The world community has only seen an election victory with more than 90% of the vote under a dictatorial regime, but Dolkun Isa’s victory points to another possibility.
by Kok Bayraq
The World Uyghur Congress’s (WUC) 7th General Assembly was held in Prague, Czech Republic, from November 12–14 (the organization has been formed in exile to reestablish an independent state in East Turkestan—officially called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by China). At that meeting, Dolkun Isa was reelected to the presidency. He was the only candidate, and before the vote, another well-known activist, Abduwali Ayup, protested “Are we living in China? Is this the election of the Chinese Communist Party or its puppet the People’s Congress? How can we hold an election with a single nominee?! I will be the other candidate for the presidency!” The protest was welcomed by some delegates with applause.
At that meeting, Dolkun Isa announced that he would welcome any competitor at any time. Yet, after a short discussion, the Election Commission ruled in favor of a single candidate. “Dolkun Isa will continue as the sole candidate because our election charter has a deadline for delegates to nominate themselves,” the commission announced, “If we accept other candidates at this time, it would be a breach of our election rules, making our organization’s rules and regulations akin to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China—nothing more than paper. The delegates will have the right to not elect Dolkun Isa and if he does not receive more than 50% of the vote, we will have to consider other candidates.”
However, the announcement of a single candidate satisfied the delegates, and the controversy subsided. Ballots were cast, with 204 Uyghur delegates from 25 countries voting. Dolkun Isa was elected to the presidency with 198 votes (97%.)
Although Dolkun Isa was among those who mocked Xi Jinping’s election “victory” with 99% of the votes, he was not uncomfortable with his own results because he did not imprison his opponents before the election, and he did not bring delegates to the ballot box by force or through payment.
Uyghur students in Urumqi have held two demonstrations against tyranny (1985 and 1988). Dolkun was a participant in the first and the leader of the second. He was expelled from Xinjiang University and labeled a “terrorist” by the government. However, he was charged with separatism because the title of “terrorist” was rarely used at that time.
When Dolkun Isa was first proclaimed a terrorist by China in 2003, I spoke to him and said, “Congratulations on your wonderful new label!” He replied, “Don’t joke about this matter. This is one of the ugliest labels in the world. It could cause more trouble in my activities, especially if the interest of the Uyghur people is hurt by it.”
I had to disagree, stating, “I believe that this ‘brand’ will bring you quick success because it is being given by the evilest power in the world—the Communist Chinese state. So, whether you accept it or not, I congratulate you. Congratulations, my ‘terrorist’ friend!”
Since then, the red notice issued by an international police organization based on China’s demand has caused many troubles for Dolkun. He has been expelled 14 times from the border of several countries, including Italy, South Korea, and Turkey, where he was sometimes detained for days. He has also been evicted from dozens of international conferences, some of which were held by the UN. In addition, his mother died in a camp; he learned of his father’s death a year after it happened; and his younger brother received life sentences as retaliation.
All his family tragedies were confirmed by independent media, but Dolkun did not give up his activism; to be the voice of an oppressed people. His expulsions from every border put his name and his people’s case on the front pages of newspapers. Some anonymous meetings have gained more fame and impact because of it, and the tragic consequences of his family members have shed light on the fate of more than three million Uyghurs in concentration camps in East Turkestan today.
According to a recent report, some UN figures have sought to gain or seek Chinese protection by sending the name Dolkun Isa to China. It can be said that the UN and the Chinese leaders have traded on his name. Although I was saddened to hear of this weakness in the UN body, I was proud of the strength and value of this “terrorist” friend of mine!
Dolkun’s journey of expulsion started 36 years ago, and each expulsion has placed him deeper into the hearts of his people. Being blacklisted by the most powerful tyrannical regime in the world for 36 years and constantly working against it is a key factor in Dolkun’s 97% victory.
Although the vast majority of the Uyghur population is in East Turkestan, there are more than two million Uyghurs in exile. Within the WUC leadership, there are doctors, professors, like Erkin Ekrem, a scholar from the Strategic Think-tank Institute of the Turkish Republic, mature diplomats, like Omer Kanat, who played an important role in introducing the Uyghur genocide to US Congress, and comedian Ablimit Tursun, who is widely known by the Uyghur people and has also been blacklisted by China as a terrorist for many years.
Most of these prominent activists were united in supporting the single candidacy of Dolkun Isa and unanimously accepted the election result. They believed that focusing on internationalizing the Uyghur cause and stopping the Uyghur genocide needs to be the primary goal, and they should avoid unnecessary internal disputes. In terms of size and method, the WUC election can be compared to smaller countries’ democratic elections.
There is another lesson to be learned from the WUC election. In the democratic elections also, a candidate may gain more than 90% vote, if the people who is holding the election was extremely oppressed, especially in the period of ongoing genocide.