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By M.H Uyghur
(Featured image is from: https://bitterwinter.org/a-tale-of-non-uyghur-activists-battling-for-uyghurs-freedom/)
The Uyghur have always been oppressed and subjected to assimilation and discrimination. The Uyghur image has been widely demonized both domestically and abroad. Thanks to the Chinese government’s long-run initiative of creating an image of the Uyghur as a violent and barbaric ethnic group, people in China see Uyghurs as a threat to their national interest. An unseen boundary artificially created by the communist government stops them from sympathizing with Uyghurs.
From the time the propaganda documentaries were made during the beginning of the people’s republic, can one could recognize the Uyghur were hard-working, peace-loving and a well-educated and important ethnic group, dedicated and a good contributor in forming the republic. Uyghur leaders had significant important positions in the newly formed communist government, seen in the video of Chairman Mao declared the establishment of the people’s republic, with Uyghur politician Mr. Sayfudin Ezizi standing right behind him. However, the situation of Uyghurs worsened each year after, with new policies implemented in the region, and the autonomy that had been promised since 1955, having never been fully established. After the cultural revolution, Chairman Deng Xiaoping started the “reform and opening policy”, that began the shifting point in China’s policies toward the Uyghur. Following the economic growth of the Chinese government, it has demonstrated more confidence in growing its mono-nationalistic policies in the ethnic regions, resulting in mass immigration into the Uyghur homeland and forcing of assimilation. One can see a lot of evidence of this from Mr. Wang Lixiong’s book “Your East Turkestan, My Western Region”. Since the year 80th, discriminatory and increasingly racist policies toward the Uyghur have been implemented, Uyghur students rally at the 80th, in which Mr. Dolqun Isa, presided as president of WUC, which was one of the active assemblies of the student union that organized the demonstrations against those policies. Although the movement dismissed nonviolently, the leaders of the movement were later targeted for retaliation. Some though managed to find their way out to democratic countries to continue their struggles, e.g. Rushan Abbas, Dolqun Isa, Memet Tohti, etc.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union alarmed the Chinese government, from which they feared any sign of Uyghur cultural growth, would result in awakening the Uyghur national identity, and at some point, in the future, they would cause greater autonomy. And the Chinese constitution allows for greater autonomy for these minority groups. Nevertheless, this is the shifting point when China started to demonize the Uyghur image, following the artificially raising of Han chauvinism, and which resulted in textbooks like “Xinjiang local history”, “Brief history of the Uyghurs” which denounce and reject Uyghur history as a separate people, and perpetuate the false notion that the Han Chinese were always in the central role in the history of the Uyghur ancestral homeland. These have been published and taught at all levels in schools.
Since then, Chinese authorities no longer hesitate to crack down on Uyghurs ever more violently. If we look back at the actual history, Uyghurs were trying to express their desire in peaceful ways while unfortunately, the reaction of the Chinese government always has been bloody, leaving us the tragic and traumatic memories of the Ghulja Massacre, Urumqi massacre, and other similar tragedies. Chinese authorities seem to have already calculated that very brutal suppression is a better strategy than a strategy of engagement with the Uyghur. Even most moderate voices have been silenced, like Mr. Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist, who has been campaigning for Uyghurs in Beijing, and calling for change to fulfill the promises of autonomy, and has been sentenced to life in prison in 2014.
The Uyghur situation has been worsening since 2017, since Qin Chuanguo, the Chinese communist party secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region got into power. He has started the so-called re-education network initiative across the region, wherein millions have been detained. There are various reports about how many people are being detained but must calculate it is somewhere between 1 and 3 million. Among them were my parents, retired civil servants, who didn’t have any political ambitions, and no longer actively practiced any religion. Thanks to God, they were released December 24th, 2018. But, millions still remain detained. Uyghurs are a suffering people, and this is really serious, there is a tremendous amount of suffering that is coming from these really terrible and immoral policies of the Chinese government. For example, even I am suffering from anxiety from time to time. There are many family tragedies that have resulted through the Chinese government’s insane policies. My parents’ passports have been confiscated, just like every other Uyghur’s, and their freedom of movement is being violated. I am a Finnish citizen, the only son of my parents, yet, I cannot dare travel to see them. My children are growing without childhood memories of their grandparents.
After the so-called re-education initiative started, Uyghurs living abroad began to be greatly impacted both psychologically and sociologically. China has heavily invested with in mind to stop or destroy Uyghurs from trying to build communities to support each other, or managing to organize resistance to Chinese authorities’ atrocities. There are campaigns trying to destroy Uyghur politicians’ public image so that they will have difficulties in mobilizing Uyghurs. Emerging of new Uyghur activists like me, are surprising Chinese authorities because they never calculated us into their plan. Uyghurs have been trying their best to fight back in all possible ways of peaceful resistance. Are Uyghurs capable of stopping the Chinese governments’ attack on their very existence? I would say it is highly unlikely without the help of the international community. Now, this issue is gaining notoriety in the international community, but the importance of it needs consistency, and the international community needs to sincerely help. My hope is that countries won’t use the Uyghur issue as only a point of debate in trade negotiations. We see many countries shamefully committing such an error. There are very serious crimes that are being committed by the Chinese authorities. I remind other countries not to become a part of this shameful history, possibly contributing to something like the holocaust of the 21st century committed by the Chinese Communist.
Uyghurs cannot face this atrocity all on their own. We must keep struggling for human rights, human dignity for our relatives and countrymen. We are weak, yet we haven’t given up. I have traveled over 20 countries, visited hundreds of different destinations, given speeches in universities, in churches, conferences, on the streets and even at private events, yet, my organization is not funded or supported by any foundation or organizations. I have risked my family, my marriage and my life for fighting for my parents and countrymen’s freedom. I am one of many, who are sacrificing everything they have for our faith and protecting democratic values that we believe in.
The Uyghur’s plight should not just be led by the Uyghurs themselves, but all of humanity should play a role, resist a country, who is on its way to becoming the ultimate superpower, yet continues its crimes against basic human rights, freedom, and democracy. This super-powers current and future threats to humanity as a whole, is not only the responsibility of the Uyghur people, and this will not just affect Uyghurs, on the contrary, it will affect the present and future of mankind as a whole. Let us not stand by. Today’s Uyghur tragedy is possibly an issue that the whole world will eventually have to deal with. A Superpower that does not tolerate other civilizations or cultures, and is intent on destroying that civilization, with a government which is rounding up millions of innocent people into Concentration Camps, for this power to end up being the number one superpower in the world, will be crushing, for this means that a power against common human values, that we hold dear, will come under serious threat, and could eventually disappear. The world of nations must keep its promise to others, because today’s Uyghur tragedy, could possibly end up as the tragedy of others.
For now, the best and the most realistic thing we can hope for is to close the camps, to stop this oppression, and for the Uyghurs to be treated in a just way, and for there to be an environment where they can speak freely. Even through small actions we can do big things. Our small actions can cause the Chinese government to correct its incorrect policies, and begin to see the Uyghur people as a really valuable society and culture that deserves to be respected. We need to protect the Uyghur people and give them a chance to live with the basic human rights of freedom and liberty that each person on the planet is either currently living, or is on the pursuit of. Even the decision of the Uyghur people to become an independent state should be respected if the Uyghur so desire it to be so. That in this way we may see this, the root to all the problems eventually solved.
However, I think, that the situation of the Uyghurs should be solved peacefully, through negotiations, and I would gladly be part of these negotiations. Social, political, economic or environmental reforms can be obtained in various ways, forms and methods. I believe in a just and free society, people can live together in harmony and peace. We should not see differences as a threat, our differences give us possibilities, knowledge, and strength. I believe in humanity, please do not let us fight all alone on our own, we need you to stand with us. Thank you!