The Islamic Human Rights Commission has called on China to treat the Uyghurs as equal citizens after it released a damning report on Beijing’s policies towards its largest Muslim minority.
The report, which is based on the personal testimonies of Uyghur refugees in Turkey, said China had chosen to treat its Uyghur population as a threat, whose ethnic and religious identity is out of sync with the majority Han Chinese.
But the report concluded that in order to find a harmonious way forward China must adopt a policy of equality and integration based on acknowledging cultural and religious diversity.
Those interviewed in the IHRC report included individuals who had been repeatedly arrested and tortured, who had been held in so-called “re-education camps,” as well as those who had fled following the persecution of family members.
The most consistent grievances included:
- The creation of a police state wherein Muslims are monitored everywhere they go in Xinjiang.
- The systematic targeting and persecution of anyone who displays an Islamic identity.
- The routine use of torture to extract confessions as well as persuade individuals to provide names of others practising Islam.
- Females being subjected to rape which is being used as a weapon to humiliate and blackmail women.
- Family members disappearing into the “re-education” camps.
- Being forced to undergo many hours of state propaganda, repeating mantras that extol the virtues of the Chinese state and Han identity while denying their own Islamic/Uyghur identity.
- The incarceration of large numbers of children in the camps.
The western media has spoken of anything between one million and three million Uyghurs being held in camps, while China has talked about hundreds of thousands. Beijing has stated that it has established “vocational education” centres to stave off terrorism in the country.
Commenting on the report, IHRC chairman Massoud Shadjareh said: “What the headlines overlook is the history of persecution faced by China’s Uyghur Muslims. This is a history in which the Chinese government has sought to erase their ethnic and religious identities through acts of persecution, surveillance and where that has failed, by killing those who refused to bow to their dictates.
“The camps are the latest in a long history of persecution: Uyghur women forced to marry Chinese men to change the demography of Xinjiang, imprisonment and torture of Uyghur activists, the repression of all expressions of religious and cultural identity, and the murder of those who were deemed dangerous by the state…
“As each repressive policy fails to disabuse the Uyghurs of their cultural and religious heritage, China responds with newer and more repressive measures. The ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang are a sign of desperation: having failed to scare Uyghurs into adopting a Han identity through arrests, torture, surveillance and murder, China is now resorting to forcefully brainwashing the Uighur community in order to teach it how to be more Chinese and less Uyghur.
“The Chinese authorities should know that repressing an entire population will not work – from Palestine to Kashmir, Chechnya or the Rohingya of Myanmar, the modern world is replete with examples of states failing to break the will of oppressed minorities, irrespective of how monstrous and barbaric their assaults on those peoples.
“If China hopes to resolve its Uyghur question, it needs to start viewing them as equal citizens of China. It needs to protect their ethnic and cultural identity and allow them to worship freely. A free, prosperous Uyghur population will be an asset to China. Failure to turn away from its current course will only cause instability in Xinjiang as the Uyghurs seek to free themselves from the repressive policies of Beijing.”