Rushan Abbas

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Rushan Abbas
Rushan Abbas on Human Rights Situation in China, May 2019, Vienna.jpg
Abbas in 2019
Born (1967-06-14) June 14, 1967 (age 54)
Alma mater
OccupationPolitical activist
Known forFounder and executive director of Campaign for Uyghurs

Rushan Abbas (Uyghur: روشەن ئابباس; Chinese: 茹仙·阿巴斯;[1] born June 14, 1967)[2] is an Uyghur American activist and advocate from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. She is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Campaign for Uyghurs. Abbas became more prominent in international activism following her sister's detainment by the Chinese government in 2018.[3]

She testified in 2019 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in regard to the emergence of concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and the threat of Chinese power in the Eastern Pacific. She has also testified before the House of Representatives on international religious persecution, forced labor, and human rights abuses as it relates to Uyghurs.

Early life[edit]

Born in Ürümqi in 1967, Abbas attended the Experiential High School (Ürümqi Number 17th High school) and graduated in 1984. It was not clear, when she went to primary school, it seemed she started primary school when she was 7 in 1974 to graduate in 1984. Because, during the 70 and 80s (until 1985), the elementary, middle, and high schools all together were ten years in Ürümqi. She then continued her studies and attended Xinjiang University from 1984 until 1988 and majored in Biology. During her time at university, Abbas was one of the co-organizers of the pro-democracy rallies and demonstrations in 1985 and 1988, which were done to protest China’s policies in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In 1989, she came to the United States and attended Washington State University where she pursued studies in plant pathology. During Abbas' time in the United States, she became a U.S. citizen and remained within the Uyghur American community, continuing her advocacy work which she has been actively doing since 1985. Since her move to the U.S., she has been a vocal activist and advocates for the human rights of Uyghurs.[4][5][6][7]

Uyghur activism and advocacy[edit]

Since the late 1980s, Abbas has been a campaigner for the human rights of Uyghur people around the world. In 1988, she began her activism by participating in the Uyghur Student Protests. One of the multiple student movements in that decade, the protests generally resisted discriminatory education policies, birth control policies, the effects of nuclear testing in the Lop Nur region, a lack of genuine autonomy and representation in government and employment opportunities.[8]

In 1993, Abbas co-founded and operated the Uyghur Overseas Student[9] and Scholars Association as the first vice president. Shortly after, she was elected as the vice president of the Uyghur American Association for two terms.[9] By 1998, Radio Free Asia had launched an Uyghur Service where Abbas became the first Uyghur reporter broadcasting on Xinjiang.[10] Her activism continued in the United States, where she participated in protests against the Olympic relay in 2008 in San Francisco.[11]

She frequently briefs and advises on policy and legislative response, including support for the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, last year's Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, and greater transparency for the Sister Cities program with links to China. She works frequently with the State Department to engage with international civic society, and meets with international government leaders.

Guantanamo Bay[edit]

A group of 22 Uyghur men were held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center as part of the ongoing War on Terror.[12][13] In 2002, Abbas was asked to serve as translator to the Uyghurs there, and accepted a nine-month assignment.

In 2006, she returned to aid defense attorneys in their ongoing efforts to secure a declaration of innocence for the Uyghurs being held there.[14] Following their release, Abbas assisted the US Department of Justice and State Department with the resettlement efforts in Albania, Sweden, Bermuda, Palau, Switzerland, El Salvador, and Slovenia.[15]

One Voice One Step Women's Movement[edit]

Abbas introduced and led the "One Voice One Step" Uyghur Women's movement; an organized demonstration that took place on March 15, 2018, in 14 countries and 18 cities on the same day to protest China's detention of millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps. The protests were held in the United States, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, France, Finland, and Japan.

The demonstrations largely were held to demand that the international community take action against reports of concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.[16]

Hudson Institute Panel and Sister's Arrest[edit]

On September 5, 2018, Rushan Abbas participated on a panel discussion titled "China's 'War on Terrorism' and the Xinjiang Emergency".[17] Abbas spoke about the ongoing Uyghur Genocide, and described the camps being used to detain Uyghurs in China.  Six days later, Abbas's sister and aunt were both detained by the Chinese government as retaliation for her speech.[18]

Abbas believes that her sister is being held hostage as retaliation for her activism in the United States.[19][20]

Following her sister's disappearance, she became a full time activist, with a focus on the crimes against humanity being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.[21] Abbas has been advocating for Uyghur people's rights, regularly appearing in the media, delivering public remarks in universities and forums, and creating international coalitions to draw attention to the Uyghur cause.[22] Since her disappearance, the Chinese Government has confirmed that her sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, is being held in a prison for taking part in organized terrorism, aiding terrorist activities, and disrupting the social order.

Beyond this confirmation, few details have been made publicly available.[23]

Abbas, Marco Rubio and Jeanette Nuñez before attending 2020 State of the Union.

Campaign for Uyghurs[edit]

In 2017, Abbas founded Campaign for Uyghurs. The non-profit is based in Washington, DC, and is used to organize internationally for the rights of Uyghur people. The primary focus of the organization are the ongoing crimes against humanity in China, which have been designated a genocide by some nations. Campaign for Uyghurs regularly engages in activism at the federal level in the United States, advocating the passage of legislation that restricts forced labor and advances human rights.[24]

Through her work at CFU, Abbas has been recognized by Government officials at the National Prayer Breakfast, and the State of the Union, where she was the guest of Senator Marco Rubio in February 2020.[25] Her work has drawn the ire of the Chinese Government on occasion, especially in the state-owned media apparatus, where she has been accused of being a member of a separatist group in East Turkistan.

United States politics[edit]

Abbas has appeared before congress on multiple occasions to testify on issues of Human Rights, specifically as they relate to the status of Uyghurs living in China. She testified in 2019 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in regard to the emergence of concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and the threat of Chinese power in the Eastern Pacific.[26]

In 2020, she testified before the House of Representatives on international religious persecution, and the role of islamophobia in the ongoing human rights abuses in China.[27] In 2021, she testified on the issue of forced labor as it relates to Uyghurs, and the economic coercive power being used in China.[28]

She has been vocal in the Biden Administration, writing in 2021 that she hopes "the Biden administration ensures the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support and imposes sanctions on entities and individuals involved in these human rights abuses, will be enforced to the full extent. The Biden administration must also prioritize Section 307 of the Tariff Act — which outlaws forced labor imports — and ensure that thorough and effective enforcement is applied to every ban on products originating from the Uighur homeland."[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lexus Fan Liu Xin (March 16, 2020). 美媒揭“世维会”背后反华势力:由美国资助和指挥的“分离主义网络” [U.S. media reveals the anti-China forces behind the World Uyghur Conference: the "Separatist Network" funded and directed by the United States]. Global Times (in Chinese) – via China Daily.
  2. ^ "Modern Orwellism and the Chinese "re-education" camps for Uyghurs. An interview with a leading Uyghur activist, Ms. Rushan Abbas | Czech Centre for Human Rights and Democracy".
  3. ^ "Gulshan Abbas, Sister of Uyghur Activist in Exile, Confirmed Jailed After Missing for 27 Months". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  4. ^ Abbas, Rushan (May 9, 2019). "I've fought China's slow-motion genocide of Uighur Muslims. Now, my family are victims". USA Today. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  5. ^ "Rushan Abbas". Victims of Communism. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Modern Orwellism and the Chinese "re-education" camps for Uyghurs. An interview with a leading Uyghur activist, Ms. Rushan Abbas | Czech Centre for Human Rights and Democracy". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  7. ^ "Uyghur activist describes Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang: Women talk about seeing other women taken away to be gangraped". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "PRESS RELEASE: WUC Commemorates the 30 Year Anniversary of 1988 Uyghur Student Protests". World Uyghur Congress. June 15, 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  9. ^ a b Respinti, Marco (January 8, 2019). "The Other 9/11 of Rushan Abbas". Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Plight of the Uyghurs: Mass Internment in Western China". Princeton University. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  11. ^ Hendricks, Tyche (April 8, 2008). "Flame heads to S.F. trailing trouble". SFGATE. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  12. ^ Bernstein, Richard (March 19, 2019). "When China Convinced the U.S. That Uighurs Were Waging Jihad". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  13. ^ "Learning About the Uighurs by Peter Jan Honigsberg". Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  14. ^ "Uighurs' Translator Reflects On Their Odyssey". Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  15. ^ Prada, Paulo (August 6, 2009). "The Go-Between: Interpreting Life in Bermuda for Freed Gitmo Prisoners". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  16. ^ "One Voice, One Step Initiative Demands Human Rights and Justice for Uyghur People". Uyghur American Association. Archived from the original on June 3, 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2020 – via
  17. ^ "Events - China's "War on Terrorism" and the Xinjiang Emergency - September - 2018 - Hudson Institute". Hudson Institute. Retrieved April 17, 2020 – via
  18. ^ Wong, Edward (October 18, 2018). "Uighur Americans Speak Against China's Internment Camps. Their Relatives Disappear". The New York Times. Rosslyn, Va. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  19. ^ "Rubio to Host Uyghur Human Rights Activist and Florida's Lt. Governor as His Guests for State of the Union". U.S. Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  20. ^ "'Chinese government cannot silence me': Uighur activist speaks out and asks Australians for support". SBS News. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  21. ^ Respinti, Marco (September 13, 2019). "The Emblematic Case of Dr. Gulshan Abbas One Year Later". Bitter Winter. Retrieved April 17, 2020 – via
  22. ^ "Amerika Haus: Rushan Abbas About Concentration Camps in Xinjiang, China". Vienna International News. Retrieved April 17, 2020 – via
  23. ^ "China: Uighur Muslim doctor jailed on 'terrorism' charges". China: Uighur Muslim doctor jailed on ‘terrorism’ charges. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  24. ^ "About Us". Campaign For Uyghurs. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  25. ^ "Rubio to Host Uyghur Human Rights Activist and Florida's Lt. Governor as His Guests for State of the Union". U.S. Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  26. ^ "United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations". Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  27. ^ "Ending Global Religious Persecution". Committee Repository, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  28. ^ "Enforcing the Ban on Imports Produced by Forced Labor in Xinjiang". Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  29. ^ "Opinion | China seized my sister. Biden must fight for her and all enslaved Uighurs". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 6, 2021.

External links[edit]

Media related to Rushan Abbas at Wikimedia Commons