By Gulnaz Uyghur
There are chances that you must have heard about Uyghur Muslims and East Turkestan by now, but many of you may not know the exact situation of our community.
Uyghurs are ethnic Turks who believe in Islam. We once had our own country known as East Turkestan. Our ancestors enjoyed rich culture, we wore colorful clothes, designed beautiful patterns, wrote literary works, followed the path of Allah, decorated our Mosques, handcrafted delicious food and remained happy. Our motherhood was rich and we nourished her with love. Today however, our motherland East Turkestan is bruised, she is bound by chains. Today her jewels are being robbed. Her once glorified past is now being erased with red ink and that ink belongs to China.
It was the horrible year of 1949 when Mao Zedong ordered PLA to capture East Turkestan. Despite the differences in our language, culture, way of life etc, PRC eyed us for the natural wealth of our land. Like all the other invasions, this one also happened for the acquirement of natural resources. That was the time when skies turned grey and wells started drying up. Soon the People’s Republic of China started throwing us out of our houses because our lands were to be used for factories. Our ancestral homes where our previous generations shared joys and sorrows, where their blessing were present, were snatched away. Slowly, Uyghurs were forced to live in alien looking houses away from their homes.
“Do you know how it feels when the home, where your parents were born, where you spent your childhood, gets destroyed by an enemy? It feels like a part of us is lost, forever…”
After attacking our homes, the Chinese attacked our lives. Restrictions started coming on following the Islamic way of life. Uyghur Muslims are not allowed to keep beards, tie a scarf on their head, teach Quran to their kids, or even marry each other according to Islam. The worst part is that now Chinese are forcing Uyghur girls to marry Han Chinese!
More Han Chinese were forced to settle in our cities, their businesses were uplifted. It became difficult for us to run our shops or get a decent job until we show acceptance to the Chinese occupation by adopting their culture and language.
Then came the cultural revolution. The main victims of this horrendous happening were Uyghurs and other ethnic populations in China. The Maoist gangs hunted Uyghurs fearlessly, as if their main motive was to convert Uyghurs into Chinese. Among millions of people who lost their lives were a large number of Uyghur Muslims. That incident sowed the seed of horror in our lives. Even after so many years, the crackdown on our community gets worse. Most of the Uyghur activists have either been killed, imprisoned under unknown circumstances, are in exile or have been disappeared by the state.
China is keeping a tab of each breath we take, and a specific crackdown has happened on religion because Communist Party Of China does not want people to believe anyone else other than the party. They want us to worship Xi Jinping and praise him before Allah. If you visit East Turkestan (which they falsely call Xinjiang) today, you will find Chinese army at every corner, there is a check post at every 100m, they are even outside the Mosques, inside the Mosques. The DNA of Uyghurs are collected for no reason, they are not given passports. The only way for Uyghurs to get out of the country is to flea in dangerous conditions. Uyghur women are now being also banned from wearing long skirts, tops etc.
As if all these things were not enough, Xi Jinping has started locking Uyghurs in Nazi-style camps. These concentration camps are given the name of ‘re-education camps’ where Uyghurs are being brainwashed into forgetting Islam and their identities. Millions of people have been thrown in them. The survivors of these camps, lucky enough to flee, are narrating worrisome stories of torture. Satellite images of these camps are being leaked but China still denies its existence. Apart from Uyghurs, Kazakhs are also locked in the camps. This is the reason why Uyghur diaspora, in spite of numerous threats by Chinese embassies, agents, are protesting. We are asking China to immediately shut these camps and free our country.
How You Can Help
We ask you to Stand up for Uyghurs and take one action to save our country. Below are the things that you can do to stop China’s suppression of the Uyghur community.
1. Stop Using Chinese Products: Economy is the fuel of dictatorships like China. They have acquired our land to boost their economy and that is the only way to stop them. If you stop using even ½ of the Chinese products that you use now, then you will help us win the half battle. You can start with your purchases of local manufactured items – check labels to see if its made in China; stop buying Chinese mobile phones; un-install their applications like Wechat etc; stop shopping from Alibaba, Tencent and other Chinese giants. You can find a list of China’s most valuable brands here.
For travelers, avoid China, avoid their hotels etc. Make the Beijing government realize that they cannot prosper on the tears of innocents.
2. Spread Awareness About East Turkestan: Not many people know about our situation, many of them don’t even know that we exist. Centuries of bright culture is being wiped out due to PRC’s greediness. The more people know about us, the more they talk, the more they question, the better. China is afraid of people knowing the truth about them and this will reveal their true face. You may make clubs, organize conferences, or just set up a group talk at lunch. Do anything, no matter how big or small but discuss the Uyghurs.
3. Protect Uyghurs Living In Your Area: There are chances that Uyghurs are living in distress around you. Maybe you see their faces everyday but don’t talk or know about their problems. It will be helpful if you can led your hand to the Uyghur community around you, try to engage, listen to them and protect them in any manner. Your support can refill us with new spirit.
4. Holding Peaceful Demonstrations: You do not need to go to the UN or EU or hold a large rally. You may organize yourself anywhere, although it would be even better if you could do it in front of a Chinese embassy in your area. This should be a peaceful demonstration, asking PRC to stop suppressing Uyghurs. You may also join the protests being organized by the local Uyghur communities. These demonstrations or any other peaceful way of protest is important to send a message that the world is against their clampdown on Uyghur Muslims.
5. Ask for Your Government to Call Out China: Write letters, Tweet them on social media, tag them on Facebook or try to petition them. Ask them to call out China and stop them from wiping out our community.
Today there is not a single Uyghur left who has not lost someone due to China’s crackdown. Some of us have even lost our parents, children, relatives, friends. No matter how you choose to support us, what matters is your will to do so. The Uyghur diaspora is fighting for their motherland and we will keep doing so until our last breath.