Uyghurs in US Celebrate Eid, With Their Thoughts Back Home
VOA News, 22 August 2018
By Ashley Thompson and William Gallo — Aygul insists she’s not really in the “Eid mood.” But that didn’t stop her from preparing a traditional Uighur meal for family and friends on this holiday at her home in northern Virginia.
In between handing out bowls of homemade laghman noodles and cups of hot tea, Aygul tears up as she and her guests discuss the plight of their families back home in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.
“Some days, it’s even hard to breathe,” she said. “Even though it’s Eid, we’re always sad.”
Uighurs in the U.S. came together this week to mark the Kurban Eid holiday, also known as Eid-al-Adha. Yet, as several Uighurs told VOA, it is hard to celebrate while knowing — or not knowing — what their relatives are going through.
Uighurs eat breakfast together following an Eid prayer at an event in Falls Church, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2018. (B. Gallo/VOA)
About 11 million Uighurs live in Xinjiang, a region that China has methodically turned into a police state, with block-by-block security checkpoints, sweeping surveillance technology and extrajudicial detention centers aimed at political indoctrination.
China says it is trying to prevent Islamic militancy and separatism and points to a series of deadly attacks between 2009 and 2014 that it blames on Uighur extremists.
Earlier this month, a United Nations official said there were credible reports that China is holding as many as 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims in the re-education camps. Another 2 million reportedly are attending open re-education camps daily and return home at night.
The entire Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, U.N. rights expert Gay McDougall said, “resembles a massive internment camp.”
In response, a Chinese official told the U.N. “the argument that 1 million are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue.” Only those “deceived by religious extremism,” the official said, would be “assisted by resettlement and re-education.”