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We can’t keep ignoring human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims

As an Uighur Muslim myself, it feels like too few know or care about our plight. But with around 1 million of us detained in camps, now is not the time for inaction

Gulnaz Uighur
Sunday 13 January 2019 12:01 GMT
Uighur Muslim woman tells Congressional-Executive Commission on China she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

A mere week after millions around the globe celebrated the new year and basked in the company of their loved ones, many Uighur Muslim families have had no such luck. They’re falling apart, snatched from each others grips at the hands of Chinese authorities. And for those who have family members who have yet to be sent away to camps, maintaining contact is as risky as ever.

I used to live in Xinjiang (also known as East Turkestan), and fled with my family once the authorities escalated their cruel tactics against my community. But we’re still hearing countless stories about relentless arrests from relatives and old friends.

A former neighbour of ours who also fled East Turkestan was recently informed about the arrest of their cousins from Urumqi. As of the last time we spoke, the whereabouts of their children remain unknown and no one is able to contact the cousins.

China’s security services are pressing members of the country’s Uighur minority abroad to spy on compatriots

The villagers are too afraid to even ask about anyone who has been taken to the camps because it could result them being detained too. Thousands of miles away, the only thing our families could do was pray for their wellbeing – this is how helpless we all feel.

And yet, too few know about our plight. It often feels like too few care. But the fact remains that China has imprisoned around 1 million of us in camps in an attempt to get us to forget our identities, whether it is our culture, our religion or both.

In order to defend its actions, the Chinese state media has started running propaganda videos, showing Uighurs somehow enjoying these camps, and referring to them as vocational training centres.

Chinese authorities are also trying to hack social media accounts of activists who speak out online about what’s really going on. My own Twitter account was attacked by the authorities to find my details – but I survived.

And there are other transparent PR tactics, such as the recent tour organised by Xinjiang authorities for diplomats from 12 countries. The idea being that by presenting the region as an “an open place”, as Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said earlier this week, international anxieties over the situation will diminish.

But really, the only thing that China is drawing more attention to is the fact that only a select few are being allowed to visit the place, as opposed to those who really want to. If there are no skeletons in the closet then why not open it for the world to see?

Leaders around the world know about the deceiving tactics of CCP and still they are letting them continue with lies. A recent statement by Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who also chairs the foreign affairs committee, that the “execution of Muslims in western China is leading to a rise in jihadism that could easily have repercussions for us” shows how this issue is largely misunderstood by many.

The Uighur issue is not strictly about Islam; religion is just a part of it. Uighurs consist of millions of people who have been sent to torturous camps. We are being tormented because, in my opinion, East Turkestan is rich with resources that China needs for its own development.

This isn’t just about being seen to defend a religion but about saving a community who just want to live peacefully.

Few would welcome being stopped in the street, put in a cab, taken to jail and tortured just because they speak in a different language. We do not want anyone to name us as terrorists just because we follow a different entity than them.

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Uighurs want the world to stand for us not because we are Muslims, but because we are human. And if China is allowed to butcher a part of the human race so easily, then all the governments and organisations who claim to protect our rights have failed.

China is forcing Uighurs to obey it like slaves, forced labor has become common, the number of deaths in camps has increased and detainees are still being forced to learn communist songs and given minimal food to just keep them alive.

The real reason behind this torture is not to provide employment to Uighurs, but to get rid of them, and keep the place they call home occupied forever.

Today when others are free to roam, to live and enjoy their fundamental rights, Uighurs are subjected to illegal detention and brainwashing to denounce their very identity.

Xi Jinping is redefining suppression with Chinese characteristics and the world should not sit quiet. The only resolution that the world needs to take up is a real dedication to stand with all of us.

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