The Holocaust remains one of mankind’s most horrific memories and one of the most brutal instances of the inhumanity mankind can display. The line “Never forget” is often associated with it.
But it appears that the world has forgotten. In history classes, students often ask their teachers, “But how could the world have let the Holocaust happen?” The world’s failure to address China’s atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims answers that question quite effectively.
Yes, one of Pakistan’s biggest allies is the perpetrator of one of the world’s most glaring genocides.
The Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, have been treated horrifically by the growing superpower. Many have been taken away from their homes and cast away into prisons, while others have been forced to attend “political education camps”.
A 2020 report by Human Rights Watch illustrated some of the reasons the Uyghurs were sent to these camps:
“His wife wore veils”.
“He prayed after each meal”.
“He has one more child than allowed by the family planning policy”.
A database was leaked in February 2020 by The Associated Press profiling the detaining of 311 Uyghur Muslims. The database included details of the prisoners’ families, the reasons for their detainment and other relevant information. The data offered evidence that one of the main reasons for detainment were religion – and not just in the sense of spreading political violence.
Even acts like growing a beard or going to a mosque could render an individual imprisoned. Other reasons offered for interment were a “minor religious infection”, “relatives abroad” and “thinking is hard to grasp”.
A November 2019 leak made to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shows the locking up, torture and indoctrination of victims. The documents revealed the extent of control that went into the reeducation camps. “The students should have a fixed bed position, fixed queue position, fixed classroom seat, and fixed station during skills work, and it is strictly forbidden for this to be changed”
When accused of these violations, China is quick to defend itself. It accuses the Uyghur Muslims of perpetuating terrorism and violence, claims the reeducation camps are merely voluntary vocational training centers. But the evidence to the contrary are overwhelming.
China’s attempts to justify its persecution under the guise of necessity, as the Uyghurs are supposedly causing violence, leads to a parallel with the Holocaust. Hitler too justified his treatment of the Jews by blaming them for the problems that Germany had faced over the past few decades and thus gained popular support for his treatment of them.
It is also notable that Pakistan, along with several other countries including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, have praised China for its “counterterrorism program”.
China, as an all-powerful superpower might seem like a daunting enemy, but the common man can still do much against it. An economic boycott of Chinese goods would hurt China where it hurts the most – their economy. Spreading awareness is another solution Pakistanis can adopt, encouraging others to boycott Chinese goods. Another solution could be urging PM Imran Khan to call China out for its actions, but this act would only be possible in a utopia – not the political reality in which China is paramount to Pakistan’s national security.
The Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs may not yet be at the point of a Holocaust like that of the 20th Century. But, if left unchecked and uncalled out, it could escalate as fast as the persecution against the Jews did – except this time, the victims would be Muslims.