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The Urumqi Massacre and the Subsequent Genocide – My Story As a British Uyghur

In school, we learn about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust – we are constantly reminded of its importance so that history does not repeat itself. I look back at the lessons and think about the irony: we are already facing a second Holocaust.

I am Uyghur. Throughout my life when people asked me where I was from and I said East Turkistan, I was met with confusion. “Did you mean Pakistan?” They would ask. “Is that like Turkey and Pakistan combined together?” I don’t blame them – you can’t find East Turkistan on the map because it’s not an independent country yet; however, this does not mean that it does not exist

The next day, her sister looked out of the window and the streets were so clean. But still, there was no-one outside apart from the army. There was no blood; it was clean like nothing had happened. When we came to England, the news reported that around 200 people had died. My mum was surprised because she, as well as many others, estimated that at least 10,000 people died. Not to mention, that following night, many thousand people were arrested and subsequently disappeared. 

It doesn’t end there. 11 years on and genocide is happening. Around 2017, the same time every Uyghur person living abroad had their final conversation with family back home, satellite images of large prison-like buildings emerged.[1] Shortly after, it was found that these were to be called “re-education camps” where Uyghurs and Kazakhs would be sent there to be “re-educated” or more appropriately, brainwashed. Chinese officials at first denied the existence of these camps but then later described them as centres for vocational training where Uyghurs, who were often given low paid and unskilled jobs due to the discrimination of the government, were to go voluntarily to gain more skills.

They also mentioned combatting terrorism, a growing concern in western communities hence making the existence of these camps slightly more justified in the eyes of the racist westerner. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released a document titled ‘75 types of behaviour that suggests religious extremism’ and contents include wearing a hijab, growing an ‘abnormally’ long beard, having Muslim names, and praying, or refusing to listen to state television and radio. Having relatives abroad or going abroad yourself is also a crime. The reality is that these camps are actually concentration camps. People leave dead or with severe physical and mental injuries. There are reports of organ harvesting[2], rape, torture, forced labour, and coerced denunciation of identity.[3] High profile people are missing or presumed dead. Villages have turned into ghost towns. Houses are empty. Their crime? Existing. 

To make matters worse, there are many sister campaigns alongside the concentration camps. There are 100m stop and search checkpoints where the residents of the region are scanned with metal detectors and facial recognition or iris scan machines. All ethnic minorities have been forced to download an app that scans for any content that may be justified as illegal. Cars must have GPS trackers, and anyone that wants to use a kitchen knife must have identification details. Passports have been taken away and confiscated and any overseas contact can be signs of extremism. The ‘becoming family’ policy ensures that nothing is left unchecked by bringing in the Han Chinese to stay with a family and report any signs of extremism. State orphanages have been built where Uyghur children who have been robbed of their parents are subject to cultural cleansing.[4]

Uyghur Children Uyghur China
Uyghur children in the old town of Hotan, Xinjiang – Wikimedia Commons, Agaceri

[1] “Satellite images expose China’s vast network of secret re ….” 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-01/satellite-images-expose-chinas-network-of-re-education-camps/10432924. Accessed 27 Jul. 2020.

[2] “China Tribunal: Final judgement detailed, the hearings ….” https://chinatribunal.com/. Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

[3] “Newsnight, Is China brainwashing Muslim Uyghurs? – BBC Two.” 30 Aug. 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06jvzh2. Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

[4] “The plight of Xinjiang’s Muslim population | SOAS Blog.” 7 Nov. 2018, https://www.soas.ac.uk/blogs/study/plight-xinjiangs-muslim-population/. Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

One reply on “The Urumqi Massacre and the Subsequent Genocide – My Story As a British Uyghur”

Thank you so much for this article. I also didn’t know that East Turkistan existed and that the Uyghur Muslims aren’t actually Chinese. This has also put into perspective how much the media has been reducing figures and how much censorship really plays into this.
The speakers playing ‘Allahu Akbar’ ploy really goes to show how twisted their strategies have been for years. I’m glad you and your family are safe. May Allah protect us from the oppressors and free the oppressed.

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