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A Uyghur’s Reflections on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Uyghur Human Rights Project, January 27, 2020

UHRP – A Uyghur’s Reflections on International Holocaust Remembrance Day China’s Unprecedented Campaign to Eradicate the Faith, Identity and Cultural Heritage of the Uyghur People
Omer Kanat, Executive Director, Uyghur Human Rights Project
Remarks at the 15th Annual Reflections on the Holocaust and Genocides
 January 26, 2020
Centers for Pluralism

As a Uyghur, it is extremely moving for me to take part in multi-faith remembrance of the Holocaust. Uyghurs join with voices of conscience around the world to say, “Never Forget.” We join with voices of conscience around the world to say, “Never Again.” We join in the prayers of all people for an end to suffering and evil in today’s world.

The Chinese government’s industrial-scale campaign of repression against the Uyghur people in East Turkestan is an apocalyptic crisis for the Uyghur people. China’s brutal campaign is now being called “crimes against humanity,” “cultural genocide,” and “the largest incarceration of an ethno-religious group since World War Two.

Uyghurs in the diaspora have been reflecting on the Holocaust for many months. We know the Holocaust is a unique period of unique evil. Solemn remembrance of the Holocaust is important for all humankind. But for Uyghurs, in our current crisis, “Never Forget” and “Never Again” have a direct and profound meaning.

I want to extend special appreciation to all my Jewish, Muslim, and Christian brothers and sisters who are part of the movement for universal human rights.

I want to especially note prominent intellectuals, including some who are Jewish themselves, who are raising their voices to say “Never Again” for the Uyghur people.

In May 2019, Anne Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the Soviet gulag and the Ukrainian “Red Famine,” wrote a column saying very plainly in the title: “In China, Never Again is Happening Again.”

In November, Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, wrote: “In China, every day is Kristallnacht.”

Jewish World Watch, based in California, has rallied for legislative action to end the Uyghur crisis, in line with its mission to educate, advocate and fund relief projects for survivors of genocide and mass atrocities.

Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy is executive director of World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She recently wrote about the Ugyhur crisis under the title: “High-tech genocides: From the Jews to the Uyghurs.”

Earlier this year, members of the René Cassin Organization, the Jewish voice for human rights in the UK, gathered for an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in solidarity with Uyghurs who are facing a similar horror.

These expressions of solidarity and alarm are profound. Uyghurs are grateful for these intellectuals’ commitment to arousing action, their moral support. Their voices help give us strength to carry on.

The Washington Post Editorial Board has been extremely alert and sharp in its analysis and escalating alarm about what has been happening for the past 3 years. The headlines of these editorials give a very clear idea of the crisis, and the inadequacy of the international response, starting in May 2018 and continuing through today.

China’s repugnant campaign to destroy a minority people (May 20, 2018)

We can’t ignore this brutal cleansing in China (August 14, 2018)

China finally admits it is building a new archipelago of concentration camps. Will the world respond? (October 11, 2018)

China must dismantle its grotesque network of brainwashing factories (October 20, 2018)

China is creating concentration camps in Xinjiang. Here’s how we hold it accountable. (November 23, 2018)

China’s unconscionable attempt to destroy Uighurs with forced labor and brainwashing (December 18, 2018)

China has turned Xinjiang into a zone of repression — and a frightening window into the future (February 23, 2018)

A whistleblower on Xinjiang has been detained. Is China behind the arrest? (March 11, 2019)

How could Volkswagen’s CEO not know about China’s repression of Muslims? (April 29, 2019)

What Congress can do now to combat China’s mass ethnic cleansing of Uighurs (May 23, 2019)

China is brainwashing Uighur children. How much longer will the world look away(July 13, 2019)

Finally, some consequences for China’s concentration camps (October 10, 2019)

China is achieving its ‘beauty’ by means of cultural genocide  (November 25, 2019)

China appears to add a sickening new dimension to its treatment of Uighurs   (December 16, 2019)

China calls them ‘kindness students.’ They’re actually victims of cultural genocide. (Jan 10, 2020)

The New York Times finally spoke up in November, saying in an editorial: “Communist leaders engage in modern-day totalitarian brainwashing, bizarre lies and industrial-level indoctrination to suppress Muslims.”

Chinese authorities have long violated Uyghurs’ culturallinguistic, and religious rights, marginalizing them in their own homeland.

But now Uyghurs are being rounded up on an unprecedented scale. These ethnic internment camps hold more than 10 percent of the Uyghur population in indefinite detention. Another 2 million people, according to estimates, are forced to attend day and evening “study sessions.”

We can see from satellite images that 800-year-old mosques are destroyed. Uyghur cemeteries are being bulldozed – a large-scale and deliberate desecration and destruction of Uyghur sacred spaces.

Recently leaked government documents reveal more. One policy document says that the government plans to have 500,000 Uyghur children in full-time state-run boarding school in the near future. The 400 pages published by the New York Times include policy documents admitting a plan to arbitrarily detain thousands of people in each local district who have committed no crime except “thought crimes.”

By a miracle, there is also now ample testimony about the camps themselves, and the forced-labor facilities, from family members, and former detainees who have managed to reach safety. They describe overcrowded conditions, a starvation diet, torture, unknown medications, and physical abuse. And many hours of intense ideological indoctrination sessions. These are designed to erase their memories and train them to say, “I believe in the Communist Party! I do not believe in God!”

Forced Labor for the Global Market

In the last four months, we have learned that many people have been transferred from the ideological-torture camps. They are mostly being sent to two places. Some are forced to sign contracts to work at factories, where they are paid very little, if anything. They are not allowed to go home, or can only go home one or two days per week. The government is subsidizing more factories to set up to take advantage of this slave labor. This kind of vast, government-organized slave labor is familiar to us only under a few regimes in history, regimes that are considered the worst and most murderous regimes in history. But it is happening now in the 21st Century. And the goods are being sold in the global marketplace.

The Chinese government continues to claim that it is carrying out a ‘counterterrorism’ campaign. This is nonsense. Putting more than a million people in detention camps has nothing to do with legitimate security measures. Our religious identity as Muslims, and our ethnicity, is the focus of the Chinese government’s brutal treatment of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic groups.

Uyghurs outside China are frustrated, depressed, and traumatized, due to their inability to help loved ones back home, or even to get any information about their whereabouts and wellbeing.

I want to end by stressing again that the future could be much worse. As Professor Rian Thum said in his Congressional testimony in July 2018, “mass murder and genocide do not look like impossible outcomes.”

Just this week, we learned that there are confirmed cases of the Corona Virus in East Turkestan. Given the horrific conditions of the detention centers and the even more extreme, asphyxiating control on information, it is possible there will be a truly deadly epidemic among Uyghurs.

Uyghurs are taking part in International Holocaust Remembrance Day for many reasons. Without your help, Uyghurs will only exist in the future as a diaspora, in exile from their homeland. But the Jewish experience provides us with a powerful example: one day we can return to our homeland. With your help, and by acting today, we can prevent the complete destruction of our people.

Thank you again for your solidarity and action.