The silent genocide- Uighur Muslims in China

China continues to send millions of Uighur Muslims to mass concentration camps, attempting another Holocaust.

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Safaa Asif

The St Cloud Muslim Association supporting the Uighur Protest in the Twin Cities last October. (Left to Right: Marwah A, Saharla D, Arub A, Shukri Y.)

This October, several participants, including the St. Cloud Muslim Student Association marched through the Twin Cities for the freedom of Muslims in China. (Safaa Asif)

On October 1st, the St.Cloud University Muslim Association and other participants took part in a march around the Twin Cities spreading awareness for the humanitarian crisis in China, specifically the ongoing barbaric repression of the Uighur Muslim population. 

With definite genocidal intentions, the Chinese government is deliberately preventing the growth of the Muslim minority group living in the Xinjiang province of northwestern China. It is believed that more than 1 million Uighur men, women, and children have been detained and sent to one of 85 identified so-called re-education camps, where they are forced to endure inhumane abuse and conversion. The constraints and brutality displayed are reminiscent of past dreadful genocides, specifically the Holocaust, and these “concentration camps” are one of many steps the Chinese government has taken to curtail and erode the rights of Uighur Muslims. Ironically, even with such atrocities being committed, billions of people worldwide are oblivious to China’s attempt at another Holocaust. If people continue to ignore this egregious violation of human life, then COVID-19 will not be the only tragedy that shapes 2020. 

Highlighted region of Xinjiang in China (Photo via futureatlas.com under creative commons license )

The Uighur Turkic minority group has been subject to Chinese control since their empire, East Turkestan, disintegrated. In 1949, the Han Chinese ethnic majority immigrated to then annexed Xinjiang and led to the Uighurs to be the ethnic minority. The group was met with discriminatory and unjust conditions, facing job insecurity, seized farmland, denial of government jobs, and overall systematic abuse and racism to disparage their lives. China continued to ensure control over this region as the land sits on rich oil and mineral supplies. This special economic zone drastically inflated the value of the region and has put the voices of many oppressed Uighurs on the backburner, especially with China’s extreme claims that Uighurs hold extremist views.

With China’s ongoing belief that Uighurs are a threat to national security, the government has systematically abraded their basic human rights. With further government surveillance, The Uyghur people must question if it is safe to practice any aspect of Islam. According to PBS, in 2017, “the Xinjiang government passed a law prohibiting men from growing long beards and women from wearing veils, and dozens of mosques have also

The Silent Genocide that grips the lives of the voiceless. (Safaa Asif)

been demolished.”  Praying, fasting during the month of Ramadan, or other religious acts that appear Muslim will be considered civil disobedience, and those who commit these so-called crimes will be transported to de-radicalization camps, and in these camps, the government aims to create the ideal Chinese citizen. Although there has been little to no public attention directed towards these gross acts of human abuse, several reports confirm forced labor and torture. Uyghur people in these camps are subject to food and sleep deprivation as well as solitary confinement. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and renounce Islam.

Uighur Muslim detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and renounce Islam. (Photo via Uyghur Turkistan under creative commons license)

Detainees report prison-like conditions with hyper security monitoring their every move. Several women have shared stories of sexual harassment, revealing that they were forced to undergo abortions as well as being coerced to have contraceptive devices implanted. Muslims are impelled to eat pork and drink alcohol as well as undergo four-hour sessions being lectured on the dangers of Islam. This program of forced repetition and self-

criticism has profound effects psychologically as the Uyghur people must apologize for their way of life, religion, and language, pushing many to commit suicide. Omar Bekali a former prisoner held at these mass re-education camps announces that “The psychological pressure is enormous when you have to criticize yourself, denounce your thinking – your own ethnic group, I still think about it every night, until the sun rises. I can’t sleep. The thoughts are with me all the time.” In a dangerous and inhumane effort to reshape their very identities, China’s covert and clandestine attempt of a cultural cleansing is meeting global opposition and attention.   

Data supporting the increase in sterilizations of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. (Safaa Asif)

It is believed that more than 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained and sent to concentration camps. Thousands are reported “missing,” and for years China has tried to keep this inhumane operation under wraps, but recently several countries, numerous political faces, as well as prevalent foundations, have spoken up against these atrocities.

According to BBC.com, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused China of “gross and egregious” human rights abuses last July. He announced that the saddening number of forced sterilization, as well as wide persecution of an ethnic group, is “reminiscent of something not seen for a long time.” Furthermore, the President of the

Free the Uighurs from Guantanamo (Photo via Daniel Lobo under creative commons license )

Uyghur Projects Foundation, Dr. Erkin Sidick, claims that the “total number of Uyghur detainees in camps in China and those presumed dead now exceeds the total number of Jewish detained and killed during the Holocaust.” 

22 countries, mainly European, wrote to the UN Human Rights Council to further elaborate and express concern about China’s mass detention centers and unethical widespread surveillance toward Uighur Muslims. However, in an upsetting retreat, just a couple of days later, more than 37 countries, including several Muslim countries, rallied to support and defend China’s actions. They referred to their barbaric and fundamentally unethical

Fight for the freedom of the Uighur Muslims from mass re-education camps (Safaa Asif)

practices as counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures required for the greater good. They continue to garner false security by announcing that the Uighur Muslims in these camps are secure and happy. It is important to emphasize that all of these countries that support China are politically motivated and will prioritize the good of the majority over the minority. It is commonplace for politics to trump ethics and typical for others to exploit human life to ensure a step towards power. 

The St. Cloud Muslim Associated marched for hours on October 1st to protest the fundamental betrayal of human rights, and it is due time for the world to stop disregarding and brushing aside this attempt at a mass ethnic cleansing.

Being punished for believing in religion, any religion, is a violation of the foundation of humanity. It is unacceptable, and time for China to face the consequences of a genocide.

The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights. ”

— Thomas Jefferson