By Abhinandan Mishra
August 24, 2019
Children as young as seven-years old are being separated from their parents for months, kept in state-run orphanages without being allowed any visitors and are being “treated” for the “religious extremism” that they might have “caught” from their Uighur Muslim parents.
All this is happening in the Xinjiang region of North West China which has turned into a virtual police state with prohibition on foreign media—lest they show the path that China has undertaken against the Uighur Muslims.
While the children are being “treated” in orphanages, their parents and other Uighur individuals are “getting treatment” in camps that have been built to “de-radicalise” these “potential terrorists” as a part of China’s own war on terror.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to Uighur activists, lawyers, politicians and common people to get an idea of the condition of the Muslim population in Xinjiang region, which is called East Turkestan by the Uighurs. All of them said that the Uighurs, who were fortunate enough not to be put in concentration camps, were living without liberty and were under constant surveillance.
A Uighur national, who is a lawyer and currently based in a European country, told The Sunday Guardian: “The official figure of those of us who have been put in these ‘re-education’ camps, as the Chinese calls them, but which are essentially jails, is one million, but we know that it is at least twice more. Even those who are not in these jails are under constant electronic surveillance, with the Chinese authorities having the power to enter their homes anytime, carry out search and frisking without giving any reason. These concentration camps have cells that are roughly 10-12 feet by 15-20 feet where 40-80 individuals are kept. Many of these individuals are mothers and fathers, and when they are taken into these camps for ‘treatment’ by the Chinese authorities, their children are separated from them and kept in orphanages where they are ‘washed off’ Uighur nationalism.”
Ihsan Kartal, who is a member of the East Turkestan Republican Party, which is striving for the establishment of an independent, self-governed East Turkestan Republic—as it was called before it was captured by China in 1949—said that the situation was “very bad” there.
“World must stand up and do something for what’s happening there in East Turkestan. According to Amnesty International, there are two million people inside the concentration camps, but in our opinion there are three to five million people who are inside these camps. I myself have not been able to contact my family for more than two years now. Last I heard was that my elder brother was taken to one of the camps, more than one-and-a-half years ago. They did not even release him to attend my father’s funeral in April. He was put in the camp just because he had travelled to Dubai to see me. China is a dictator country and because of that, they are successfully able to hide the massive cultural and ethnic genocide that is occurring now in East Turkestan. Even Pakistan, which is an Islamic country, is not supporting us. We have approached the United Nations and informed it about the situation there, but China is using its power to stop anything from happening,” Kartal, who is based in Brussels, Belgium, said.
Abdugheni Sabit, a Uighur activist who left China in 2007 and is settled in the Netherlands, said that China was destroying everything, their way of living, their culture.
“They are destroying everything—our culture, our way of life; they are torturing us in the name of fighting terror. More than three million Uighurs, including teachers, lecturers, scientists, have been arrested and sent to camps for ‘education’. What is their crime? They have just been arrested because they are Uighurs who can play a role in saving our way of life and fight for it. You know I last met my family in 2009. I haven’t heard from them since. My two brothers and three sisters are in camps and no one knows what has happened to them. How can China question other countries when it itself is terrorising the Uighurs? The Chinese media is lying and not showing the truth on what the condition in Turkestan is,” he said.
The Sunday Guardian has also learnt that the Uighurs under the age of 18 are not allowed to go to the mosque, fast during Ramzan or study Islam; those under 45 years of age are not allowed to grow a beard.
Uighur is one of the two majority Muslim communities in China, with Hui Muslims being the other. Hui Muslims, however share the same culture and language as the Chinese people, live in the Chinese province and face no prosecutions. On the other hand, the 20 million Uighur Muslims live primarily in East Turkestan in northwest China, and were never a part of China till 1945 and have a totally different language, culture and ethnicity to the Chinese. Uighur women are discouraged from wearing the veil, a Uighur finds it extremely difficult to get passports to go to Haj and in the last 3-4 years, this region has accounted for more than 20% of the total arrests that have taken place in the country, despite the region contributing just 1.5% of China’s population.
Old mosques are routinely destroyed with a ban on building new mosques. All Uighur vehicle owners are required to install GPS tracking devices.
One of the activists, whose family is still in Xinjiang, told The Sunday Guardian that Uighur families are now required to entertain local Chinese government officials and let them live in their homes as “relatives” so that they can make friendly relations with the women of the house. “They want to put an end to the Uighurd by assimilating us with the Han Chinese. They want to remove us from our land. They treat Islam as a mental illness,” he said.
Gulbahar Jelil, a Uighur woman, who spent more than 15 months in one such camp before being released, interacted with The Sunday Guardian through a translator and shared the miseries that she faced in the camp. She is presently staying in Istanbul.
She said that around 30 women, in the age group of 18 to 80, were forced to share a small cell of 7 by 2 meters that had an open air toilet.
The detainees received about 600 calories per day that was divided into three meals a day that would be a bun and cornmeal soup. If anyone was caught speaking Uighur language, they would be punished by not being given soups. They only had to speak Chinese. Since there was not enough room for everyone to lie down side by side, half of them would stand as the other half slept in shifts. They were allowed to shower once a week, which they had to finish within 40 minutes. For that, they only had one bar of soap which they had to divide into 30 pieces. Detainees were not permitted to speak to each other. Pills that left them subdued were given to them every day.
Jelil told The Sunday Guardian: “They captured me and took me to cell number 704. Once I entered the cell, I saw girls and women with shackles on their hands and feet. The next day, they called out on the speaker, asking the people without shackles to line up. Soon after, a 5 kg shackle was put on my feet; since that day, it stayed on me for over a year.”
Jelil added: “We would be interrogated constantly. I was questioned after three months of my detention, but before that, I saw other inmates being taken out for interrogation. This interrogation would last for as long as 24 to 72 hours, after which they would return to the cell, bleeding. They would be beaten on their head, they had bruises and torn skin everywhere. During my detention, one of the hardest things for me was to witness a pregnant woman who gave birth in a hospital, after which she was brought back to the cell, but her child was kept in the hospital. In the camp, they would beat us, take us to dark rooms and lock us up. The rooms were filled with huge rats, and there were metal chairs and since there was no space, we would sit on the metal chairs. Every 10 days, they would ask us to line up and 10 armed policewomen would enter the cell with stun guns, they would force us to take off our clothes and do three sit-ups.”
“They used to give us medicines every day. They would ask us to line up and order us to take the tablets. Every 10 days, they would inject us. I don’t know what those medicines were and why they would inject us; now I realise they were to stop the girls in the cell from getting their periods because they don’t provide us with pads or anything else. The injection would make us infertile,” Jelil further added.
Original Headline: Uighurs expose China’s oppression in Xinjiang
Source: The Sunday Guardian