocide is important. Having their support really gives hope to the Uighurs. It would be shameful for the government not to listen to these elderly survivors."

Ahmed Ahad (name changed for his safety) is an Uighur who fled Xinjiang and came to the UK with his wife. Two of his other children were unable to flee in time and are being held in a secret location.

"I am proud of these Jewish sisters for putting pressure on the UK to act. We, Uighurs have experienced too much trauma in Xinjiang. I don't know if my family are dead or alive," he said.

"I have not seen my children in years and I miss them. We were discriminated against just for being Muslim. I hope that the UK which gave us sanctuary can do more and pass this bill."


Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected