Internment Camps in 2019: Injustice Faced by the Uyghur Minority in China
Concentration camps are often associated with Nazi Germany decades ago during World War II. It is bewildering to imagine that such dehumanizing institutions could exist in modern times. Unfortunately, more than one million Muslims are currently detained in establishments resembling concentration camps in China today. Since 2016, the Chinese government has been gradually stripping away the rights of the Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim minority in Xinjiang. Other groups of Muslims in the nation are also impacted by these regulations.
A major aspect of the systematic oppression involves erasing the victims’ Muslim identity. China recently implemented a “social credit system” to monitor its citizens and there are consequences if people refuse to adhere to what is socially expected of them. For instance, women are forbidden from wearing the hijab, an Islamic veil worn by many women to cover their hair. Furthermore, men are forbidden to keep their beards. Punishing Muslims who pray five times a day, which is a crucial part of the faith, is an extreme method utilized by the Chinese government to deislamify Xinjiang. Those who wish to learn religion from the Quran, the Islamic holy book, or attend Islamic schools, are also sent to these internment camps. There is also a ban on fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.The oppression goes beyond eradicating religious identity. The government also confiscated the passports of the Uyghur Muslim minority. Essentially, they’re being forced to conform to mainstream Chinese standards and have no option to flee the persecution.
More than one million Muslims are currently being detained in these camps. Although the whole ordeal is kept quiet by the government in China, witnesses and those who escaped from these camps have spoken up. Additionally, according to BBC News, satellite photos depict secure compounds, verifying the legitimacy of the institutions. Inmates at the camp revealed the types of treatments they are being subjected to. For example, Muslims are being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which is forbidden in the religion. Moreover, those detained are forced to learn communist propaganda and speak Mandarin instead of their native languages. If the victims resist, they are subjected to cruel punishments such as starvation, solitary confinement, and violence.
In response to the global outcry, China claims that they are not doing anything wrong. The Chinese government defends their actions by asserting that these inhumane institutions are simply just “re-education camps” that the Muslim minorities are voluntarily attending to learn vocational skills. The Communist Party of China claims that the camps will benefit the detainees because it offers an escape from poverty and the supposed “backwardness” of Islam. However, the true nature of these internment camps is very different and dark. The Uyghur people and other Muslims minorities in China hail from farming and other trading backgrounds. Victims in the camps are being forced into industrial labor to resonate with the mainstream Chinese society. According to the New York Times, coerced labor is a very serious issue occurring in these camps.
This event going on in China is an extremely detrimental instance of human rights violations. Thousands of people are being detained without a trial simply for being Muslim. The prisoners are regular people who have committed no crimes and the only reason they are being targeted is because of their religious identity. Throughout history, many genocides and ethnic cleansings have started this way; with oppressors attempting to eradicate a group’s identity. More importantly, the mistreatment of Muslims in China is not properly being covered by the media and many people are unaware of it. Therefore, it is crucial that this major human rights issue gets international attention, so China’s allies and human rights advocacy groups can pressure the nation to halt this unjust treatment of a minority group.