ACTNews, XINJIANG – Once again, religious persecution faced by the Uyghur Muslims has caught the attention of the international community. In Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), various Muslim Turkic ethnicities flourish, including the Uyghurs.
According to World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking Central Asian ethnicity who live in an area formerly known as East Turkestan. The neighboring Chinese province annexed part of the territory as a result of the Chinese communist invasion of 1949.
The crisis started when the Chinese government began erasing the cultural and religious identity of the Uyghurs that has flourished for hundreds of years. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that in May 2014 China launched its Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism. Many Uyghur Muslims whom the authorities consider having extremist religious ideology were detained and indoctrinated in camps that the Chinese government dubs “reeducation camps”.
Human Rights Watch’s China Director, Sophie Richardson, stated that, in reality, the campaign is used to justify massive abuses across the region. Most of the detainees were forced to swear their allegiance to the Chinese president and the Communist Party.
“There may be up to a million people being held in these camps, and it does not seem to matter that there is no legal basis for arbitrarily detaining people and forcing them to go through this reeducation,” stated Richardson on September 9.
To Human Rights Watch, Tohti, a Uyghur that left Xinjiang in 2017, said that the reeducation camps aim to erase their cultural identity as Uyghurs. “What they want is to force us to assimilate, to identify with the country, such that, in the future, the idea of Uyghur will be in name only, but without its meaning,” he said in March 2018.
World Uyghur Congress stated that the Uyghurs are still suffering from repression and acts of injustice, such as religious repression, torture and arbitrary arrests.
Apart from Xinjiang, the Uyghurs also live in many other countries. According to Işık Kuşçu, a Professor of Department of International Relations Middle East Technical University, Ankara, stated that the Uyghur Diaspora communities reside in a vast geographic area stretching from Central Asia to Turkey, from Europe to the United States and from Canada to Australia.
So far, there is no exact number of the total population of Uyghur Diaspora. While the exact number of diaspora Uyghurs is unclear, estimates indicate that this number is between 500,000 to 600,000, which is about 5-6 percent of the total world Uyghur population with the largest proportion of them living in Central Asia.
Around 2008-2010, there are five countries with significant population of the Uyghurs: China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. XUAR Statistics Bureau mentioned that there are around 11-15 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The repression faced by the Uyghurs in Xinjiang has caused many Uyghur Muslims to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) Senior Vice President, Syuhelmaidi Syukur stated that ACT is working to help the Uyghurs.
In the near future, ACT will dispatch teams to visit and give aid to the Uyghur refugees. “Insha Allah, we will dispatch teams in several batches. Apart from Xinjiang, many of the Uyghur Diaspore live in surrounding countries like Turkey and Kyrgyzstan. In this week, we will send Sympathy of Solidarity (SOS) for Uyghur I,” said Syukur, Tuesday (12/18).