By Syakira Idayu
When it comes to helping other countries in need, especially countries that have a vast majority of Muslims, Malaysia has been doing a good job in setting the example. From helping our neighbour, Indonesia by giving supplies to them during dire moments due to tsunamis and earthquakes, to aiding the Palestinians in war with the Israelis. No doubt, Malaysia deserves a big round of applause for having a big heart. But the real question is, “is it enough”? Are there people who we have overlooked, who else can we lend a helping hand to?
Meet the Uyghurs.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group that widely resides in China. They are recognized as a native group in Xinjiang which is located in the northwest region of China. They are deemed as one of China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities. The Chinese government only acknowledges the Uyghurs as a regional minority in China but disapproves them from being an indigenous group. The majority of the Uyghurs are Muslims. This is due to the Islamization during the first Turkic Dynasty in the tenth century(Ruser, 2020).
The Uyghurs are a clear representative of oppression and ethnic cleansing which is still happening in the world today. They have to face a cruel process of physical and mental torture until they disown their faith and belief. These inhuman treatments are carried out in the Chinese Internment Camps, or as the Chinese government likes to call them, “re-education camps”.(Maizland, 2020). These camps focus on annihilating the Uyghurs language and cultural heritage completely. The Chinese government have reportedly confined more than a million Uyghurs in the camps. Those who are not restrained are subjected to intensive surveillance, religious restrictions and forced sterilization (Maizland, 2020).
According to the government officials, these people are being detained for ridiculous reasons which they call ‘crime’. Most of these ‘crimes’ have correlation to Islamic practices such as attending services at mosques, sending texts containing Quran verses or simply just because one identifies as a Muslim. Needless to say, the Uighurs are labelled as extremists, purely for practicing their religion. This is clearly a breach in the Human Rights Act, that allows the freedom of thought, belief and religion (Clarke, 2018)
“I didn’t see, but I could hear the unbearable screams coming from both sides of the corridor,” a former Uyghur detainee spoke, thinking back on his days at the camps in 2017 (Marx & Sumrie, 2020). Sources of information about the happenings in these camps are scarce, but according to the runaways who managed to escape, they described their daily lives in there as brutal and harsh. They were forced to commit devotion to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and renounce Islam in prison-like environments (Ruser, 2020).
Without a doubt, the right to live as a human being for the Uyghurs are being seized and they cannot do anything about it. Just because they are powerless doesn’t mean we are too. Ironically Malaysia, a country that is seemingly always concerned about the Muslim population are silent. This issue has been a hot topic for quite some time, on social media. Are we going to just leave it at that and turn a blind eye?
Anwar, D., & Jones, S. (2019). Explaining Indonesia’s Silence on the Uyghur Issue. Jakarta: Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.
Clarke, M. (2018). China and the Uyghurs: The “Palestinization” of Xinjiang? Middle East Policy, 127-146.
Maizland, L. (2020, June 30). China’s Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Retrieved from Council on Foreign Relations: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uighurs-xinjiang
Marx, W., & Sumrie, O. (2020, September 9). Uighurs accuse China of mass detention, torture in landmark complaint. Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/uighurs-accuse-china-mass-detention-torture-landmark-complaint-n1239493
Ruser, N. (2020). Cultural Erasure: Tracing the destruction of Uyghur and Islamic spaces in Xinjiang. Australia: Australian Strategic Policy Institute.