The Uyghur Concentration Camp Crisis

“This is not a detention camp. They kill us here.”


Photo Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Uyghur Muslims protesting the disappearance and encampment of their people (Aris Oikonomou/ AFP via Getty Images).

Bella Rock, Social Media Editor

In the past three years, the Uyghur Muslim population growth rates in China have taken a drastic dip, falling by around 80%, referred to by experts as “demographic genocide.” This horrific drop has been accompanied by a large number of Uyghur Muslims being detained in detention camps in Xinjiang, China. However, as troublesome as detention camps alone would be, it has become widely known that the issue is far more horrific. 

The Chinese government has kept a tight lock on the issue, making it difficult to know specific statistics in regards to the imprisonments. Despite this lack of clarity, what is known, as reported in the Guardian, is that a minimum of 800,000 and potentially even more than 2 million Muslims have been imprisoned by the Chinese government.

Due to the intensive security by the Chinese government, much of what is known about the horrific events that happen behind cement walls comes from eyewitness accounts of those who have escaped or previously worked in the camps. Therefore, it is likely that only a tip of the iceberg has been brought to light. It’s been uncovered that inmates have been psychologically and physically tortured, including waterboard and sexual assault, as well as unwillingly having to go against the word of Islam, in ways such as being force fed pork. These people are being tormented entirely because of their religion. 

Mihrigul Tursun, an Uyghur Muslim who escaped Xinjiang, recently shared her experience of what she had to endure in the concentration camps with Pittsburgh’s centers for Governance and Markets and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, along with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and Congregation Beth Shalom. Tursun shared, “While being tortured, I muttered, ‘Oh Allah,’ accidentally, which means ‘help me God,’ They told me the Chinese Communist Party had more power than Allah. They told me Allah could not save me,” further showing the tragedies the Uyghurs are facing merely due to religion. 

Many eyewitnesses have also discussed the ways in which the Chinese government has enacted forced abortions and sterilizations in horrid attempts to eradicate the Uyghur population. An Associated Press investigation, based on documents and interviews with thirty Muslims formerly imprisoned, found that the Chinese government were forcing Uyghur women into abortions, contraception, and sterilization. 

Along with the endless torture and appalling ways of lessening the Uyghur population, there is also the increasing risk of mass genocide against Muslims in these camps. Tursun disclosed that death and torture were all too common in the camps, and in the three months she was imprisoned, she witnessed the deaths of nine women.

Additionally, Dr Erkin Sidick, an Uyghur American who is the President of the Uyghur Projects Foundation and senior advisor to the World Uyghur Congress told the Byline Times “the total number of Uyghur detainees in camps in China and those presumed dead now exceeds the total number of Jews detained and killed during the Holocaust,” and that he has reason to believe, due to information from Xinjiang officials, there will soon be a genocide enacted against the Muslims similar to the Final Solution that the Jewish population suffered during World War II.

This crisis has been marked as the largest mass imprisonment of an ethnic-religious minority since the Holocaust, and yet, there is a gross lack of media coverage and action taken to help stop this human rights violation. It is imperative that we no longer sit idly by. The longer we wait, the more lives lost, and, as said by Tursun, “This is not a detention camp. They kill us here.”