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The Story About China and its Silenced Minority; What is Happening to Uighur Muslims?

The Uighurs in China are being forced into concentration camps, and are being subject to extreme forms of torture.

Uniformed men standing in multiple queues in an open area
An image of Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. (Source: @UyghurProject)

In the Xinjiang province of China exists a small Muslim minority, the Uighur Muslims; who are a Turkic speaking community with affiliations to Central and Eastern Asia. The actual size of the population remains to be a subject of dispute, yet according to figures released by Chinese Authorities place the community's population to be over 12 million within the Xinjiang region.

Since the past few months, international concern has been growing and speculation is taking place as to what China is doing to this minority group. Around a million Uighurs along with Kazakhs and other Muslims are being forced into camps and are being made to give up their identity- by brute and force.

The issues seem to focus upon aligning the mindset of the minorities in the country to match with the majority Han community and assimilate better with the communist nature of the country.

Between the year 2017 and 2018, 85 unidentified camps have been set up within Xinjiang itself and at least 1 million Uighur Muslims have been detained at these camps. Chinese authorities continue to deny the presence of such prisons and instead have termed them as “Educational Centers to cure extremist thoughts and for learning vocational skills.”

The few survivors who have managed to escape the country have given out reports and accounts of extreme physical, mental and sexual torture at these camps. Further reports bring into light, how children are being separated and family members are being kept apart from each other. Other forceful practices being reported are marriages of Uighur Muslim women to men of other Chinese ethnicites, forced sterilisation, bonded labour in industries-all being funded and carried out by government authorities.

Efforts taken out by the Human Rights Council Watch to bring out the plight of the community to the mainstream media have been constantly criticized by Chinese officials. According to the foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, the actions of the council are instigating “anti-China” activities and promoting radical violent crimes along with separatist activities.

With constant surveillance in place and the countries already existing social media restrictions, very little information is being able to come out of the region.

At a global level, in July 2020, 22 countries, primarily from the European region wrote to the U.N. Human Rights Council asking them to pay attention to the disturbing situation and the large scale detentions taking place in China. Yet, four days later 37 countries went on to praise China's “remarkable achievements” in the field of human rights. The list of signatories supporting China also included Muslim majority countries Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.

While the whole issue is an outcome of majority versus minority and political differences, this minority is suffering just because of one thing, their identity. They are suffering because they are a Muslim ethnicity and Indo-European. With very little global support and extreme restrictions on their stories being heard by the world, the Uighur Muslims continue to suffer and are being put through extreme degrees of torture, constantly being pushed into silence.

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