In the past three decades, a new stereotype emerged to victimize over 1.8 billion people
because of their religion, Islam. While not every Muslim is directly exposed to this stereotype daily, many actions have been taken to discriminate against Muslims around the world. This includes the travel ban placed on seven Muslim countries under the Trump administration and the mass killing of the Muslim minority, the Rohingya, in Myanmar. However, the most pressing issue of them all, in recent days, is the mass incarceration and persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China. Uighurs are a Muslim minority, Turkic speaking population recognized as natives of the historic land of Turkestan, which now is known as Xinjiang. The Uighurs are also recognized by the Chinese government as one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. This recognition is neither enough to give the Uighurs national protection and equal citizenship, nor feel secured with their own identity in their own homeland. According to a UN rapporteur, the US state department, Amnesty International, and Human rights watch, many journalists reported that the Chinese government has detained at least one million Uighurs in more than 85 identified concentration camps within Xinjiang just since 2017.
● Xinjiang is the most heavily armed region in China
● Xinjiang has the largest oil and coal reserves in China.
● Uighurs and the Han had conflicts that began with the increase of migration of the Han
and settlements built in Xinjiang.
● The Chinese government has implemented laws to ban Uighurs from practicing their religious activities, including prohibition from reading the Qur’an and from going to
mosques, especially children.
● Leaked documents for speeches and instruction by the Chinese president prove that
human rights are being violated and these detention centers were built to erase Uighur
While activists and Human Rights Watch condemn the Chinese government for the inhuman way of treating the Uighurs, the Chinese government was actively denying the existence of these camps. Then, the Chinese denied the reasons for this condemnation from activists and Human Rights Watch. They claim these concentration camps are merely reeducation facilities for vocational training, learning the Chinese language, and for learning other useful skills. Now, more evidence has been released that directly contradicts these statements. Released images show watchtowers, fences, and intense security cameras at these camps. This prompted Chinese authorities to change their narrative claiming that these camps were designed for reeducation purposes.
More evidence was then released in testimonies from the Uighurs former prisoners, who now are refugees in Turkey, the US, and other countries. These refugees have testified that they had been sleep-deprived, sexually humiliated, beaten, and tortured. Also, the former detainees were subjected to brain-washing and forced to pledge full allegiance to the communist party, forced to “sing communist songs and anthems, and in situations, if they did not sing, they would not get food and get punished.” These testimonies claim that people were not voluntarily in these camps to learn new skills, but in fact, they were detained and thrown into cells, where they were to be exposed to brain-washing, to denounce their religion, culture, and origins.
With more evidence that appears to condemn the Chinese violation of the basic human rights for the Uighurs, the Chinese authorities have changed their narrative. Most recently, documents were leaked to be the most damaging evidence for the Chinese government’s actions and human right violation in Xinjiang. These documents suggest “an unprecedented inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang, in which the authorities have corralled as many as a million
ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years.” Now the Chinese government narrative has shifted to claim that they are taking extra measures to fight against terrorism. They reported that these detainees are suspected of either of the “three evils: Separatism, Extremism, and terrorism” in a campaign called “Absolutely No Mercy.”
These human rights violations have now exceeded expectations. The Chinese government has sought to annihilate a whole culture that they assumed (due to their small size) the world wouldn’t pay attention to, in comparison to the media controversy surrounding Hong Kong. Between 1949 and 2008, the Han population in Xinjiang increased from two hundred thousand to 8.4 million people. The Chinese government has been working on the expansion of settlements in Xinjiang, and Uighurs claim that the Chinese government is orchestrating to divide the people and erase their culture. This tactic of expansion and increasing the settlements in Xinjiang for the Han so the Chinese government could have full control over the region, particularly the material and natural resources of Xinjiang, is a strategy we have seen in other places around the world.
It is outrageous that over one million people are detained because of their religion, because of their identity. Sounds familiar? Yes, this is the modern-day holocaust. The Chinese authorities have done everything possible to keep this hidden from the world, but the cruelty of it and the discomfort from within the communist party ultimately pushed some officials to leak top governmental documents that prove the persecution of the Uighur people. What we see on the ground is an agenda for division and hate. What we see on the ground is mass incarceration for one ethnic group. What we see on the ground is persecution and not training. What we see on the ground are attempts to erase the Uighur Muslim identity to be replaced by the communist ideology. Detainees are charged with anything related to their identity. Either they are Uighurs and arrested because they are suspected to be separatists, or they are Muslims and therefore they are labeled as extremists, and/or support terrorism.
The Chinese government’s legacy is to erase Islamic thoughts and any other affiliation that is not aligned with the communist party. Uighur parents are tortured and brainwashed, forcing them to denounce their religion and pledge allegiance to the communist party. Without the presence of parents, the chinese government easily earases a cultural identity from the young minds of the Uighur children to create a generation of full-fledged communists serving the Chinese government. Thus, the Chinese government guarantees no future issues with having a minority blocking them from advancing economically, as well as enjoying the resources that Xinjiang has. This is a global issue and concerns all humanity. No one should be persecuted because of their religion and identity. No one should be separated from their parents, their spouses, and kids, or their families. There is only so much that we can do. As individuals, we can sign petitions like Free Uyghur Muslims from forced labor, and contact our local representatives and senators. And on a larger scale, the US must take serious actions toward China to end this tragedy. The US has to be more active in the UN to get a global demand for the end of human rights violations in Xinjiang. The Uighurs Suffering Must Stop!