Nury Turkel is the first U.S.-educated Uyghur-American lawyer, foreign policy expert, and human rights advocate. He was born in a re-education camp at the height of China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution and spent the first several months of his life in detention with his mother. He came to the United States in 1995 as a student and was later granted asylum by the U.S. government.
In May 2020, Turkel was appointed as a Commissioner to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Turkel is a respected opinion leader and a foreign policy expert primarily focusing on diplomatic, economic, and national security issues involving China, Central Asia, and Turkey. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In addition to his law practice and foreign policy work, Turkel has worked on human rights advocacy for more than two decades. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), which he co-founded in 2003. Previously, he served as the president of the Uyghur American Association, where he led efforts to raise the profile of the Uyghur people in the United States, including organizing and leading the campaign that achieved the March 2005 release of a renowned Uyghur prisoner of conscience, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer. Since 2011, he has successfully represented a substantial number of Uyghur political refugees with their asylum applications in the United States.
In addition to his advocacy work in the United States, Turkel has engaged in policy and legislative advocacy in the European Union and the Australian Parliament. He serves as a legal and policy adviser to the past and present presidents of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an organization that serves as an umbrella organization for the Uyghur community and advocacy groups promoting universal human rights. Turkel successfully represented Dolkun Isa, WUC’s current president, to restore his travel privileges to the United States. He has also assisted Uyghur refugees in the United States, Europe, and Turkey.
He has testified before Congress, including most recently before the Congressional-Executive Commission of China in October 2019, speaking about Uyghur internment camps, and advocating a legislative response to China’s atrocities. Many of his recommendations have been incorporated into U.S. laws and pending bills relating to Uyghurs and China in Congress, including the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020.
In September 2020, Turkel was named one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World; and in May 2021, he was named on Fortune's List of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.
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