Asianimage 6th April 2021
A UK based poet and academic has spoken about Chinese atrocities towards the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of Western China.
Aziz Isa Elkun is a researcher at SOAS University of London and has lived in the UK for the past 20 years. Members of his family are victims of Chinese aggression including his sister who was held in an internment camp for more than a year. He lives in exile in North London.
According to recent reports, Uyghur Muslims in China are being forced to denounce their faith, while China has destroyed 70 percent of mosques in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Uyghurs prefer to call their land ‘Uyghuristan.’
Since 2015, it has been estimated that as many as three million Uyghurs have been detained in so called ‘re-education camps’. These are basically internment camps where mainly Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are brainwashed and indoctrinated in Communist ideology.
Our religion Islam
Islam has pretty much been banned by authorities, the Quran and fasting are outlawed, Islamic dress is forbidden and ancient mosques have been razed to the ground or turned into bars.
Aziz said: “The occupation and colonisation of our country – Uyghuristan – began in 1949 but has only come under media scrutiny since 2017.
“We have been Muslims from the beginning of Islam, going back to the time of Prophet Muhammad (s). China has a population of 1.4 billion people. There are about 20 million Uyghur people. We have nothing in common with the majority Han citizens of China.” he said.
“Compared to the majority of Chinese people, we, the Uyghur have a different language and religion; we speak the Uyghur language that belongs to the Turkic linguistic family rather than Mandarin.
“My father passed away in 2017, his grave was completely demolished. I only found out about this in 2019 on Google Maps. After I gave an interview to CNN about the destruction of my father’s tomb, the Chinese media campaigned to discredit me for speaking out against the genocide. I have not seen or spoken to my mother or sister for many years.”
According to a CNN report more than a hundred cemeteries have been destroyed over the past three years.
Between one to three million Uyghurs have been detained alongside other Turkic Muslim minorities including Kazakhs. Aziz does not even know how his family have been for the past four years. The Western province of Xingjiang has a majority Muslim population and is rich in natural resources such as gas and cotton.
Aziz added: “Over the last three years almost all mosques and other religious sites, including graveyards have been destroyed because they want to erase our ethnic and cultural identity, but we don’t want be assimilated by China.
“In the concentration camps they carry out various types of torture and abuse and accuse us of being terrorists while the Chinese government is terrorising the entire Uyghur population.
“It is a lie when they say the camps are anti-radicalisation centres. If someone prays five times a day or keeps a beard or if a female covers her hair they will be targeted by authorities and will face punishment like long term imprisonment and brutal abuse.”
The Chinese government claims that they are offering vocational trainingdesigned to fight extremism but accusations of severe torture have been made by former detainees.
Some horror stories are coming to light of abuse and kidnappings, one person was detained for simply going on pilgrimage.
Aziz added: “There are reports of many deaths coming from internment camps. We have heard witness statements from former camp residents like Ömer Békali, revealing serious atrocities are being carried out against camp inmates.”
The death toll and sexual abuse of women in the concentration camps are alarming. Mihrigul Tursun, a Uyghur camp survivor gave testimony at a US Congressional Commission in November 2018.
She testified that detainees in camps are starved, electrocuted, and strip-searched. She told the commission: “My hands bled from their beatings, each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently and I could feel the pain in my veins, I thought I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me.”
Mihrigul said she and other female prisoners were forced to take unknown medication that made them faint, and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women. She was detained for three months during which nine of her cell-mates died.
Another victim described how he was tortured after returning to China: “They beat me with a wire and pipe non-stop, there was no place left without bruising. They hung me by my arms for three hours.
“They then placed me on a chair backwards and hit my bottom, after screaming and begging for so long I passed out. After I woke up they again interrogated me for another six hours before moving me to my cell.”
It is estimated that millions of innocent Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims, including writers, academics, teachers, and farmers, are held in these camps. In 2018, the Uyghur people were forbidden from contacting their relatives abroad. All communication was cut off.
Aziz continued: “One day in the near future, when circumstances allow it, I want to go back to my country. I am optimistic that Uyghurs will be able to live freely in their own country, free of Chinese racial profiling and genocide. I am dreaming of seeing my Uyghuristan again. Only independence will keep us safe.
The world’s moral duty
“My message to Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran is to support the Uyghur people and demand China end its atrocities.
“I also appeal as a British citizen for well wishers to support the New Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill. The UK Government must fulfil its duty and must not trade with a country that is committing ethnic genocide.
“It’s an absolute moral obligation on the world, including UN member states, to save the lives of innocents. I call on the UK Government to do whatever it can to stop these acts of state terror.
“Indeed, it’s up to the Western democracies to protect the Uyghur people, to save their lives from China’s oppression, or to continue watching as the world’s largest dictatorship commits crimes against humanity. The world must hold China accountable for comitting genocide against the Uyghurs.
“Undoubtedly this is the biggest campaign of ethnic cleansing since World War Two.”
Read Aziz Isa Elkun’s blog at www.azizisa.org/en
Uyghur Muslims: In the concentration camps they carry out various types of torture and abuse
China terrorising Uyghur population, eroding their cultural identity, says UK-based academic
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China terrorising Uyghur population: UK academic