Xinjiang: a genocide in the making

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

As you start your first week of classes and get resituated into your college life, there is a genocide happening across the world. 

A genocide that isn’t being discussed with the urgency it deserves. A genocide that is being silenced and hidden by its leaders. A genocide that holds an amplitude of ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. A genocide against Muslims.

For the past two to three years, China has constructed a large network of detention camps — known as Xinjiang re-education camps — holding Muslims of the nation captive. BBC reported in November that Chinese authorities have rounded up hundreds of thousands of Muslims and placed them in these camps. 

These aren’t just any camps: they’re torture camps. Xinjiang camps were created under the demented ideology that Muslims are violent terrorists who need to be changed and purified. Chinese authorities seem to believe that by forcing these innocent civilians to denounce Islam, they will be denouncing their terrorist nature. 

I feel like this world has been singing this same “Islam promotes violence” song for as long as I can remember. I can speak for the entire Muslim community when I say we are genuinely fed up with this narrative. All true Muslims know that the religion promotes tranquility and unity. Peace and justice. Joy and humility. What it doesn’t promote is: violence. Quite frankly, I don’t necessarily care what others believe about my religion. However, it becomes hard to ignore the ignorance when my brothers and sisters are being eradicated in places like China. 

China blames Uighur Muslims for terrorist attacks in the early 2000s. Nearly 10% of Uighur Muslims have been rounded up and forced into these modern-day concentration camps, according to NBC News, because of this misconception. The Chinese Communist Party finds nothing wrong with their false claims of counterterrorism. 

While in these camps, Muslim captives are compelled to denounce their religion in the most horrific ways. Women are raped by their captors. Children are told to speak ill about Allah and Islam and sing hymns praising the very men and women holding them hostage. Many are made to eat pork. The Chinese Communist Party has even begun trying to change the Quran. If any captives do not oblige, they are killed.

Who is promoting violence now?

The Chinese government claims that Xinjiang camps are completely “voluntary.” Right, because people “voluntarily” subject themselves to imprisonment, torture and cultural cleansing on a regular basis. If these camps are optional and elective, why are these internment camps operating outside of international legal grounds? Why are Muslims being captured and incarcerated without any trial? 

Well, a few weeks ago, data was leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that detailed the reality of these camps. As expected, these leaked documents proved that China is brainwashing and culturally cleansing the Muslims of its nation. 

I’m wondering how I was able to find all of this information in the public, yet nothing has happened to stop China’s modern-day genocide. Excuse my confusion, but how can the world just stay silent while China massacres an entire group of people? 

Let me answer my own question: It’s because this group of people are all Muslim. The world has villainized the Muslim community so much, some of them might actually believe China’s methods are defensible. Perhaps if the world stopped condemning innocent Muslims for the actions of radical extremists, they would be able to see that Muslims deplore those terrorists with the same swiftness as everyone else. 

Diplomats and world leaders have seen with their own eyes these gruesome violations of human rights, yet have quite literally done nothing to halt this catastrophe. These same leaders may have quietly condemned China but are unwilling to go public due to financial ties with China, according to the New York Times. Oh, how could I forget? People’s lives and safety mean absolutely nothing in comparison to money. Who cares about a Muslim woman being kidnapped in front of her children, raped by multiple law enforcement officers and forced to abandon her religion and identity if the 1% is still making money, right? 

It is completely unacceptable that none of us have pushed this situation to media outlets more aggressively. It is unbelievable that we haven’t twisted the arms of our government officials to get them involved. America is a powerhouse. We have more say in ending this genocide than we know. Since the Chinese government finds no error in their ways, it’s on the rest of the world to make them aware. Every day those Muslims are kidnapped, tortured and killed, is on us. Until every Muslim is freed from Xinjiang, we are to blame for not doing enough. 

There is a difference between assimilation and eradication. China is not helping these Muslims adopt Chinese culture; they are expunging these Muslims’ culture. And the world’s leaders are staying completely silent. 

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