April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, and here at The Undaunted Foundation we have been reading, learning, and contemplating our place in the fight against these mass atrocities. In addition to being vigilant against dehumanization, violence, hatred, and fear of others, we need to be aware of emerging situations around the globe, in order to advocate for compassionate foreign policy measures. Currently, in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China, the Chinese government is enacting policies of genocide on Muslim minorities, specifically on the Uyghur people who live there.
(Photo from Unsplash)
The Uyghur are one of 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China and are considered a native people, although the history is disputed between Uyghur scholars and the Chinese government’s narrative. They have practiced Islam since the 10th century, and this religious practice has made them a target of Chinese officials who have used religious extremism as an excuse to detain or otherwise enact measures of genocide on the population. The Xinjiang region rose up against Chinese rule several times in the first part of the 20th century, creating the short-lived First and Second East Turkestan Republics. Writers, intellectuals, and activists who advocate for a free and independent Turkestan have been imprisoned by the Chinese government, and an ongoing campaign to fund “official histories,” of the Xinjiang region attempts to persuade Chinese citizens through propaganda.
In the wake of World War II, the world community was forced to confront the gravity of the genocide enacted on Jews and other ethnic minorities by the Nazi party, resulting in over 6 million deaths. The United Nations met in 1948 to clearly define genocide in all its forms so that world powers could fight to prevent this from ever happening again. They defined genocide as targeting members of a religious, ethnic, national, or racial group for the purposes of killing them, causing serious mental or bodily harm, forcibly separating children from other members, and measures meant to prevent births within the group.
Recently a group of genocide experts, international lawyers, experts in the region, and Chinese ethnic policymakers gathered in an independent group to study the accusation of genocide by the Chinese government on the Uyghur people. Their conclusion was stark and unequivocal: there is genocide happening in China. The report details the dehumanizing language at the highest levels of the Chinese government as they formed specific plans to eradicate the Uyghur people, “High-level officials followed up with orders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,” “wipe them out completely … destroy them root and branch,” and “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Officials described Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of Uyghurs to “eradicating tumors.””
These plans included placing over 2 million people in internment camps, promoting Uyghur-Han marriages in order to disrupt Uyghur cultural heritage, a mass birth-prevention effort including sterilizations, separating children from their parents who are often interned, and the selective targeting of intellectuals and community leaders. There are also reports of mass deaths, torture, humiliation, rape, and abuse at the internment camps.
We must stand up, lobby our political leaders to take action, and bring awareness to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Xinjiang. Our friends at Save Uighur have compiled action items, information, and campaigns to bring awareness to the suffering happening. You can find their information here.