International injustice? A look at the Uighur Muslims


Milan Varia

The Uighur Muslims have a long history with China, and their international injustice is something all of the world should be watching,

Basic human rights should be a worldwide agenda for all people, nations, and countries. Yet, one of the most alarming suppression of human rights in the entire world is going unnoticed. Being prosecuted and detained for their religious beliefs and ethnicity, the Uighur Muslims are in desperate need of intervention before it is too late. These people do not deserve to be suppressed. They do not deserve to be mistreated. They do not deserve to be forgotten.

The Uighur Muslims, however, do deserve justice.

It’s never seen in mainstream media. It’s never talked about in debates. It’s never mentioned in conservation. This needs to stop immediately. 

But we are not to blame (at least fully). Our lives are filled with political quarrelling and bipartisan drama; our sights are shifted from other important matters. This is not to say that the issues we focus on are not of value, but there are also other things that, as U.S. citizens, we must make an effort to attend to. Preaching freedom for all and enabling it all are two different things, and just as much as we care for our freedoms, we must care about others’ freedom. Our own leaders are starting to pick up on it. President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur human rights bill in June. He’s not the only leader to take notice.

On Friday, Robert O’Brien, the U.S Security Advisor said that the treatment of Uighur Muslims is “something close to” a genocide (Yahoo News), and in July, Dominic Raab, UK’s Foreign Secretary said the situation is “gross and egregious” (BBC).  


Who are the Uighurs?

The Uighurs are a group of Turkic Muslims who originated from nomadic tribes in Mongolia and Northeast China .  With a population of approximately 13.5 million people, 12 million of whom reside in the Xinjiang autonomous region in northwestern China. They have cultural ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. They have their own dialects and do not resonate with China at all. Many identify as being a part of East Turkmenistan, which in itself is an independence movement.

Yet, back in July, the U.N. stated that up to 1.5 million Uighur Muslims are in internment camps in Xinjiang, China, and the number is only growing larger and larger. Beijing characterizes these camps as being ethical and only used for re-education. They claim that these camps are put into use to stop extremism, but this is far from the truth. 

Many members of the Uighur community have come out and said they have been mistreated by Chinese officials because of their religious beliefs. 

In 2018, a Uighur woman named Mihrigul Tursun testified in front of the United States Congress

“I would rather die than go through this torture. I begged them to kill me,” Tursun said, “They told me my mother and son had died. My father was serving life in prison and that my family was torn apart because of me.”

Tursun was first detained in 2015 and was immediately separated from her newborn triplets. Her experiences also entail sleep deprivation and electrocution by a chair. She’s not the only one to come forward.

Murat Harri Uyghur lives in Finland and helped give rise to the hashtag #MeTooUyghur on Twitter. His group of activists are urging for Beijing to stop what they are doing to their relatives. Their main focus is to call to attention just how many relatives are missing in China. 

These testimonies are from activists who are exiled from their homeland. They have lived through these events and came to the rest of the world for hope. Their peoples need our undivided attention at this time. Sitting back is not an option anymore. We are still learning day by day what is truly happening. 

In a NPR interview with Adrian Zenz, a researcher dedicated to unearthing inhumane policies, it was found that China was controlling birth rates in an ethnically systematic fashion. It has been reported that mass sterilization, forced abortions, and mandatory birth control is being forced upon Uighur women. 

Zenz said, “there’s tools to implement intrauterine contraceptive devices and other intrusive surgical birth prevention mechanisms in at least 80% of the targeted women.” What this means is that China is intentionally trying to remove the ability to give birth to these women, so that the Uighur Muslim population will eventually subside into smaller and smaller quantities. 

This is simply an atrocity that continues to grow. In 2017, PBS found that there were more than 85 camps found in Xinjiang; in September of 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found more than 380 of these detention camps. Along with that, 35% have been demolished, another 30% have been damaged to some degree (ie. removal of Arabic architectural style). The ASPI also found that at least 80,000 Uighurs have been transported to worth in production lines for at least 83 different brands, including Nike, Adidas, Bosch, Marks & Spencer, Panasonic, and an unnamed company that supplies Apple with their hardware. They also are one of the major producers of PPEs (personal protective equipment). This is forced labor, something that should never occur in modern society. 

Standing idly and watching this happen is not something the world can afford any longer. 

One of the best ways to directly help combat issues like forced labor is to contact state senators. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to stop a lot of key issues related to labor. It makes it so that the exploitation of forced labor cannot happen anymore and companies have to comply with U.S. laws prohibiting the import of forced labor goods. 


To help get this act passed: 

Contact your Senator to urge them to co-sponsor S.3471

Contact your Representative to urge co-sponsoring H.R. 6210

Alongside that, if you are a part of any reputable organizations, you can endorse the call to action by the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, which is currently supported by over 280 different organizations – ranging from youth political groups to faith-based services – in over 35 different countries. 

If you are unable to do the above, there are petitions you can sign as well:

This petition supports the end of forced labor.

This petition is a call to either cancel the 2022 Olympics Games, which are held in Beijing, or have all of the detention camps close for good. The Olympic Games are there to support unity in cultural differences, and China is not complying with that.  The Olympic Movement requires the Olympic Charter to be followed by host countries. The Chinese government is not following the standards stated in the Charter. 

This is a choice between freedom or torture. If we have the power to make a difference, big or small, we must pounce on that opportunity. Waiting will only make this worse.