Uighur Muslim Kicked from Home Over Niqab
OnIslam, 28 August 2013
URUMQI – A Uighur Muslim woman has been forced by Chinese authorities to evict her rented property in the northwestern region of Xinjiang for wearing a face veil, in a clear violation of her human rights.
“Yes. We dealt with her issue, so what,” an official with the local residential management office, told Radio Free Asia on Thursday, August 27, on condition of anonymity.
“We do not have any law that says we are not allowed to rent houses out to Uighurs who cover themselves, but it has been administered like that in our district across the board.”
The story goes back to August 4 when Arzugul Memet, who dons face-veil, wa informed by her neighborhood residence committee that her apartment in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi would be sealed.
The notice left on her door said the decision was issued because she “did not cooperate with our … rule against covering up and wearing a face veil.”
The notice, issued by the Tengritagh district’s Ceramic Factory Neighborhood Committee, was based on general rules for renting of homes in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
A neighborhood committee worker confirmed Memet’s case, adding that she felt compelled to enforce it at the risk of losing her livelihood.
“That is correct, she was a covered-up woman,” the worker said of Arzugul Memet.
“We cannot do anything about it but carry out the orders from the top … We have nothing to do with this policy.”
The worker reiterated that orders were to force covered women to show their faces or they would not be allowed to rent a home.
“[Unrest] is happening in other parts of our region so [officials] are afraid for their safety and ordered us to do this, I think. We have no choice,” she said.
“But people do not like this policy which forces them to uncover their faces.
“We have orders that if covered women come to our offices we will not serve them. Period.”
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.
Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.
The official with the local residential management office said the action to evict Arzugul Mehmet was taken based on security grounds.
“If they cover themselves up completely, how can we match their IDs if we cannot see their faces when we go to check on them? How do we know who is coming into the building and who is going out,” he asked.
“This is a matter of public security.”
The official added that ID checks of residents are carried out daily and that if women who cover their faces do not comply with orders to remove their veils, they are told to “move to other places where they do not have such regulations.”
“Especially when they leave, they must show their faces. The rule here is: show your face or return to your hometown where you belong,” he added.
He said that the regulation had been in effect since July 5, 2009, when Urumqi erupted in violence when the mainly Muslim Uighur minority vented resentment over Chinese restrictions in the region.
In the following days, mobs of angry Han took to the streets looking for revenge.
The unrest left nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured, according to government figures. But Uighurs affirm the toll was much higher and mainly from their community.
“We have to make sure that there will be no covered-up ladies here in our district. That is the order,” he said.
“We cannot be humane here, because [our superiors] are not going to be humane to us. I do not want to lose my job.”
Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 but continues to be the subject of massive security crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
Rights groups accuse Chinese authorities of religious repression against Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million, in Xinjiang in the name of counter terrorism.
Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.
And analysts say the policy of transferring Han Chinese to Xinjiang to consolidate Beijing’s authority has increased the proportion of Han in the region from five percent in the 1940s to more than 40 percent now.
Beijing views the vast region of Xinjiang as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.