UHRP Announces New Leadership Amidst Commitment to Ethical Standards

May 25, 2024

Uyghur American human rights activist Nury Turkel has resigned as Chair of the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) following allegations of sexual harassment. The UHRP Board accepted his resignation on Friday and appointed former Vice Chair Dr. Justinian Rudelson Ben-Adam as his successor.

UHRP, a leading organization advocating for Uyghur rights against severe abuses by Chinese authorities, emphasized its zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and reaffirmed its commitment to high ethical standards. The organization has pledged to ensure a welcoming environment for all activists, especially women, involved in the movement for Uyghur human rights.

Nury Turkel, co-founder of UHRP, has been instrumental in documenting Uyghur rights abuses by the Chinese government and advocating for the freedom and rights of Uyghur people on global stages.

Nury Turkel is also on the 2020 TIME 100 List. He served as the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) from 2022 to 2023. He is the author of No Escape, the true story of China’s genocide of Uyghurs.

The allegations against Turkel, reported in a May 10 article by NOTUS, an outlet of the Allbritton Journalism Institute include harassment of women at the 2019 and 2022 Oslo Freedom Forums and making a sexual advance following a 2021 work meeting. The article also mentioned that an activist, Julie Millsap, who had a consensual sexual relationship with Turkel, was sidelined after reporting his behavior to UHRP leaders.

The NOTUS article also reports that Dolkun Isa, the President of the World Uyghur Congress, allegedly sent sexually harassing messages to her in 2021. Both WUC and Dolkun Isa issued statements admitting the misconduct and apologizing to the victims.

In response, UHRP hired a reputable law firm, Isler Dare, to conduct an investigation. Initially, UHRP downplayed the claims, with a representative stating that the investigation found no basis for the allegations. However, UHRP has since acknowledged the seriousness of the claims and is taking further steps to address workplace gender-based violence and harassment.

Dr. Rudelson Ben-Adam, the new Chair, is an anthropologist of Jewish origin with four decades of experience in Uyghur human rights work. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom.

“We know as an organization that we can do better,” UHRP stated, thanking partners and organizations for their support and reaffirming that sexual harassment and intimidation will not be tolerated.

Radio Free Asia reported that it has reached out to Nury Turkel for comment, while Louisa Greve, UHRP’s Director of Global Advocacy, declined to comment on the discrepancy between UHRP’s initial denials and its recent statements.


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