The Uyghur Dilemma

Something is horribly wrong in Xinjiang.

Here’s a brief summary:

Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained about a million people from the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority group in “re-education” camps. Countless others are subject to constant surveillance just for the ‘crime’ of being Uyghur (and by extension, Muslim).

As someone who loves reading about history, I have always wondered how people can just stand by while terrible things are happening around them. How did the Holocaust happen? Did people not care about the terrible oppression of the Jewish people back then, or were they just pretending to look the other way, in effect, silently condoning the massacre?

Something similar is happening here with the Uyghurs. What’s worse is that no one apart from the Chinese government seriously denies that this is taking place! Instead, the Chinese government is basically saying to the rest of the world:

Look, we know YOU know about the terrible things happening in Xinjiang. The question is: what are you willing to give up to stop this from happening?

China has, for better or worse, become the workshop of the world. Unfortunately here, with great power comes even greater potential to abuse that power. That is what is happening in Xinjiang right now.

I would like to share this article that I’ve just read on The Atlantic, titled ‘One by One, My Friends Were Sent to the Camps‘ which was written by Tahir Hamut Izgil. It makes for difficult reading, and I honestly struggled to finish it all at once because of how terrible the situation was (and still is) that he is describing. Nevertheless, this is a hugely important issue that everyone should know about.

Here are some quotes from the article:

If you took an Uber in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, there was a chance your driver was one of the greatest living Uyghur poets. Tahir Hamut Izgil arrived with his family in the United States in 2017, fleeing the Chinese government’s merciless persecution of his people. Tahir’s escape not only spared him near-certain internment in the camps that have swallowed more than 1 million Uyghurs; it also allowed him to share with the world his experience of the calamity engulfing his homeland.

And later on in the article:

Ostensibly, the purpose of these maneuvers was to maintain a state of readiness against violent terrorists; if anyone failed to cooperate or took part only passively, their name would be forwarded to the neighborhood police. In reality, it seemed that the aim of these activities was to keep us in a constant state of fear.

Regarding the confiscation of religious items:

The government in Kashgar had required all Uyghurs there to hand over any religious items they held. Frightened by the ongoing roundups, most had surrendered to the state any belongings relating to their faith: religious books, prayer rugs, prayer beads, articles of clothing. Some were unwilling to part with their Qurans, but with neighbors and even relatives betraying one another, those who kept them were quickly found out, detained, and harshly punished.

I understand that times are difficult for many peopleCOVID, economic recession, political upheavalbut I hope we will not lose sight of the suffering inflicted upon the Uyghurs.