A Modern Day Holocaust

Chinese Internment of Uyghur Muslims

Iman Ahmed

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Protesters advocating for the concentration camps to end. Photo courtesy of https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-22/china-report-says-xinjiangs-uyghurs-forced-to-convert-to-islam/11330490.

After the Holocaust, the world swore to never let it happen again. And yet, it’s been seen over and over and over again…

China’s internment of Uyghur Muslims has come under criticism from many countries, including the U.S., after Chinese documents exposing the situation were leaked to the New York Times.

Uyghur Muslims are an ethnic Turkic group living in the western, rural region of China. Islam is a monotheistic religion, with Muslims beliving in and worshipping one God, Allah. This conflicts with the belief of the majority of China, which is a secular communist country. To promote support and loyalty to the communist regime, a “re-education” system was set up throughout the western Xinjiang region, where Uyghur Muslims reside.

Since as early as 2014, regime spies have been sent to live in Uyghur households to observe and report any findings of Islam, e.g. praying, reading Quran, wearing hijab or growing out beards, or possessing other Islamic books. Anyone who is found as a threat to the regime is detained and sent to a concentration camp. Chinese officials were instructed to tell children who return to an empty home that their parents are living well and are away studying because they were found with harmful influence of religious extremism and violent terrorist thoughts. They compare it to a viral sickness that will infect family members, so therefore detained persons can’t come home until they’re cured of their addiction.

Beijing insists that the concentration camps are “vocational training centers,” where people learn job skills and then are free to leave. However, living conditions and treatment inside the camps are far from humane. Muslims are forced into eating pork and drinking alcohol, which are prohibited in Islam, as well as forbidden from religious worship or wearing hijab. Adults are either given sterilization injections to prevent reproduction, or forced to marry someone who is not Muslim. Videos leaked from inside the camps show Uyghur citizens being brutally beaten with clubs and whips, most likely in response to insubordination or disobedience.

China claims that the concentration camps were inspired by Islamic “extremism” and terrorism. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. asked China to partake in the “war against terrorism.” China began implementing harsh regulations on religion to combat the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Some Chinese officials question whether or not the regulations were coherent, as there was a lack of evidence that the group existed at all.

Since the Xinjiang region is the poorest of China, there are often complaints due to discrimination in employment and education. This, combined with the regulations, sent Uyghur rioters into rampages after the crackdowns–the whole unrest killed almost 200 people from both the authority and rioting sides.

Beijing’s fear of terrorism is real, but this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before the religious regulations, Uyghur Muslims had not caused any problems. As a religion, Islam promotes peace and honesty in its practices. The word “Islam” translates to “submission” in Arabic; Muslims submit themselves to the authority of Allah and in turn are encouraged to exemplify the goodness of humanity.

Perhaps the faith and unity of Muslims in the region intimidates the Chinese communist regime, but regardless of what the explanation behind the camps is, China is committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims.

The United Nations’ definition of genocide is any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group: killing or causing serious physical or mental harm, physical destruction of the group, imposing measures to prevent birth, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

All of these traits are seen in China’s internment of Uyghur Muslims. The intent to eliminate Islam completely from the country is clear from the actions taken in the camps, which force internees to break their religious and moral values for the sake of loyalty to the communist regime. Some measures taken in the camps are even irreversible, such as the sterilization shots or separation of families.

The treatment of Muslims in said camps is inhumane and extremely cruel, considering that this is happening to citizens who have done nothing wrong except exist. The situation in Xinjiang models those in Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust of the 1940s, where German Nazis sought to remove all Jewish people from Europe and eventually the world.

Strangely enough, several countries with majority-Muslim populations, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, strongly support the internment of Uyghur Muslims. On the other hand, the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, and Germany have condemned the internment. The U.S. has placed sanctions against China through the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019.

Both republican and democratic lawmakers, as well as the U.S. President Donald Trump, have condemned the concentration camps. If there’s one thing that the world can agree on, it’s that no one should be punished for existing. But history will repeat itself, and the actions of the Chinese communist regime can only be combated with proper education.

Test Your Knowledge of World News!

  1. When did the Holocaust occur?
    1. 1940s
    2. 1970s
    3. 1960s
    4. 1880s
  2. From 1908 to 1960, The Democratic Republic of Congo suffered from genocide and other horrific incidents at the hands of one European country. Which country was this?
    1. Germany
    2. Austria
    3. Switzerland
    4. Belgium
  3. Which of the following groups was not attacked by the Yugoslav and Serb army in the late 1990s and early 2000s?
    1. Croatian civilians
    2. European Jews
    3. Bosnian Muslims
  4. Which Burmese ethnic group has been persecuted by the Burmese military within the last five years?
    1. Bamar people
    2. Karen people
    3. Rohingya people
    4. Karenni people
  5. Which group was responsible for the genocide of between 500,000 and one million Rwandan civilians?
    1. Tutsi
    2. Hutu
    3. Great Lakes Twa
    4. Banyamulenge
  6. Which country is experiencing a civil war, displacement, and other atrocities at the hands of its own government?
    1. Venezuela
    2. Russia
    3. Thailand
    4. Syria
  7. In what time period did the Khmer Rouge subject Cambodian citizens to forced labor, persecution, and execution in the name of the regime?
    1. 1970s
    2. 1930s
    3. 1890s
    4. 1960s
  8. Bangladesh emerged as an independent country after a bloody war with which country?
    1. India
    2. Turkey
    3. Pakistan
    4. Sri Lanka
  9. Which country currently has multiple armed groups vying for power?
    1. Libya
    2. Mali
    3. Sweden
    4. Uruguay
  10. The self-proclaimed terrorist group ISIS launched a violent campaign against civilians in which country?
    1. Jordan
    2. Iraq
    3. Greece
    4. Saudi Arabia


Answers: 1: a, 2: d, 3: b, 4: c, 5: b, 6: d, 7: a, 8: c, 9: b, 10: b