By Zahra Iqbal
On the 12th November, the Human Rights Journal held an event with Uyghur Rights Activist Aydin Anwar, the event aimed to educate people on the ongoing crisis in East Turkestan in the Uyghur region, exploring the criminalisation of the Muslim identity in China and then highlighted what we can to do to help.
Primarily, Aydin explained the geography of the conflict, the Uyghurs have historically inhabited East Turkistan, forming a breakaway republic in 1933 and 1944, subsequently failing on both instances. During the Communist Party’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s to 1970s, the Uyghurs were increasingly persecuted for their differences from the Han Chinese majority. The persecutions against the Uyghurs rose again in 1996, with another surge during the “War on Terror” in 2001.
Since then, China has systematically criminalised the existence of the Uyghur people and their religion, Islam. Aydin moved on to explain that even something so minor, like displaying the blue flag of East Turkistan is a crime, that can lead to the death penalty.
Furthermore, any display of Islamic practice is forbidden and will be punished by the Chinese state through the concentration camps this includes but is not limited to:
o Wearing a full beard or the hijab o Say the Islamic greeting “Assalamualikum” o Not consuming alcohol at parties o Having an Islamic wedding o Fasting o Praying o Going for the Islamic pilgrimage o Possessing a Quran
It is reported that there are over 1.8 million Uyghur Muslims in these camps with 100,000s in jails around China, all for practising their religion or displaying religious identity. Recently, the Chinese government posted a picture on social media, of rows of Uyghur Muslims prisoners in a camp; stating that they were detained as their thoughts are deemed to be ‘too dangerous’. Aydin also enlightened us on how China are profiting through genocide, by harvesting organs, selling hair and forced labour in the camps.
Since, colonial occupation, The Chinese Communist Party’s criminalisation of the Uyghur identity and the imprisonment of the Uyghur people meets the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG): o Killing members of the group; o Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; o Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; o Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
The speaker, Aydin Anwar, told us that she has 93 missing relatives in the Uyghur region, she is unable to contact any of the 93. Thus, has no way of discovering if they are alive, dead or in camps. Chillingly, Aydin told us that her story is ‘one of millions’ and that the ‘greatest source of pain’ was the ‘pain of the unknown’.
The event concluded by Aydin calling us to action, by education, signing petitions, boycotting products that are produced by concentration camps and protesting outside Chinese embassies.
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Zahra Iqbal HRJ Online Editor