Written by Iman Naeem
In 2014, eight Chinese nationals of Uighur ethnicity charged through the Kunming train station stabbing people at random with curved swords and meat cleavers. This attack by the Uighur militants was met with strong condemnation by officials and is what changed the fate of millions of Uighurs in China. Just like 9/11 stigmatized the world of all Muslims, the attack by the militants in China has brought on a dire fate to millions of innocent Uighur Muslims.
To fight the increasing Islamic extremism, the People’s Republic of China built hundreds of internment camps in the Xinjiang province. The communist party began the persecution of the Muslim minority group; the Uighurs. Beijing initially denied the existence of these internment camps but later on admitted to having sent an unspecified number of people for ‘reeducation’. Soon after, reports of abuse and oppression in the internment camps, that China claimed and stressed were purely for reeducation and vocational purposes started pouring into international news organizations. Eventually, investigative journalists helped expose the stories of torture, plight and haunting violation of human rights in the Uighur internment camps. China kept on insisting that no violation was being done to the inhabitants of the internment camps until a leaked document that contained internal communication between Chinese officials was procured by The New York Times.
1 Source: Instagram @saveuighurusa
The communist party maintained their stance that the centres are for ‘vocational training that uses mild methods to fight Islamic extremism. The documents revealed internal speeches made by President Xi Jinping and other officials as well as directives and reports on the Uighur minority in Xinjiang.
‘President Xi called for a vigorous struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism using the organs of dictatorship and showing absolutely no mercy.’
As of now, the number of Muslims held at these internment camps has reached an estimated 3 million. In addition to these internment camps, China is tightening the religious freedom in the region. The Chinese government issued directives to the Uighur minority to hand over any and all religious scripture. Restrictions have been imposed on religious attire, where men have been prohibited from growing ‘abnormal beards’, Uighur minorities are barred from working government jobs, mosques and other religious sites have been demolished and Muslims in the region are being pressured to abandon religious practices.
When such events come to light, one cannot help but wonder what the governments around the world have to say about this, especially the leaders of the Muslim world.
When human rights issues collide with political alliance and agendas, the results are oftentimes very disappointing and there have been countless examples throughout human history. There were the infamous Nazi concentration camps, the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Bosnian genocide, the Rohingya genocide, Yemen’s man-made famine, the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, Palestine and a great many others. All these precedents have been set just so the governments of the world do not have to be burdened with giving us an obvious explanation.
There were the infamous Nazi concentration camps, the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Bosnian genocide, the Rohingya genocide, Yemen’s man-made famine, the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, Palestine and a great many others. All these precedents have been set just so the governments of the world do not have to be burdened with giving us an obvious explanation.
The OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) also seems to have been intimidated by China. The organization comprising of 57 Muslim countries backed out of a letter condemning the repression in Xinjiang at the UN committee and instead praised China for its counter-terrorism drive.
‘China has helped us when we were at rock bottom.’
China has managed to win Pakistan’s support because Pakistan needs Chinese financing. We cannot even criticize China’s tactics of neocolonialism. How can we be expected to utter a sigh regarding the atrocities being committed on Uighurs? At the World Economic Forum, when Prime Minister Imran Khan was asked about China’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, the PM initially dismissed it by saying that he doesn’t ‘know much about’ the matter. Later on, the premier said that China stood by us through thick and thin and he cannot discuss this matter publicly but will try to address the issue privately. If our Prime Minister maintains his silence on the crackdown on Uighur Muslims then sadly his marvellous speeches, regarding the human rights violation in Kashmir and Palestine, won’t work its magic and will lose credibility.
As for the people, they can only sit tight and observe if the leaders of the Muslim world will continue to be silent and let China carry out this genocide or will there be a page where humanity prevails in our violent history book. Although, our government’s hands seem to be tied due to political agendas doesn’t mean that we, the people, cannot come together and help our Muslim brothers and sisters. Write to your local activists/politicians and get their attention on the matter, sign petitions posted by international NGOs, raise awareness on social media platforms and in your communities, engage! Even though no one can really guarantee the success of such petitions, it’s a start and it’s better than keeping our lips sealed.