A few weeks ago, my father fell seriously ill. So ill that he stopped going to work. He urgently needed to be taken to the hospital but he refused to go. His reason for not doing so introduced me to a new fear many Uighur Muslims like ourselves are facing. My father was afraid that if any hospital staff reported our Uighur identity to the Chinese embassy, then we could be deported too.
He didn’t want our family to end up like millions of Uighurs in “concentration camps”. He insisted on treating himself with home remedies. He insisted on betting his life for our safety. It took us two weeks to make him feel better. After days of tending to him during that painful time, I stepped out and saw a group protesting, and my heart filled with anger. They were protesting in support of Kashmir. But the reasons behind the hurt I felt are more complex than you think.
Since that fateful day when India revoked Article 370, people all around the world, especially the Ummah (Muslim community), started speaking up. Pakistan became active and asked the world to stop the “genocide”. In a blink of an eye, the Organisation of Islamic Corporation (OIC) called an emergency meeting to condemn the lockdown. And the world stood together against it.
All of which I agree with. No one should have to endure the pain of having their rights stripped away, their ability to communicate with their families removed at the hands of the state.
But after watching my father suffer in pain because he didn’t want us to be tortured by China, my heart burned and my my eyes swelled with tears: why hadn’t these predominantly Muslim countries spoken out for us too?
My father didn’t want us to disappear behind closed walls and never to be seen again. But once more, the plight of Uighurs has been ignored by the hypocritical attitudes of countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and the whole Islamic world. Pakistan, as well as several other nations including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, recently took up for China as a human rights defender despite the ongoing violations by the nation in the Uighur region, Hong Kong and Tibet. Today, due to the silence of Islamic nations, millions of Uighurs are suffering.
Xinjiang was never an autonomous region. It is only autonomous on paper. The Han Chinese were allowed to settle and infiltrate us, reducing Uighur Muslims to a minority in their own land. The land of their ancestors.
We were the main targets of Mao Zedong’s Red Army during the cultural revolution. Then Chinese government started putting restrictions on our language, culture, faith, the way we dress, etc. When they failed to erase our identity, they took a lesson from history’s dictators and treated us like some of the most persecuted groups in the world.
Today, up to two million Uighurs have been detained in Chinese “concentration camps”. Even children are sent to state-sponsored orphanages. In these camps, people are reportedly drugged. They have been said to be made to learn Xi Jinping’s speeches, starved and given spoiled food to just about keep them alive. Uighurs are forced to denounce their religion and told to be ashamed of their identity. People who have escaped these camps have revealed horrible allegations of sexual harassment and torture. Uighur girls are threatened with forced marriage, while soldiers infiltrate Uighur homes to keep an eye on those still out of the camps. No independent investigation has been allowed yet. Only government-led tours have been organised by China. Recently, China announced that they had freed 90 per cent of Uighurs from the camps, but deserted streets and locked homes say otherwise.
The Ummah so far has stood with everyone from Rohingyas to those in Yemen, Palestine and Syria. What is taking so long for them to stand up with Uighurs too? Feigning ignorance may win them financial favour with China, but they are losing respect around the world. If the Islamic nations won’t condemn China today, what will they stand for in the future?
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