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"Wayside Report: Uighur Muslims" by Luke Gover

The latest headlines contain information about basketball star Kobe Bryant’s

death, on-going impeachment hearings in the U.S. Senate, and the record-setting

deadly Coronavirus. With China’s dense population alone, it becomes difficult to contain

epidemics such as the new respiratory illness. While the bulk of this news is extremely

important, it is my belief that there is a group that is not receiving enough attention, and

therefore being tossed to the wayside: the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang China.


For decades the government of China has tried to extinguish religion, especially

Islam in the region of North-Eastern China. This region contains multitudes of

muslim-minority groups but most prominent are the Uighurs. Uighurs (sometimes

spelled “Uyghurs”) are primarily a muslim minority ethnic group that are located in

Central/East Asia. To be more specific, large amounts (estimates range from the

hundreds of thousands to over a million ) of Uighurs being held in what China calls 1

“re-education camps” in the territory of Xinjiang. These camps are have to do with more

than re-education, it’s about assimilation. In these camps, interns are forced to sing

hymns praising the Chinese government, write self criticism essays, and completely

disown their culture .


Global response to the ethnic cleansing of Uighurs has varied, although vast

amounts of muslims in China remain in these internment camps. Countries around the

world have blocked flights to and from Wuhan, and global companies have even shut

down their factories in response. The Coronavirus has already infected more people

than the SARS epidemic in the early 2000’s. Going back to the aforementioned Muslim

internment camps, the future has yet to look so bleak for its interns. The Coronavirus

not only discourages foreign involvement, but those contained in the camps are sitting

ducks.


One can see that Wuhan and Xinjiang are on nearly completely opposite sides of

China, but increased globalization allows for viruses to spread faster than ever. Around

January 24th, the first reports began to surface about cases of the Coronavirus making

its rounds in Xinjiang. The camps have been known for their appalling conditions

already, and those details matter now more than ever. A prisoner who escaped from the

camp noted, “Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two

minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day” . A 3

disaster is looming in China, and I’m among those who are doubtful whether the

Chinese government is concerned.


To be fair, I was not aware of the cultural genocide of the Uighurs until I came to

Sonoma State University as a Political Science major. I would bet I could ask the first

dozen students I see on campus about the Uighurs plight and not get a knowledgeable

answer. With regards to the beginning of this article, students are more concerned

about a possibility of World War 3, even though the dissemination of the Uighars is a

much more realistic fear. By writing this article, I’m not trying to grandstand, but rather

promote the dangers others face in countries that do not respect freedom of religion.

Perhaps it should be more appreciated, but I would prefer to see more societal support

for the Uighurs.

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