WASHINGTON (WDVM) — East Turkistan has a complicated history. On November 12, 1933, its people overthrew Chinese occupation, only to be overthrown six months later. On November 12, 1944, the Second East Turkistan Republic was established. Five years later, the Chinese invaded once again.

The Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tatar and other peoples of East Turkistan have spent the last 71 years fighting for independence. On Thursday, the East Turkistan Government in Exile, led by Prime Minister Salih Hudayar, commemorated the anniversary outside of the U.S. Capitol. Hudayar was elected one year ago Thursday.

For the last six years, millions of Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tatar people, mostly of Muslim faith, have been held in concentration camps, prisons, and slave labor camps. According to survivors’ accounts, they’re being tortured, killed for their organs, raped, sterilized, and executed.

Those outside of the camps are being surveilled by so-called “family members.” Over 500,000 children are being schooled in state-run orphanages.

“Our towns, our religious places of worship, and even our cemeteries have been destroyed as China seeks to leave no evidence that we existed,” Prime Minister Hudayar said on Thursday. “For us, there is only one solution and that is the restoration of our country; East Turkistan’s independence. For without independence we will have no human rights.”

The organization is advocating for official recognition from the world’s governments and parliaments. U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan resolution that would declare the human rights abuses as a genocide.

In June, President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law. The Canadian Parliament has recognized the abuses as a genocide.

“We face and continue to face numerous obstacles and malicious efforts by China and its
agents to coerce, infiltrate, influence, and undermine the East Turkistan Government in Exile
and East Turkistan’s struggle to regain our independence,” Hudayar said. “However, we have full faith that with the support of our people and our foreign friends, we will able to overcome these obstacles and malicious efforts. Nothing can stop us from pursuing our right to exist as a free and independent country.”