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In the U.S., the phrase “I am studying” is so common we tend not to give it a second thought. But for Gulzire, a Uyghurian refugee residing in Germany, those words were enough to change her whole life.
In a world where communicating or seeing a person from even the longest of distances is possible, Gulzire is unable to see her sister, Gulgine, not now and not ever. After flying home to Xinjiang, China to meet with her parents, Gulgine was captured, locked, and detained by the Chinese government. From a friend, Gulzire was later informed that her sister was imprisoned through the code words, “I am studying.” However, there was no crime, no transgression, no misdemeanor that was committed. Rather, Gulgine’s offense was that she was an Uyghur, an ethnicity President Xi Jinping of China is determined to entirely eradicate.
The PBS documentary China Undercover detailed that “President Xi told officials to unleash the tools of dictatorship to eradicate the Islam in Xinjiang…the Chinese authorities have cracked down on the entire Uyghur population and launched a systematic assessment of every Muslim in Xinjiang.” Muslims in China are experiencing what could be viewed as the worst ethnic cleansing since the Holocaust. Those brutal detention camps still exist today. Only now, it is with Uyghur Muslims.
Details of the oppression of Uyghur Muslims have surfaced. From working in labor factories, to being prohibited from wearing the hijab, to being forced to study Chinese Communist Party doctrine, to renouncing their religion, Uyghur Muslims are experiencing a mass genocide at the hands of the high officals of China (NBC News). However, the discrimination doesn’t cease there. Witnesses of this mass murder and ethnic cleansing have been threatened with imprisonment or death if this underground massacre is spoken of publicly.
According to a report from Amnesty International, minority Uyghur groups have faced interrogation, as well as torture, in what are known as “tiger chairs,” in which affixed leg irons and handcuffs are embedded within its structure, forcing the body to be confined to torturous, uncomfortable positions. Overcrowding, unsanitized facilities, sleep deprivation, and abuse are not out of the question in these camps.
The Beijing Olympics has put Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a Uyghur Muslim, in the spotlight amid the horrifying reports of the country’s crimes. The young athlete’s appearance on national and international television does not erase the horrific discrimination members of her ethnicity are enduring at the hands of President Xi. To this day, over 1.8 million Uyghur Muslims are locked away in these “re-education camps” with no hope of release.
As a result of the mass genocide, the U.S. government has chosen a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. However, the publicization of the religious and ethnic persecution of millions of tortured lives in China needs to happen – and soon.