Taking action as millions of Uighur Muslims are tortured in Xinjiang, China

Written By Betul Celik, For The Globe

Being persecuted for what you believe in has been a common occurrence throughout the centuries. From the Holocaust to the Armenian genocide, millions of innocent people have lost their lives for having different belief systems or looking a different way. The word ‘genocide’ should be a cause for mass outcry and immediate action by world leaders. But there has been one genocide that is currently happening under our noses. Under the guise of “re-education” centers, millions of Uighur Muslims are being tortured. Uighurs are considered a Chinese ethnic group that live mainly in Xinjiang, China. These people need help and no one is lending a hand. 

In 2017, sources had come out of China claiming there to be concentration camps in Xinjiang, China where millions of Uighur Muslims were being tortured. China even admitted, albeit indirectly, to such an atrocity. In 2018, China legalized “re-education” camps calling them vocational training centers. Officials have claimed that these centers were built to separate their citizens from “terrorist ideologies.” Reporters have called these centers attempts to brainwash their citizens. However, China has denied the amount of people in these centers as it had been rumored to be near a million back in 2018. 

A few years have passed since then, and life has continued on in other countries without much thought to this crisis. The one million that they had imprisoned in these camps in 2018 has just continued to grow. Due to the lack of information, many international sources claim it is still around one million while U.S sources are saying it is two million. Saveuighur.org being one of the leading advocate organizations estimates that the numbers are actually around three million. 

Former detainees who escaped or were released have described the forms of torture they went through. They have been forced to commit acts against their religion, which have included eating pork or drinking alcohol. They have also not been allowed to get married to another Muslim. Children and women are being raped and having forced hysterectomies and abortions. Women are also forced to take birth control. All of these are attempts to decrease the Uighur population and prevent birth rates from growing. It is believed that in 2019, 80% of the women have undergone these intrusive procedures and that it has risen to 90% in 2020.

 It has been reported in the past year suspicions that organs were forcefully harvested from detainees. Although this has been a suspicion before the camps were established, former detainees explain that they receive excessive health checkups that include blood tests so that officials can keep the organs within the detainees healthy. Children are also being separated from their parents and forced to attend brainwashing classes. 

Previously, these atrocities have been described as a cultural genocide, not just genocide. This was because China hasn’t been murdering millions of people in a short period of time. As the timeline suggests, this genocide is very slow in terms of developing. But as of recently because of evidence of birth suppression, these re-educational centers now fall under the United Nations’ definition of genocide. 

Speaking of the U.N., it hasn’t taken extreme measures to stop China from continuing its actions. Aside from constant questioning and putting China on the spotlight, the U.N. hasn’t done much. This is partly because of the lack of support from the majority of countries. 23 countries backed the U.N. when it demanded access to these centers, while 54 countries viewed China’s re-education positively. Because of this divide, not much action has been taken. 

In September 2020, the U.S. Senate passed a law banning imports from Xinjiang, China, which are products of forced labor by the detainees. Beyond that there has been no indication of a worldwide intervention. 

There are a few organizations that have been created to raise awareness of this crisis. There is power in numbers and numbers are what we lack right now. The more people talk about this, the faster action can be taken. These organizations, however, need support so that they can keep on spreading awareness on a national level. 

I have arranged an event so that I can raise some money to donate to the Save Uighur project (saveuighur.org). Gouache paintings, made by me, will be for sale on Wednesday, Nov. 18 on the second floor of Lawrence hall in front out Point Café. These paintings are of animals, landscapes, portraits, etc., that will be sold for $5 each. Please be sure to stop by, and you can also contact me at [email protected] if you cannot attend or would like to just donate to this cause. Even the littlest amount of support helps!