Composed of personal testimonies from three Uighur women, an Oct. 26 event hosted by UR College Republicans gave students a look at the Uighur human rights crisis in Xinjiang, China.
“I ask that every single one of you, in your own capacity, come to the aid of the Uighurs,” said Zubayra Shamseden, Chinese Outreach Coordinator for the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP).
“For far too long, Chinese government oppression has gone unimpeded. The time for justice is long overdue.”
The Uighurs (sometimes spelled “Uyghurs”) are an ethnic minority group native to Xinjiang (or East Turkestan), in the northwestern portion of China. Shamseden said that three million of the 12 million Uighur inhabitants are currently in concentration camps, and that the Uighur people as a whole are experiencing what she calls a “cultural genocide” and an “attack on religion.”
Forms of these discriminations, Shamseden said, include the confiscation of “illegal religious items,” the suppression of Islamic teachings outside of state agencies, mosque surveillance centers that detail “how to identify a terrorist,” mosques demolished in the name of construction, and the use of tear gas in raiding religious schools, amongst others. “Illegal religious publications” are also banned in Xinjiang.
At one point in the talk, Shamseden said that some Uighurs’ organs are harvested without their consent.
In the testimony of the other two guest speakers, Nur Iman and Ms. Aini (the latter was an alias — she did not provide her real name), they described how their family members were detained in the camps.
“When I was 17, that [was] my last call,” said Iman. “That was the last voice from my mom and my dad, my brothers. Ever since, I don’t know where they are now, or what they’re doing.”
Aini recounted her sisters’ detention during the initial Uighur mass detentions in 2016.
In America studying for her Ph.D., Aini was informed that one of her sisters was detained in the camps. She asked her mother how long her sister would be there, and was answered with, “I don’t know; we cannot ask. We are not allowed to ask, ‘Where is your daughter?’ We are not allowed to ask, ‘How long they will be detained?’”
Aini said she “couldn’t sleep for many days” and resorted to sleeping pills. In December 2017, she said, she lost contact with her entire family.
During the Q&A section, many attendees expressed their support, asking how they could get involved in combating the crisis.
Resources like the URHP website were given to provide general information and opportunities for involvement. Attendees were encouraged to create dialogue and talk to congressional representatives about the issue.
“I think it’s really important that these [kinds] of conversations continue happening,” first-year Victor Chang said.
“Spreading awareness is really the biggest deal because I didn’t know anything about Uighurs specifically before this,” he added. “Now that I do, I can spread it.”
The event comes after conflict between College Republicans and the Chinese Students’ Association (CSA). In early October, the CSA president submitted a letter of intent to student government, calling for the cancellation of the upcoming Uighur event. The College Republicans president then called for a Student Code of Conduct investigation of CSA. Both clubs eventually backed down.