It is a little over two years since I met Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur singer and translator who had come to London to escape Chinese government persecution. Hearing how the scale and severity of that persecution echoed the Jewish experience, René Cassin organised a public meeting at which we pledged to “bear witness to what is happening, raise awareness among the Jewish community, and advocate for an end to China’s persecution of its minorities”.
Two years later, René Cassin’s work on the issue has borne significant fruit. We have successfully mobilised leading Jewish voices to speak out about the plight of the Uyghurs. And, behind the scenes, we have helped Rahima secure backing for her Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign – the Pears Foundation has very generously agreed to fund the launch of this new initiative, on behalf of the UK’s Jewish community.
We need to keep up the pressure. The brutal repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities continues. Early next year, Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics. China will try to use the occasion to promote itself as a superpower worthy of the world’s respect. We cannot allow that if it serves as a smokescreen to mask China’s attempt to destroy the Uyghur people. So, in conjunction with Stop Uyghur Genocide and Jewish News, we are launching a campaign to counter China’s propaganda by labelling the Beijing Olympics ‘the Genocide Games’.
With your help, the campaign will:
- Ask sponsors to uphold human rights standards by dropping their sponsorship and endorsements
- Encourage the UK government, Team GB, and sports clubs to speak out against the persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups by the Chinese Government
- Convene Jewish athletes, spokespeople, and organisations to collectively speak out against atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur people.
The Chief Rabbi has already lent his support. Now, you can get involved – for more information, including how to contact Olympic sponsors, visit our campaign page.
Uyghur event – Tuesday 6 July
Over recent months, two experts on genocide, Professor John Packer and Professor Bill Schabas have published opinions on the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Packer recognised the persecution of Uyghurs as genocide. Schabas did not. However, until now, they have not come face to face to discuss their positions and seek common ground.
Join us on Tuesday 6 July at 7pm for Uyghur repression – systematic, brutal, but is it genocide? for what will be a fascinating and informative discussion.
Rahima is just one of the many who have sought safety from repression in the UK. Earlier this month we marked Refugee Week with a packed programme of events, collaborations, and informative blogs, celebrating the contribution, creativity and resilience of people seeking sanctuary.
Issues of human rights intersect, of course. The central event in our Refugee Week programme – Detention is a Feminist Issue – complemented our new workstream on women’s rights.
We launched our work on women’s rights with an experts’ roundtable led by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. Helena used the incredible breadth and depth of her experience to inform our mapping of the current state of women’s rights in the UK and the issues and challenges we must address.
And our campaigning work on women’s rights is off to a flying start. Our bid to get 190 signatures to support UK ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 190 (which aims to counter workplace violence and harassment) exceeded our expectations.
Another of our new workstreams, on socio-economic justice, is also up and running strongly. We launched our Right to Food campaign, marking last month’s Shavuot with our ‘Recipe for Rights’. As René Cassin advisor Professor Geraldine van Bueren pointed out in Jewish News: “It is ironic that a government can obtain a court order to force feed someone, but a family with insufficient means to eat cannot hold the government to account”.
We believe that the Jewish community does not wish to see the normalisation of food banks, so we are establishing a Jewish Food Rights Alliance to campaign for a right to food that is as well protected as the right to religious freedom.
Our new work on a right to food is informed by Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being … including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”.
The Universal Declaration has special significance. We take our name from Monsieur René Cassin, its French-Jewish co-author. But, more widely, the Declaration is the source of virtually all subsequent developments – like the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act – that protect the rights of ordinary people in their everyday lives.
We are concerned that the government’s current review of the Human Rights Act may prompt it to weaken its protections. So, as reported in Jewish News, we have co-ordinated an interfaith letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to keep the Act “as it is”, emphasising that “the human dignity that we all recognise needs a legal framework to protect it”.
Solidarity and Pride: LGBTQ+ Jews and Travellers in conversation
Tuesday 29 June, 5.30pm
LGBTQ+ Jews and Travellers share our experiences in our communities and discuss what solidarity looks like.
Free online event – book your place via our Eventbrite page
All René Cassin’s important work depends on the generosity of our supporters – to ensure that work continues, please consider a one-off or regular donation via our website at www.renecassin.org/donate
As always, if you have any questions or comments about René Cassin or our work, do please get in touch: [email protected]
Thank you, and with best wishes