The Uighur genocide is similar to what happened to the jews in Europe under the Nazi Party. The Chinese government wants to eradicate the Uighurs living in the western part of China. This particular ethnic group is subjected to extreme torture. They are under heavy CCTV surveillance all the time. At the same time, there are several accounts of this ethnic group being physically abused by the police and other armed forces. Over a million Uighurs have been detained in “vocational centres”, similar to the Jews during the Second World War. But what does China have to do with Uighurs in the first place? How did all of this begin? Let’s find out.
WHO ARE THE UIGHURS?
The Uighurs are an ethnic group, who are descendants of the Turkic people. They are part European and part central Asian. Most people belonging to this group follow Islam. Their rich culture is a combination of many other cultures like Persian, Arabian, etc. They happen to inhabit the Xinjiang province of China. Apart from that, a lot of Uighurs can be found in neighbouring countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and others. They have a language, which can be written in three different scripts, i.e., Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic, just like the Persian language. Many people visit this particular province to learn and experience the Uighur culture; thus contributing to a lot to the Chinese economy.
THE BEGINNING OF THE UIGHUR GENOCIDE:
Despite helping the government improve its economy, they are still subjected to oppression. The main reason for this can be traced back to 1949 when Mao Zedong formed the Communist Party of China after fighting a civil war for almost 5 years. The moment he came into power, he annexed the disputed region of Xinjiang to prevent Russia to take control of that region.
According to Mao Zedong, religion was a threat to communist propaganda. Thus, he began cracking down on all sorts of religious expression. The Uighur Muslims were affected the most. They were punished for praying in public. The government also demolished a large number of mosques to prohibit them from practising their religion. As the Uighur community was seen as a threat to the communist movement, China tried decreasing its population. To do that, China encouraged a Chinese ethnic group called ‘Han’ to move westwards and settle in Xinjiang. The Han population did so and set up many successful businesses there, depriving the Uighurs of work opportunities. A large number of Han population moved to Xinjiang to work for the Bingtuan group. The Bingtuan is a paramilitary group which takes over land and resources from the Uighurs and runs them on behalf of the government. This paramilitary group was formed by Zedong in 1954 to prevent the area from being occupied by Russia.
As time passed, Russia was no longer seen as a threat. However, the number of people who joined the group kept increasing. Bingtuan ended up operating over 3000 companies in the Xinjiang province in every sector of work. But how is this region of any importance to the Chinese? The answer is simple: its abundant natural resources, which contribute to a large percentage of their economy. This region is rich in coal and fossil fuel. Xinjiang’s oil reserves have over a billion gallons of petroleum, which can be utilised for more than a century. The saddening part: everyone benefits excepts the Uighurs. The Uighur population was denied many employment opportunities. Most jobs were given to the Han settlers. Uighurs felt that they were dispossessed from their own land and resources. They felt they were robbed.
Applying basic economics, prices of products tend to increase when people are found to have more money in their hands. A similar thing happened in Xinjiang too. The Han settlers who had better jobs earned a lot. As a result, the prices of basic commodities increased. The only difference is, Uighurs had lost the ability to purchase things because they found themselves earning hardly anything. This led to a rise in poverty among this community.
The Uighurs couldn’t stand this inequality anymore. A large number of separatist groups started rebelling against the Chinese government during the late 80s and early 90s. They failed. This increased hatred among the Uighurs towards the Han population. Many Han people were attacked by the Uighur population over the years. Many were recruited by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda to prevent China from treating them unfairly. Tensions continued to rise over the years. Violent attacks took place in 2007 and 2017, where over a hundred Uighurs were killed and several more were injured due to violence by the armed forces.
At this point, China started imposing stricter restrictions and started monitoring every single activity of the Uighurs in the province. Following a knife attack on several Han people, the Chinese government started tracking knives that Uighurs bought using QR code so that any such violence never happens again. The Authorities continued treating them based on their theory of “the three evils”: Separatism, Terrorism and Religious Extremism. Things would have been better of they had restricted their movement alone. However, China crossed a line when it started imposing restrictions based on religious lines. Women were banned from wearing a Hijab. Men were not allowed to grow long beards. Uighurs were not allowed to name their children anything other than the list of names approved by the Chinese government. Not only that, but they were also prohibited from taking Muslim and Uighur education. Religious freedom was taken away. Youth under 18 were not allowed to mosques and pray. People are forced to put up posters of all the important Chinese leaders and any Islamic imagery on the walls of one’s house is prohibited.
Things got nastier. The Chinese government also tampered with the Holy Quran. The Quran had to be approved by the state, meaning, that the Chinese government was at liberty to change the text so that it fits its communist ideologies. According to Islam, idol worship is prohibited. The Chinese had other plans. Mosques were installed with a picture of the president of China (Xi Jinping as of present). They could either choose to pray to the President or go to the so-called Vocational centres (more like concentration camps). Uighurs are not allowed to go on Hajj as it defies the entire purpose of a crackdown.
Things just don’t stop there. Uighur Muslims are also forced to go through a thorough body scanning and iris scanning for identification. Their movements are monitored by surveillance cameras placed in every corner of the province. They are forced to provide DNA samples at any point. This information is decoded and attached to ID cards. The Uighurs are required to show this at checkpoints. Their activity is also tracked using a mobile app. They are arrested if they say/type anything using their mobile phones that are politically incorrect. Even worse, one could be sent to the what Chinese call “Vocational centres”. It is a mere concentration camp, just like how Jews were admitted in one in Nazi Germany. People are put in one for the silliest of reason, for example, if one is suspected of expressing extremist behaviour, refusing to watch state TV and also if a person is found to buy more food than usual.
The Human rights council has found that over 10,000 “vocational training centres” exist in the Xinjiang province. These vocational training centres brainwash the Uighurs. They are taught to praise Xi Jinping and former Chinese leaders, given an in-depth analysis of the communist propaganda and are also forced to speak badly about the Uighur community and culture. If one doesn’t do that, he/she is subjected to torture. It has been found that over 800,000 Uighurs have been detained in such camps. The worst part: The Chinese government denies every allegation made against them for breaching Human rights protocols.
REACTION OF THE MUSLIM NATIONS:
More often than not, the Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc., strongly condemn anything that goes against the Muslims and give harsh criticism. This time, no Muslim nation has batted an eye. They chose to remain silent. The credit goes to China’s diplomacy. It knows how to keep problems at bay. According to Wikileaks, China was able to lobby Saudi Arabia and other prominent Muslim nations to prevent them from releasing statements on the treatment of Uighurs since the Urumqi riots that broke out in 2009 by tipping them off with a huge amount of money, which they had utilised for unknown purposes. Turkey, however, harshly criticises the Chinese policy on the treatment of Uighurs but continues to remain an important ally.