Uighur Muslims: The 21st Century Holocaust

In history lessons based on the Jewish Holocaust, we were told ‘never again.’ It is the year 2021. It’s been going on, it’s still here, and it’s been silenced for long enough.

Who are the Uighurs?

Xinjiang is China’s largest administrative territory, bordering eight countries – Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and India. The bulk of its population is Uighur. Most Uighurs are Muslims, and Islam is an integral part of life and identity. Uighurs have a distinct culture and history, including the establishment of two short-lived autonomous republics, both known as East Turkestan, during the first half of the 20th century. Moreover, the Uighur Muslims have a language of their own, which is a Turkic language with between 10 and 15 million speakers. The language is spoken only by the Uighur people of Xinjiang and the diaspora population.

China’s Xinjiang Province is home to more than 10 million Uighur Muslims – known as the people of Xinjiang. But under the Han Dynasty – the first Chinese dynasty – it seized power over western areas. Therefore, most Chinese claim that Xinjiang is part of China.  It is a region rich in minerals such as oil, natural gas and copper. And it is a region that is also strategically important to China, since it was briefly independent in the 1940s, and since 1949 it has been under Chinese influence.

The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is out of the question. Towards the beginning of 2017, following years of advanced surveillance in its solitary Muslim majority district, the Chinese state initiated a policy of mass internment which saw the absence of more than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim individuals. The Uighurs are being routinely persecuted by their own country, where they are being tracked by the most innovative and invasive surveillance system in the world.

Join Nury Turkel, a U.S.-based lawyer and Uighur rights advocate, and Mehdi Hasan whilst they discuss the crisis in Xinjiang in the link below, and why so much of the world does not seem to worry about it.

Podcast: Why Don’t We Care About China’s Uighur Muslims?

China is stamping religion out

Light has been shed on China’s legal system that it seeks to “sinicize” Muslims or make “religion more Chinese.” Thus, in the last few years, detention centres have been built up around Xinjiang, where the state insists they are “re-education centres.” There, the prisoners are required to study Mandarin, to renounce “extremist” thoughts and to attend constant indoctrination in the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party.

Islam, like about any other religion, is seen as a concern for China. Uighurs are obliged to denounce their religion and to swear their allegiance to the ruling Communist Party of China. Practising Islam has been made punishable by legislation in some parts of China. Those found praying or fasting are faced with the possibility of imprisonment. Muslims are forced to renounce and criticize Islam and are forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. There are numerous accounts of death, torture and sexual abuse. These atrocities have been reported by advocacy activists, media organisations and victims themselves since 2017.

The US Congressional Executive Commission on China has described the camp as the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today. Detainees frequently undergo vocational training and, after completing the indoctrination program, are sent to work in factories under terms commonly recognized to be forced labour.

The Chinese government has encouraged the mass relocation of Han Chinese – the largest ethnic group in China and likely in the world – to the hinterland, such as Xinjiang, which has essentially confined Uighur Muslims to a minority in their own homeland.

It is a devastatingly wicked situation.

That contributes to the question: why are the Uighurs being attacked?

Uighurs have been arguing for years about prejudice on a daily basis, both in Xinjiang and around the world. Islamophobia is prevalent in China, and laws that limit Uighur culture and religion—such as prohibitions on long beards and religious veils, and various attempts to force Uighurs to modify “overly religious” names.

The Chinese authorities view the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities who are Xinjiang as potential separatists or extremists. Numerous clashes and acts of violence have taken place such as the 2009 ethnic riots in the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, which left nearly 200 people dead—and after Uighur-related terrorist attacks in Beijing in 2013 and Kunming and Urumqi in 2014—extreme steps have been taken to close down Xinjiang and suppress the expression and speech of the Uighur minority.

Xinjiang is now a totalitarian police state of unimaginable proportions—commonly referred to as one of the most heavily policed areas in the world today. Public security budgets have increased, and future-oriented monitoring has been pioneered. The official rationale for such drastic actions is ‘counter terrorism’ and ‘social stability.’ But human rights organizations have long protested that the extent of repression is disproportionate, counter-productive and a breach of human rights, as it essentially censors all expressions of Uighur society, including normal religious and linguistic practices. The Uighurs are being routinely persecuted by their own country, where they are being tracked by the most innovative and invasive surveillance system in the world.

In addition to the persecution of Uighurs by solitary confinement and sterilization, the Xinjiang authorities have committed a systematic invasion on Uighur culture and identity. China is breaching human rights by infringing nearly every clause of the resolution supported at the United Nations. Now the Uighurs have no influence over their own education, media, jobs, and no role of importance in the country.

Here are some of the following human rights violations against the Uighur

  • The authorities in China have obtained DNA tests, fingerprints, eye scans and blood types from millions of individuals, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. “The mandatory data banking of a whole population’s bio data, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms,” Sophie Richardson, China director for HRW.
  • China has imprisoned more than two million Muslims in concentration camps in the Xinjiang province. Many of them will never be seen again. The Chinese government calls them “re-education camps” or “training centres” where only extremists are held.
  • China is pressuring Uighur women to marry Chinese men as part of the Government Assimilation Programme
  • As if the repression is not enough, China has been accused of extracting organs from the prosecuted ethnic minority.

As more than 75 different representatives of religion and faith groups say in their declaration today, the plight of Uighurs and other Muslims in China is, “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust”.

Theoretically, the province of Xinjiang is an autonomous region, suggesting that the Uighurs have the same rights and duties as any Chinese resident, but the truth is far from that. They bow their knees and stay mute today as China commits an unspeakable genocide against the mainly Muslim Uighur people of western China and surpasses the number of Holocaust deaths. No one deserves to be disciplined for their religious beliefs.

Raise awareness by sharing this post and further educate yourself about other people’s issues around the world. Don’t stay silent on this topic, please. As human beings with universal human rights, it is our duty not to stop learning about the Uighurs and the injustices they still face.

That genocide STILL exists & is STILL going on. #NeverAgainIsNow

Words by Anika Sidhika


Anika is a member of The RealTalk Blogging Team.
As a Journalism graduate, Anika has a wealth of experience not only in writing, but also social media and content creation developed via a variety of previous undertakings. Her scope of writing ensures that readers can both be entertained and educated by her topics of interest. Anika is a great multitalented addition to the team and we are sure you will enjoy reading and experiencing her content as much as we enjoy sharing them!

You can get in touch with Anika directly via her platforms below:

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