Muslim Persecution Continued: The Uighurs

The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic minority in China who are currently being man-hunted by the Chinese Communist Party for “‘absurd preachings’ from ‘Islamist extremists’ … [that] had turned some people into murderous devils’” (AlJazeera). The vast majority of Uighurs in China live in the Xinjiang region, which has a Muslim majority as well. Recently, China has increased security within the region through police surveillance to watch over the Uighurs for “signs of religious extremism”, which includes owning books about Uighurs, growing a beard, having a prayer rug, or quitting smoking and drinking.

The Xinjiang region in China (Source: Flickr)

Furthermore, at least 120,000 UIghurs have been detained in what China calls “re-education camps”, that are actually internment camps (essentially a prison for the innocent). Testimonies from escapees says differently. Mihrigul Tursun, an Uighur who had been imprisoned three times, states that she “had her hair shaved and was subjected to an intrusive medical examination following her second arrest in China in 2017. After she was arrested a third time, the treatment grew worse” (AP News). She was detained a third time and spent three months in a cramped, suffocating prison cell with 60 other women, having to sleep in turns, use the toilet in front of security cameras and sing songs praising China’s Communist Party. Tursun said she and other inmates were forced to take unknown medication, including pills that made them faint and a white liquid that caused bleeding in some women and loss of menstruation in others. Nine women from her cell died during her three months there. Tursen also recalls being electrocuted for no reason and being told that her ethnicity is a crime.

Crackdown on the exercise of fundamental rights in Xinjiang.

This is normal in the “re-education camps”.

Footage released of the “re-education camps” (Source: WebArchive)

Recently, UN special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed has sent out a plea and “‘requested for a visit to go there…There is reason to be seriously concerned about reports coming out of the Xinjiang region’” (Al Jazeera).  Shaheed is not the first UN rights expert to write to China about his current state of distress nor is he the first to be ignored by the Communist Party.

At least 120,000 UIghurs have been detained at what China calls “re-education camps.”

When interviewed, Shaheed said, “The concerns we raised were first of all that the laws were overly broadly worded and were targeting essentially protected activities of communities, in terms of their right to thought, conscience and belief. So [there is] a whole range of violations occurring in these communities.”

Free the Uighurs (Source: Flickr)

This letter calls out that China’s regulation “targets Turkic Muslim ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities as well as Kazakh nationals” through a “crackdown on the exercise of fundamental rights in Xinjiang”.

That being said, Xie Zhangwei, a first secretary at China’s mission in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council that China opposes “extremism”, discrimination, violence, or intolerance, and that all communities within China respect each other (with no mention of the Uighurs).

Ever since the rise of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, there has been a magnifying glass on Muslims globally. It has come to a point where Islamophobia is becoming a world-wide phenomenon when that really shouldn’t be the case. I went to Morocco for interim semester, and I could clearly see how the Islamophobia has impacted them– I was told almost 10 times by various people that it isn’t a religion that makes someone bad, it is the person who are themselves bad.

I know this, but other people clearly don’t. I’m scared that the situation with the Uighurs will turn into a genocide just like what happened (and is happening) with the Rohingya muslims in Myanmar.

The fact that this is happening in China makes the situation much worse since there is such a high level of security and privacy due to the harsh laws made by the Communist Party. The laws make it almost impossible for us to do anything to help, and if we did, there would be dire consequences.

My heart goes out to the Uighurs, and I pray that the next time I read about them, there’ll be good news.

Author: Rhea Malhotra

Rhea Malhotra is currently a senior, and this is her first year writing for The Eye. She was born in Hong Kong and moved to Singapore at the start of freshman year. In her free time, she enjoys watching various romcoms, eating hot Cheetos with chopsticks, shopping, and cuddling with her dog. She can be contacted at

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