Over 150 Global Humanitarian, Business and Political Leaders Demand Freedom of "Armenian Prisoners"

Nobel Laureates, Captains of Industry, Former Heads of State and Civil Society Leaders Unite, Calling for Unconditional Release of Ethnic Armenians Illegally Held in Azerbaijan
Failure to release most prominent prisoners demonstrates political retribution by Baku; Calls for sanctions against the Aliyev regime mounting in the US Congress and the European Parliament
Letter signed by former presidents Mary RobinsonErnesto Zedillo, Nobel Prize Winners Leymah Gbowee and Oscar AriasElisha Wiesel, Chairman of the Board of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, entrepreneurs Richard BransonMarc Benioff, publisher Ariana Huffington, and other global figures highlights concerns for detained leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh, including Armenian humanitarian Ruben Vardanyan.
BRUSSELSDec. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Nobel Prize laureates, business leaders, former heads of state, and humanitarians are among the more than 100 global figures who have signed a letter calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the “Armenian Prisoners,” which includes eight Armenian political prisoners, who are former leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh’s government illegally detained following Azerbaijan’s invasion and seizure of the region in September. More than a dozen other prisoners of war arrested during the conflict also remain in custody.
The collective plea echoes growing concerns over conditions and treatment of these imprisoned individuals, including prominent Armenian businessman and humanitarian, Ruben Vardanyan. Their arrest follows a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Azerbaijani forces. While the December 7th release of 32 Armenian prisoners of war is a welcome first step, all of the others must be released. The failure of Baku to release the remaining eight political prisoners raises deep concerns over the motives by the Aliyev regime of their continued detention.
“The human rights abuses witnessed in the wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict demand urgent attention and action,” said Noubar Afeyan, another signatory as well as the co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. “President Aliyev chooses political retribution over justice. We believe in the inherent dignity and rights of every individual and call on the international community to join us in condemning this injustice.
“Afeyan has long collaborated on global and regional economic development and humanitarian projects with Vardanyan, who has become a symbol of the broader struggle for political freedom and human dignity in the region. His unjust imprisonment has galvanized some of the world’s most respected voices to champion his cause and that of others unjustly detained.
“We call on President Aliyev to fulfill his obligations to international rules and law, ensuring those unjustly imprisoned can return safely to their families,” said Paul Polman, Vice Chair of the United Nations Global Compact and former CEO of Unilever. “All individuals in Nagorno-Karabakh have a right to experience a life of peace and security, including the freedom to move without hindrance or the looming specter of inhuman treatment. Given Azerbaijan’s bid to host COP 29 in 2024, I sincerely hope the United Nations will only agree if Baku releases all these prisoners.”
Polman is one of the letter’s signatories, alongside former heads of state, such as Ernesto Zedillo, former President of MexicoMary Robinson, former President of IrelandOscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Elisha Wiesel, Chairman of the Board of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and son of the late Elie Wiesel, former Co-Chair of Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. Other prominent signatories represent a wide range of sectors, including Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce; Ariana Huffington, founder of Thrive and The Huffington Post; and Serj Tankian, renowned musician and lead vocalist of System of a Down.”The unjust detention of Ruben Vardanyan and so many others being held in Baku violates their basic human rights,” said Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. “For the government of Azerbaijan to be respected in the global community, it is critical they respect the rule of law, especially in light of the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh. They must release these detainees immediately.”Their unified plea serves as a powerful reminder that global political leaders are closely monitoring developments in Azerbaijan and calling for the release of the detainees. As asserted in the letter issued today, the detention of Armenian prisoners is a clear violation of international norms, including the Third Geneva Convention.
In recent weeks, members of the European Parliament and European Council have pursued a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the release of all illegally held detainees arising from the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. In October, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Azerbaijan to release and commit to a broad amnesty for all the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh who have been arrested since September 19, including former officials from the region. The European Parliament has also called for sanctions against the individuals in the Azerbaijani Government responsible for multiple ceasefire violations and violations of human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as investigations into the abuses committed by Azerbaijani forces that could constitute war crimes.Similarly, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced a resolution calling on Azerbaijan to immediately release all prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians currently detained in the years-long attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh. The resolution also calls on President Biden to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on Azerbaijani Government officials responsible for the illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing of Armenian prisoners of war, civilian detainees, hostages, political prisoners, and others detained persons.A full list of signatories and a copy of the letter are available at: www.FreeArmenianPrisoners.comFor questions about the letter or how to support this effort, or to request an interview, contact: [email protected]


Nia Jackson 
Edelman Global Advisory
+1 202 983 0478
[email protected]

Anahit Akopian
+33 7 87 38 79 80
[email protected]

Free Armenian Prisoners
[email protected]
#FreeArmenianPrisoners @RubenVardanyan

View Original Article on prnewswire.com


By Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
October 20, 2023

“When I first read Night I never dreamed I would meet Elie, much less that we would become friends… Elie implanted in my soul an unwavering insistence that we must educate every successive generation to exactly what happened, so that we can never forget the horrors of the Shoah. It was Elie’s life-long work to make sure each of us carried in our hearts that promise never again” – President Joe Biden, July 2nd, 2016

Thank you, President Biden, for keeping your promise — to your friend, and to the Jewish people.

It costs nothing to say “never again” when we think back to the Holocaust and the defenseless Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Many say the words without a real sense of the moral clarity needed to act on them when the victim is being cast as the villain.

We have just seen the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And in today’s environment of rampant antisemitism, it is in vogue in too many ignorant circles to blame the victim and spread modern-day blood libels.

Israel’s haters defame and hold the Jewish State to impossible standards, demanding that it abandon its obligation to secure its borders

Has any ally ever more forcefully repudiated the lie that Israel intentionally harms civilians than President Biden?

Could one ask more of an ally than to fly into an active war zone and show solidarity with our people at our darkest possible moment?

So many enemies of freedom are abusing their power on the world stage. Russia continues its unjustified aggression towards Ukraine. China threatens Taiwan and oppresses their Uyghur Muslims. Iran suppresses their people through morality police while they build nuclear weapons and construct a terrorist arsenal for Hamas.

President Biden, we pray for your ongoing strength as you lead the free world. Elie Wiesel believed that gratitude was one of the highest human qualities one could aspire to; and friendship one of the deepest joys available in life.

Thank you for your friendship with him, and with us. Thank you for standing strong against hate. Thank you for standing with Israel. Thank you for affirming the United States’ unwavering solidarity with Israel.

“So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack. There is no justification for terrorism. There is no excuse.” – President Joe Biden, October 10th, 2023

View Original Article on nytimes.com

My father, Elie Wiesel, survived Auschwitz. He'd ask these questions about Israel-Hamas war.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians carries heavy pain on both sides, but the history of who offered and who rejected peace must be acknowledged if we are to move forward.

By Elisha Wiesel
November 1, 2023

In his autobiographical book, “Night,” my father, Elie Wiesel, described the daily horror he and more than a million other Jews suffered in Auschwitz, the most infamous Nazi death camp. My father’s testimony is especially relevant now in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the worst inflicted on Jewish people since the Holocaust.

I encourage teachers to assign “Night” and to invite their students to engage in hard conversations and ask impossible questions about evil and humanity. I invite adults to read the book and to ask hard questions of themselves and others as well.

If my father’s story grips you, understand that the Holocaust did not happen in a vacuum. Learn and confront the tragic history of antisemitism and the blood libel, the centuries-old accusation that Jews murder the innocent. And learn who my father was.

My father was a writer who became an activist and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was a proud Jew who felt compelled to fight suffering everywhere. He spoke up for the victims of genocide in Sudan and Rwanda, and challenged President Bill Clinton to address the suffering of Bosnian Muslims.

My father was a passionate Zionist who believed Israel was the only guarantee our people had against a second Holocaust. He not only acknowledged Palestinian suffering in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, but he also dreamed of peace openly, hosting dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to accelerate its arrival.

My father testified to the world that Holocaust deniers should be known as enemies of truth and decency.

And now I ask you to bear witness.

Last month, the world got a preview of the massacres Hamas is capable of. Infants were killed and their bodies desecrated; women were raped and broken. Terrorists once again tried to kill the dream of peace many Israelis and Palestinians share.

Please learn about the victims of Hamas terror, many of whom were dancing for peace. Watch the videos showing young Gazan children being taught to worship terror. Listen to the words of Hamas leaders declaring that Gazans seek martyrdom, while Israel issues warnings to avoid civilian casualties.

Witness the moral courage of President Joe Biden as he rejects a modern blood libel, where Israel stands accused of having bombed a hospital.

False accusation:Media helped spread blood libel against Israel, Jews in Gaza hospital news coverage

Hamas and Israel are not morally equivalent

Remember all this for when someone tries to convince you that there is moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel.

For those on America’s college campuses, you may encounter professors such as the ones at Columbia, Cornell and Yale who recently described the appalling attacks by Hamas as “awesome,” “exhilarating” and “an extraordinary day.”

You also may encounter students such as the ones at University of Pennsylvania and Harvard who claim Hamas’ murderous assault was justified.

And you may even be subjected to threats of antisemitic violence as happened at Cornell University this past weekend.

Ask questions of those who justify violence by Hamas

Here are some questions to ask those who try to justify Hamas’ violence:

Ask these hard questions and others. And be smart enough to know when someone is telling a half-truth. Do your research.

Wake up, America.How Hamas trumped Netanyahu holds lesson for divided United States

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians carries heavy pain on both sides. But the history of who offered and who rejected peace must be acknowledged if we are to move forward.

And the clarity of seeing who each of us is in the United States in this moment has never been more vital if America is to move forward. Who are the antisemites engaged in modern blood libel by falsely accusing Israel of genocide? Who stands up to oppose them? And who stands by silently, as so many did in the Holocaust?

I often hear from people: “If only your father were still here!”

My father loved questions more than answers. He is no longer here to ask them.

But you are.

Elisha Wiesel is the son of Marion Wiesel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.

View Original Article on usatoday.com

The hatred that begins with antisemitism threatens the whole world

By Elisha Wiesel
November 14, 2023
Intro photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

My father loved the Jewish story of the just man who wandered the town of Sodom, shouting the dangers of its inhabitants’ evil deeds.

It was a story he lived.  After bearing witness to the horrors of Auschwitz, he demanded that the world fight evil.  He warned that hatred which begins with antisemitism inevitably threatens the whole world.

But as with the just man, my father’s protests were ignored.

The United Nations did nothing in 1948 when the Arab Middle East violently rejected Israel’s existence.  Seventeen years later, it equated Zionism with racism.

“This is not the first time the enemy has accused us of his own crimes,” my father wrote of Israel’s trial in the court of world opinion.  “Our possessions were taken from us, and we were called misers; our children were massacred, and we were accused of ritual murder.”

Antisemitism at the United Nations has become a fact of life. Last week, the UN adopted eight resolutions, all of which condemned Israel. One of the resolutions was drafted and co-sponsored by Syria, whose dictator, Bashar al-Assad has murdered 300,000 of his own citizens.

The Simchat Torah bombing of a Parisian synagogue in 1980 shattered any sense of French Jewish post-war safety.  My father lashed out at those who denied the Jewish people’s right to exist.  “Perhaps the killers think we have forgotten our history”, he wrote.  “We have forgotten nothing.”

Antisemitism in France has exploded over the last decade. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a ceasefire that would give Hamas time to regroup.  He declined to participate in Sunday’s rally of 180,000 Jews and allies marching against antisemitism, saying “I have to make choices… otherwise, I’d be at demonstrations every week”.

It was only 80 years ago that more than one-third of the global Jewish population was wiped out in Europe.  My father saw Israel as the only guarantee against a second Holocaust.

In 2014, Israel was widely attacked in the media for responding militarily to Hamas rocket attacks against civilians. My father published an ad exposing Hamas as a death cult, guilty of engaging in child sacrifice through its use of human shields. The London Times refused to run the ad; fellow Jews he thought of as friends attacked him for it after his death.

So many of us have woken up since Oct. 7 to a nightmare where we are told that we must accept terror attacks as the price for living in our ancient homeland.  We are told that we may not destroy enemies that are trying to destroy us.

We are victims of constant psychological warfare. We are glued to our screens, watching images of suffering among Gaza’s civilian population that have now replaced the Israeli victims. You and I look at it and say: this must stop.  Which of course is what Hamas wants. Our moral reaction is what they are counting on in order to be able to kill again and again.

We must reject the gaslighting. Israel could turn Gaza into dust from the air, but she is sacrificing her precious heroes in a ground war precisely to avoid civilian casualties.  Meanwhile, Hamas seeks to maximize those casualties by hiding its military equipment and personnel in hospitals, stealing resources meant for civilians, opening fire during civilian evacuations through humanitarian corridors.

Former President Barack Obama, on a recent podcast, stated that “all of us are complicit to some degree” in the violence unleashed on Oct. 7.  But that isn’t so. My father was not complicit, because he was not convinced of the wisdom of unlocking billions of dollars for Iran that could ultimately fund Hamas and this attack.

Israel is not complicit, either. Nothing could ever justify the rape and desecration of women in the southern Kibbutzim of Israel or the dragging of a corpse through the Gaza streets for Hamas supporters to spit upon.

We will likely not convince the skeptics that we deserve the same rights as every other people: to secure our borders and defend our citizens. And yet today we will march, regardless, several hundred thousand of us coming together resolutely on the National Mall. For the just man speaks up, not only to convince others.

Heed my father’s words: “In the beginning, I thought I could change man. Today, I know I cannot. If I still shout today, if I still scream, it is to prevent man from ultimately changing me.”

We deserve to exist in peace and security. Neither Israel nor Gazan civilians can afford this to be anything other than the last battle. This war can only end with the complete destruction or surrender of Hamas. The world may not want to listen to these truths, but we, like my father before us, must shout them nonetheless.

Elisha Wiesel, is the son of Marion Wiesel and the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

View Original Article on thehill.com

WIESEL: Alumni support for Jewish students at Yale

29 November 2023

What is it like being a Jewish student right now at Yale? How could we, as Jewish alumni, help? I sat with several dozen students at Chabad one evening before Thanksgiving break to support and to learn.Students made hearts with their hands as they recalled faculty members who had reached out to express support. But they winced as they shared their pain at hearing Oct. 7 described as an “extraordinary day” by an associate professor, at hearing the hateful phrase “river to the sea” chanted by Yale students threatening the dissolution of Israel and at seeing a campus dance troupe raise funds for a Hamas-associated Palestinian militant group.

Is some form of intervention needed? Most said yes, insisting that calls for genocide require unmitigated condemnation rather than silence. Some felt disciplinary action was needed. Others almost apologetically explained that being from Europe, where antisemitism has raged far more violently than here, their first instinct was to keep their heads down. There was considerable interest in the pending alumni letter pressuring the administration for action. Students expressed their appreciation that alumni were showing up.

But the question I heard students grappling with was how to engage with former friends suddenly repeating propaganda designed to isolate and harm the Jewish people.

Your sharp, curious minds and open, brave hearts are all you need.

Engage with facts. If it isn’t commonly known that Israel sought peace with the Palestinians in 19472000 and 2008 and was rejected each time, it needs to become commonly known. The same goes for sharing the history of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2006.

Ask open-ended questions.

Engage with empathy. When my father taught at Yale in 1982, his class tackled head-on the failure of the Israeli Defence Forces to prevent atrocities against innocent Palestinians by the South Lebanese Army at Sabra and Shatila.

Voice anger that we are on trial for existing.

The Talmud says that when challenging someone,  “לְעוֹלָם תְּהֵא שְׂמֹאל דּוֹחָה וְיָמִין מְקָרֶבֶת”: the left hand should push away and the right hand should draw near.

Hear the story of my friends Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson:

Derek was the heir apparent to Stormfront, the premier neo-Nazi Internet forum. As the child of the site maintainer, they were raised to promote hatred. They went to college in Florida, intending to remain anonymous while they studied. They hosted radio shows in secret which railed against immigrants and Jews.

On campus, they met Matthew Stevenson, an observant Jew and fellow student. Derek discovered the magic warmth of Shabbat dinners at Matthew’s apartment, and they built a friendship grounded in everything from country music to Tolkien. Not long after, Derek was discovered and outed for their racist double life. They were ostracized by almost all who encountered them.

Except for Matthew, who kept talking to them. And Allison Gornik, Matthew’s friend, who at first stormed away from the Shabbat table, but then returned to it week after week, insistent on hammering through point after logical point to probe the defects in Derek’s thinking.

Derek’s wheels turned.

After some time, Derek issued a manifesto rejecting the hate they’d helped spread and publicly declared their Stormfront account closed. They told me the push and pull together drove their profound change.

To fight antisemitism is to fight ignorance.

At Yale, students are fighting the ignorance of those calling to “globalize the intifada”. The ignorance of the educated class comes from the pain of seeing Gazan people suffer deeply from their tragic electoral choices. It’s a different ignorance than that shown by white supremacists who wave tiki torches and chant “Jews will not replace us,” but it is no less dangerous. It is as much of a lie that we prey on Palestinians as it is that we prey on the white man.

It hurt to hear students ask on Thursday night: Why doesn’t the university see us?

I don’t know that it doesn’t. But I know for a fact that many Jewish alumni see you, including me. You shine brighter than you realize.

We’re proud of you who talk to those with different perspectives, even if they are Hamas defenders or appeasers or fellow Jews who consciously stand in opposition to our people. Your right handed embrace is a strength.

We’re proud of you who assert a harder line, who are demanding action from Congress or exposing double standards in national papers, who are pushing with the left hand.

We’re proud of you who try different approaches in different situations.

And proud of you who fight ignorance simply by standing strong and going about your lives, refusing to let grief and fear overwhelm you.

We’re proud of you and know that each of you has the power to make heartfelt, impactful choices as you fight ignorance, demonstrate Jewish values and share your light in the darkness.

ELISHA WIESEL graduated from Davenport College in 1994. His father, Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and author of the Holocaust memoir “Night,” was the visiting Henry Luce scholar at Yale College in 1982. Contact him at [email protected].

View Original Article on yaledailynews.com

Elie Wiesel Foundation grants support to Uyghur Activists

Elie Wiesel Foundation stands against Uyghur persecution, grants support activism. Interfaith fellowship fosters unity and fights prejudice.

14 July 2023

The Elie Wiesel Foundation, named in honor of Holocaust survivor and human rights advocate Elie Wiesel, has allocated grants totaling £420,000 to support organizations championing the cause of the persecuted Uyghur Muslim minority in China. This philanthropic initiative aims to raise awareness about the ongoing Uyghur genocide, coordinate global responses, energize activism, and explore innovative ways to engage conscientious individuals. In addition to supporting Uyghur advocacy, the Foundation is fostering an interfaith fellowship between Black and Jewish college students, promoting unity and understanding amidst the challenges of racism and antisemitism.

Uyghur Advocacy and Awareness

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) are among the organizations receiving grants from the Elie Wiesel Foundation. These groups, along with Jewish World Watch (JWW), will host a Conference of Uyghur activists and allies in New York, seeking to mobilize international support, galvanize activism, and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders. By shedding light on the grave human rights abuses and mass internment of Uyghur Muslims in China, this event aims to rally global action against the atrocities being committed.

Ana Care’s Cultural Preservation Efforts

Ana Care, another recipient of the Foundation’s grant, is dedicated to preserving the Uyghur people’s language, history, and culture. Through interactive programming for schools, communities, and Uyghur families in the diaspora, Ana Care aims to ensure that the rich heritage of the Uyghur community endures despite the oppressive conditions they face. By supporting Ana Care, the Elie Wiesel Foundation acknowledges the importance of safeguarding cultural identities and empowering communities impacted by persecution.

Natan Sharansky’s Perspective

Renowned Jewish human rights activist Natan Sharansky, a member of the grant selection panel, emphasizes the urgency and severity of the Uyghur persecution. Comparing the situation to concentration camps, Sharansky denounces the Chinese regime’s inhumane treatment of Uyghur Muslims, deeming it one of the most significant human rights violations of our time. He also expresses concern about the insufficient response from the international community and calls for a stronger collective effort to address this grave injustice.

The Fellowship Promoting Unity 

In addition to supporting Uyghur advocacy, the Elie Wiesel Foundation is fostering an interfaith fellowship between Black and Jewish college students. In collaboration with Gratz College and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), this one-year fellowship aims to connect the two groups by exploring landmarks of significance to each culture while building common experiences and fostering mutual support. By bringing together these communities affected by racism and antisemitism, the Foundation promotes understanding, empathy, and unity, while paving the way for future collaboration in combating prejudice.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation’s grants and initiatives exemplify the power of effective philanthropy in addressing pressing human rights concerns and fostering unity amidst prejudice. By supporting Uyghur advocacy organizations, the Foundation contributes to the international effort against the ongoing Uyghur genocide. Simultaneously, their interfaith fellowship program bridges the gap between Black and Jewish college students, strengthening solidarity and mutual support in the face of racism and antisemitism. Through the legacy of Elie Wiesel, the Foundation sends a clear message: we must stand together and invest in combating prejudice, regardless of our backgrounds, for a more inclusive and compassionate world.

View Original Article on globalvillagespace.com

Elie Wiesel Foundation announces first round of grants, aimed to help Uyghur crisis

Elisha Wiesel, son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who heads foundation in his father’s name, explains why he’s devoted himself to genocides half a world away from Auschwitz

July 14, 2023

How can Americans urge political leaders to do more to oppose the Chinese government’s genocide of ethnic Uyghurs?

That’s been among the central concerns of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity since it launched a grant-making program in October 2022.

On Monday, the foundation, which was founded in 1986, announced the first beneficiaries of its inaugural grant-making cycle, selected based on their commitment to advocating for the Uyghur community. The grantees in Uyghur advocacy include World Uyghur Congress, Uyghur Human Rights Project, World Jewish Watch ($250,000) and Ana Care & Education ($50,000).

The grant advisory committee included Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS; Nadine Epstein, editor-in-chief and CEO of Moment magazine; Gulhumar Haitiwaji, activist and daughter of camp survivor Gulbahar Haitiwaj; and Natan Sharansky, Soviet dissident, Israeli politician and human rights activist.

Sharansky explained why Uyghur advocacy is an appropriate choice for the inaugural grants of the Elie Wiesel Foundation.

“[The] Chinese regime de facto keeps the Uyghur people in concentration camps, treating them in the most inhuman way,” Sharanksy said in a statement. “It’s probably the most massive violation of human rights in our time, while the Free World’s response is disproportionately weak to the scope of this crime.”

The U.S. State Department estimates more than 1 million civilians have been arbitrarily imprisoned in the Xinjiang province since at least 2017 while China is committing crimes against humanity against Muslim Uyghurs in an effort to create a single-ethnic state. The State Department describes the crimes as arbitrary imprisonment and torture, forced sterilization, forced labor and restrictions on freedom of religion and expression.

Elisha Wiesel, the chairman of the foundation and son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, the foundation’s namesake, spoke to eJewishPhilanthropy over email about why he’s devoted himself to crises half a world away from Auschwitz.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Haley Cohen: What was the rationale for selecting groups working on behalf of the Uyghurs? 

Elisha Wiesel: The attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to erase Uyghur culture represent the largest genocide occurring on the planet today. More than a million Uyghurs are being detained for their ethnicity and faith. Reports of torture have made their way to the West through survivors who have made it out. It is hard to listen to the stories of these survivors without feeling highly motivated to act and amplify their story. Against seemingly impossible odds, my father faced the biggest bully on the planet during the Cold War — the Soviet Union — and over a 25-year period helped build the Soviet Jewry movement. I believe we honor his memory by challenging the Chinese Communist Party to end their mistreatment of the Uyghurs.

HC: With so much geopolitical tension between the U.S. and China, what leverage does the U.S. really have on this issue?

EW: Confronting the Chinese Communist Party on their mistreatment of Uyghurs is, thankfully, a bipartisan issue, enabling rare political agreement that can actually drive change. The Chinese economy is not without its difficulties and relies heavily on the U.S. consumer. Consumers are more socially conscious than ever, and there is an opportunity for major American brands to publicly declare that their supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labor.

HC: China has recently begun to focus on the Middle East and is establishing ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. What are those nations doing to support their Muslim brethren?

EW: Sadly, the Arab League’s recent visit to China was accompanied by a press release which said, “Members of the delegation said that Xinjiang’s society is harmonious, the economy is prosperous and Muslims freely exercise their ethnic and religious rights in accordance with the law.”

HC: Is there any evidence that pressure on China by outside groups has been effective in improving their human rights practices?

EW: We can only hope that people in China will hear the messages that their government has gone too far and will one day use their influence for better treatment of the Uyghurs. As my father said in his 1986 Nobel acceptance speech, [referring to victims of human rights abuses everywhere,] “What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone.”

HC: What are your thoughts about the criticism in some quarters of the Jewish community for “universalizing” the lessons of the Holocaust — in other words, using those lessons to shed light on a situation like the Uyghurs?

EW: My father believed that surviving the Holocaust left him with a mission not only to testify about the genocide that occurred to the Jewish people but also to do what he could to prevent future genocides. We are capable of being morally activated in the present without trivializing or minimizing the past. The detainment and mistreatment of a peaceful population, which poses no threat to China, rightly deserves the international attention, which the Uyghur community are asking for.

View Original Article on ejewishphilanthropy.com

Uyghur rights advocates win grants from Elie Wiesel Foundation

Those fighting for China’s persecuted Muslim minority will get a six-figure boost as Natan Sharansky says West’s response is ‘weak’

Advocates of China’s persecuted Uyghur Muslim minority are among those to have been allocated grants totalling £420,000 from a foundation set up in Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s name.

Three recipient organisations – World Uyghur Congress (WUC), Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), and Jewish World Watch (JWW) – will host a Conference of Uyghur activists and allies in New York this winter.

The aim of the event is to galvanise the international response to the ongoing Uyghur genocide, coordinate stakeholders, energise activism, and discuss new ways of engaging citizens of conscience.

Additional grantee Ana Care is working to preserve the Uyghur people’s language, history, and culture through interactive programming for schools, communities, and Uyghur families in the diaspora.

Russian-born Jewish human rights activist Natan Sharansky, who was part of the grant selection panel, said the Chinese regime “de facto keeps the Uyghur people in concentration camps, treating them in the most inhuman way”.

He added that their persecution was “probably the most massive violation of human rights in our time”, but that “the free world’s response is disproportionately weak to the scope of this crime”.

Dr Mehnaz Afridi, director of the Holocaust Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College, said: “I am especially grateful that the Foundation has focused on restoring the dignity of the Uyghur population.

“The work of the Elie Wiesel Foundation is an example of effective philanthropy. The message is loud and clear: that we must work together by investing in all prejudice no matter who we are.”

Further monies went towards a one-year Fellowship between Black and Jewish college students, in collaboration with Gratz College and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

The foundation said it was “committed to jointly facing the challenges of racism and antisemitism”, adding that the Fellowship “will connect these two groups of students by visiting landmarks of importance to each culture while building on common experiences and understanding the need for mutual support”.

View Original Article on jewishnews.co.uk

$550,000 Grant Boosts LA-Based Nonprofit Jewish World Watch

Jewish World Watch, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that is dedicated to providing assistance and support to survivors of mass atrocities worldwide, made an exciting announcement on Monday. They have received a portion of a $550,000 grant for their groundbreaking winter conference in New York.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity has selected JWW as one of the beneficiaries of its inaugural grant-making cycle. Launched in October 2022, the foundation seeks out and supports organizations whose work aligns with the legacy of Elie Wiesel, a renowned educator, activist, journalist, and man of faith.

Serena Oberstein, the executive director of JWW, expressed her gratitude for being among the first recipients of a grant from the Elie Wiesel Foundation. She stated, “We are honored to be recognized by the foundation and to receive their support.”

Joining JWW as grantees are the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur Human Rights Project. These organizations have been chosen, in part, for their advocacy on behalf of the Uyghur community. The foundation reports that since 2017, over 1.8 million Uyghurs have been forcibly separated from their families and placed in “re-education camps” in northwest China or East Turkestan.

Elisha Wiesel, the chairman of the foundation, explained, “Our inaugural activist portfolio grants are specifically aimed at supporting advocates who are diligently working to restore the rights and dignity of the Uyghur population.” He added, “Elie Wiesel’s legacy represents resilience, optimism, and the responsibility we all share to strive for a world without genocide.”

The $550,000 grant will be used to support a winter conference in New York, where Uyghur activists and allies will gather to address the international response to the Uyghur genocide. JWW officials believe that the conference will foster collaboration among various stakeholders and invigorate ongoing Uyghur activism.

Omer Kanat, the executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to work alongside the Elie Wiesel Foundation, Jewish World Watch, and the World Uyghur Congress. He said, “The December conference will serve as a powerful demonstration of solidarity and our unwavering commitment to the principle of ‘never again’. We will also use this platform to call for further action against the ongoing genocide.”

This significant grant and the upcoming conference highlight the dedication and collaborative efforts of organizations striving to make a lasting impact in the fight against mass atrocities and the protection of human rights.

View Original Article on vigourtimes.com

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