What is happening to the Uighur people in China?

March 24, 2021


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons license

The flag of the Uighur Muslims who are reportedly being oppressed by the Chinese government.

Since 2017, the Uighur Muslims of the Xinjiang population in China have reportedly been facing extreme discrimination and re-education at forced labor camps because of China’s claim of “extremism” among this group of people.

12 million Uighurs live in Xinjiang (Photo via Flickr under the Creative Commons license)

The Uighur Muslims have been living in northwest China for hundreds of years. This ethnic group has reached a population of about 12 million, and it is assumed that their ancestors originate from northern Asia, although some generations of Uighurs have been said to live in China before the Han and Tang dynasties took control of the area. The Uighurs are among the oldest Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia. Since 1949, the Uighurs have been denied of their human rights by the Chinese government. 

Chinese authorities have been suppressing and abusing this group of people and have been categorizing the Uighurs as “terrorists” and “extremists.” This false narrative spread over this specific ethnic group has caused widespread hate and resistance to their language, religious practices, and general way of life. 

Three million people have been being held in “re-education” camps, or in other words, concentration camps, for over three years in Xinjiang. Here, they have been facing several types of abuse. They are permitted no prayer, no access to mosques, no fasting, or any other Muslim religious practices. Along with this, they are pushed into forced labor, mass sterilization, mass surveillance, and indoctrination. There have been reports of women being systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured, as well. In addition to this, nuclear testing sites have been poisoning Uighurs due to the close proximity in which they are placed to where the Uighurs live. 

Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever.”

— Tursunay Ziawudun, a woman who spent nine months inside of an internment camp

Chinese authorities claim not only that there is no abuse or mistreatment, but that the camps are beneficial for China’s population and used for “giving people new skills.” The Chinese government has also said that these camps are vocational training centers to be used to stamp out terrorism.

With China’s restrictions on reporters and travel in general, the stories of these camps have been few and far between. Many Uighurs who decide to share their stories fear being sent back to China, where they faced torment and abuse on a daily basis. 

There is an erasure of an entire culture occurring, and most people do not realize it. Since 1955, there has been a -58% change in the Muslim population. This is the largest mass detention of a group of people since the Holocaust, and the Uighurs are among the most oppressed groups of people in the entire world.

The Muslim community has been under attack in many different ways, whether this is through attacks on religious freedoms, discriminatory national security profiling, immigration discrimination, watchlists, or injustices as horrific as the internment camps in China. Very little light is shed on the Uighurs, and one conclusion can be made: This is a nearly unsurpassable violation of human rights to a group of people who have been hidden and unrepresented from the rest of the world. 

The Uighurs are among the most oppressed peoples in the world. (Photo via Flickr under the Creative Commons license)

If after reading this article, you want to do what you can to help, please donate: 

Save Uighur

Muslim Global Relief


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