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Who are Uyghur?

Contributor Hafsah educates on the current Xinjiang Uyghur Crisis

Education is a journey of a lifetime. To Uyghurs, education is twisted into repression of religion, culture and tradition. Maybe you’ve heard the name. Maybe the lack of mainstream media coverage means you have no idea who they are.

Who are Uyghur?
The Uyghurs are an ethnic group residing in the Xinjiang region, China. It was brought under its control in 1949 after a short-lived attempt by nationalists to claim the independence of ‘East Turkestan’. Uyghur Muslims make up approximately 40% of the population and there are over 10 million thriving in agriculture and trade in its haven city, Kashgar.

Xinjiang is a key region of the ‘Silk Road’ – an economic development strategy adopted by the Chinese Government to transform
trade, linking China to over 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Kashgar is the best-preserved Islamic city in Central Asia. Rich in culture, tradition and practice, it shares borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia and falls on the Silk Road.

What’s happening to Uyghur Muslims?                                                                                                                                         There is an effort of ethnic cleansing by the Chinese, masked in attempts of ‘de-extremification’ and ‘re-education’ of Uyghur Muslims. China have claimed threats of extremism and terrorism.

Islamic freedom is being obstructed with the introduction of a series of bans, such as under 18s being banned from entering a mosque. The government cites a fear of ‘Islamic indoctrination’ among young Uyghurs. Ironically, over 1 million Uyghur Muslims
were forcefully submitted into concentration camps last year, for a process of Chinese ‘re-education.’

“They were like robots”, says eye-witness Azat. “They seemed to have lost their souls. I knew many of them well, but now they don’t look normal to me. They behaved as if they weren’t aware of what they were doing.”
(Source: BBC Newsnight).

In pursuit of what China considers ‘thought transformation’ to tackle extremism, camps have become legalised.

There have been increased crackdowns of Chinese efforts after the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and then again more recently before the World Uyghur Congress report was released in August this year. The Chinese Government have increased Han Chinese settlement in the Xinjiang region through subsidising those families who choose to resettle there. What seems like a process of ethnic cleansing, the government has justified as a system of stimulating integration through an increased flow of money.

How can you help?
Luckily, the heightened tensions in the Xinjiang region have caused reactionary response worldwide. A grassroots, London-based,
student-led campaigning group, ‘Who Are Uyghur,’ has emerged to bring light to ongoing persecution of the Uyghur minority. The group provides updated details on the current climate of Chinese pressures, and offers practical methods to raise awareness and educate others on the ongoing injustices. From lobbying local MPs, to contacting NGOs, the campaign aims to empower everyone to help change the world – through education.

Be sure to follow
@WHOAREUYGHUR on Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates.


Image – Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

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