Everyday, more and more Chinese Muslims are harassed and taken away to camps.

Express News

Everyday, more and more Chinese Muslims are harassed and taken away to camps.

Anusha Sikand and Michelle Arshad

Religious persecution is not a new concept to be covered in Earth’s history. Time and time again, religious groups have been tried, punished, and sentenced for their opinions and ways of life. Most of the population treat such events as archaic, despite the close proximity religious persecution has to the events of everyday life. However, bubbling deep in the posts of popular social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter, the news of religious persecution of ethnic Turkish-Chinese Uighur Muslims is making people reconsider their stance.

What started as a few tweets and posts, soon spiraled into a worldwide phenomenon failing to be covered by major global news outlets. Users of the Internet are comparing the catastrophic event to the Holocaust, both because of the lack of attention and the conditions in which they are residing. The Uighur Muslims are currently being held in cutthroat concentration camps that are actively being hidden by the Chinese government. About 10 percent of the Uighur population of Xinjiang has already been captured and placed in these camps. China claims that the Uighur population needs to be integrated into common Chinese society.

The Chinese officials at these camps shared that the types of offenses committed that lead to imprisonment include wearing a burqa, a traditional Muslim dress and headscarf, or watching an illegal religious video. They are, as a result, sent to receive rehabilitation treatment. 

Bu’ayixiemu Abulizi is the director of the Moyu County Vocational Education and Training Center in Hotan Prefecture in the southwestern corner of Xinjiang. According to an interview done with NBC news, Abulizi claims that the camp’s main initiative is to change the thoughts and mindsets of the imprisoned. 

Albulizi claims that, upon entrance to the camp, they are given lessons in Chinese law and Mandarin. In order to “graduate” from the centers, inmates are to pass an exam on these two subjects. However, the American government asserts that this camp is being used to brainwash the Muslims to integrate them into Chinese society, completely forfeiting any Muslim beliefs. In the camps, the Uighur are controlled physically and mentally by the officials with continuous brainwashing, tight security, constant observance, and extensive labor work. 

Camps must adhere to a strict regiment of total physical and mental control, a grueling diet of political indoctrination, vice-like security protocols, strict secrecy and “labor skills training” for longer-serving inmates, according to the China Cables, a cache of classified government papers published by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) a few weeks ago.

Abulizi claims that the camps are designed to prevent terrorist thoughts from forming and resulting in riots and violence. The Chinese government has associated terrorism with Islam, Muslims, and the Uighur population which sparks both fear and anger.

China further drives  these camps under the public eye of scrutiny by hiding their conversion methods and calling the criticism of camps “pure fabrication and fake news.” Once news about the camps began spreading globally, the Beijing officers were quick to change their claims, denying the camps’ means of “education transformation” and “vocational training” in an attempt to rid China of “separatism, terrorism and extremism.” However, in more recent light, many accounts from victims of the events have been popping up, leaving China at a silent standstill on the atrocity. 

“It’s what happens in authoritarian states when they try to re-educate, propagandize, and enforce political, or in this case, cultural conformity. They obviously don’t want it to be publicized,” commented history teacher Jay Scofield.

Arrested in November of 2017, Orynbek Koksebek was 39 when he was charged with being a traitor after he sought out dual citizenship in Kazakhstan. He endured the standard activities of these camps including the forced learning of Mandarin and being fed Chinese propaganda. In one interrogation, Koksebek claims that he was thrown down a hole and doused with freezing water. With his mental state shattered, Koksebek even attempted suicide. 

According to Koksebek, other inmates have reported accounts of rape, torture, and other systematic abuse.

Gulbahar Jalilova is another victim of the rehabilitation camps being hosted in China. In a video interview with PBS, Jalilova claims that she encountered women ranging from the age of 14 to the age of 40. The horrors committed inside of the camp are memories that will haunt Jalilova for her lifetime.

In the same interview, Yusup Sulayman, a Uighur musician claims that traditional music has been banned. He pushes the problem that China is not just picking up people from poverty-stricken and low-income areas, they are also capturing famous musicians, artists, and intellectuals in the country.

Abliz Ablikim is a Uighur man who lost his family to the tragic persecution of his ethnic group. He notes that in his uncle’s house, the government forced watching guards into the home to monitor the family’s activities. When persecuted, the only reason of crime they were given was simple: they were Uighur.

“They refer to Uighurs as criminals. If we ask them what our crime is, they say openly: Aren’t you Uighur? That’s crime enough,” said Ablikim in the PBS interview.

Stories of the victims of these rehabilitation camps against Islamist extremism exist far and wide on the internet. However, while a majority of the internet’s citizens acknowledge the existence of the ethnic cleansing, many of the world’s major governments have stayed quite due to the global influence China holds as an economic superpower.

“It is being publicized in the west, to some degree, but largely, it seems like people are relatively unconcerned as a whole,” said Scofield. “More people are concerned about their own personal self-interest or the trade war than to worry about a group of people who they don’t really know or understand culturally or religiously.”

The mass persecution had begun well before 2017 when the first articles of the events began to pop up on small news outlets. Now it has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon that is moving like a global rapid fire.

Painting Islam to be a terrorist symbol is a dangerous presumption and leaves many innocent, non-threatening Muslims vulnerable to hatred and persecution. Violence against the Muslim population is not a new concept, however, the lengths of mass violence towards Muslims in China is a clear attack of fear and prejudice.