Who will stop the Uighur genocide?

Who will stop the Uighur genocide?
Comment: President of the World Uighur Congress, Dolkun Isa denounces China's horrific attempts to eradicate the Uighur people, and the world's apparent indifference.
5 min read
14 Jul, 2020
'We are deeply saddened by the complicity in our suffering' writes Isa [Getty]

As President of the World Uighur Congress and a Uighur myself, the last three to four years have been incredibly tragic and disheartening.

The Uighur community is suffering profoundly, this is a pain that will never leave us. We have had to watch in almost slow motion as the Uighur people have been forced to endure a series of worsening atrocities at the hands of the Chinese government.

Over the last three years, it has become clear that the Chinese government is trying to erase us, our ethnic identity and us as people. We are being subjected to genocide, but have received little more than words of concern, until recently. We have not even received that from most Muslim-majority countries, who have hyprocritcally chosen to support China's genocidal policies against Uighurs.

As the very existence of the Uighur people is at stake, we ask who will hold China accountable and stop the Uighur genocide?

While Uighurs have always faced oppression from the Chinese government, the policies from the Chinese government shifted dramatically. What began as discrimination and human rights violations, shifted to a strategy of dehumanisation, assimilation and genocide.

At the beginning of 2017, the Chinese government began to round up Uighurs and put them in an extrajudicial network of internment camps. Nearly all communication with our loved ones was cut off. In total, an estimated 1-3 million Uighurs were arbitrarily detained in these camps, enduring horrific conditions, torture and indoctrination.

We are being subjected to genocide, but have received little more than words of concern

Uighurs around the world raised the alarm, but our voices were initially ignored. China denied that the camps even existed for over a year, until they could no longer deny it. 

The camps were the most visible aspect of a genocidal and assimilatory strategy by the Chinese government to erode the Uighur identity and diminish the Uighur population. Everything that makes us unique has been targeted: our language, culture, history, religion and identity. Our history books have been rewritten.

Thousands of mosques, shrines, graveyards and other sites of historical, cultural or religious significance were destroyed as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tries to erase traces of our existence. Our language is also being eroded and Uighurs are forced to learn and speak only Mandarin Chinese in the camps.

Religious freedom is non-existent and Uighur Muslims face horrific persecution for their faith. Growing long beards, wearing an Islamic veil or even owning a Quran can get you arrested or sent to the internment camps. Chinese officials have described Islam as an "ideological illness" that must be "eradicated".

Our leaders and prominent figures in the Uighur community have disappeared or are detained in the camps as the CCP tries to cripple Uighur society. Now, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been transferred to forced labour facilities across China where they are forced to make products, often for western companies

Read more: Saudi newspaper prints full-page denial of China's Uighur persecution

The CCP's policies have focused particularly on the next generation of Uighurs to indoctrinate and diminish the Uighur people. Uighurs under the age of 18 are not allowed to even enter mosques and parents face serious punishment if they educate their children about Islam. 

Uighur children have been banned from speaking their mother tongue in schools across the region. Uighur children whose parents have been detained in the camps are being taken to CCP run "orphanages" where they are indoctrinated. By focusing on the younger generation the CCP is trying to snuff out the Uighur identity.

The most insidious policy of the CCP also focused on future generations of Uighurs, is the policy of mass sterilisation and population control of the Uighur people. A recent report from academic Adrian Zenz has provided evidence, through CCP documents and statistics, that the Chinese government has been enacting a massive campaign to sterilise or forcibly impose other birth control measures on Uighur women to decrease the population of Uighurs.

Among the many disturbing revelations in the report, it states that by 2019, Chinese authorities planned to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age in southern East Turkistan to birth prevention surgeries. In 2018, 80 percent of all new IUD (a contraceptive device) placements in China were performed in East Turkistan, despite the fact that it makes up only 1.8 percent of China's population.

Nearly every survivor from the internment camps who has publicly testified has said that female detainees were forced to ingest pills or a liquid that stopped their periods. Two of these survivors were confirmed to have been sterilised. 

The targeted nature of this campaign of mass sterilisation and population control and intent to decrease the Uighur population fits the accepted definition of a genocide under Article 2(d) of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and article 6 of the Statute of Rome. 

Everything that makes us unique has been targeted: our language, culture, history, religion and identity. Our history books have been rewritten

Uighurs have been forced to endure one atrocity after another, but so far little meaningful action has been taken to stop this. The Uighur people feel let down by the international community. There has been no resolution in the UN or meaningful words from the UN Secretary-General about this ongoing genocide. The US is the only country to have passed sanctions, others have only voiced their concern while the Uighur people are being erased. 

We are deeply saddened, not only by this lack of support, but by the complicity in our suffering. Uighurs around the world expected Muslim leaders to speak up, but they have remained silent or supported China.

Just last week, 46 countries, including Muslim-majority states signed a letter supporting China's policies in the UN. How have we arrived at the point where the Muslim world supports the genocide and persecution of millions of Muslims?

We want the world to see our humanity and demand China stop its genocide of the Uighur people. We have a right to live and exist, to enjoy our basic rights and celebrate our culture and ethnic identity. There needs to be meaningful action now, or the continued existence of the Uighur people will be under threat.


Dolkun Isa is president of the World Uighur Congress, and a Uighur politician and activist from the region of Xinjiang

Follow him on Twitter: @Dolkun_Isa

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.