A Petition for “the Disappeared” in the Uyghur & Kazakh Homelands in Northwest China
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August 22, 2018
Based on mounting evidence it is clear that the Chinese state is engaging in the extrajudicial systematic mass detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities. This process resonates with the most horrific moments in modern history. Such processes have resulted in generational trauma and social elimination. They shattered families, destroyed native forms of knowledge and, at times, resulted in mass death.
We call on Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, and Chen Quanguo, Chinese Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to immediately abolish the “transformation through education” detention system and release all Uyghur and Kazakh detainees and prisoners that have been “disappeared” without due process or legal representation.
· Provide complete and open transparency regarding the location of all detainees and facilitate an immediate process of freeing and reunifying them with their children and their loved ones.
· Release all Uyghur and Kazakh intellectuals and prisoners of conscience.
· Allow Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities the immediate right to obtain passports and travel freely.
· Restore the rights of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities to practice their faith and honor their native traditions without state interference or fear of detention.
Since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and Kazakhs have been “disappeared” into a widespread system of “education transformation centers” in Northwest China (Xinjiang). Nearly all Uyghurs and Kazakhs in China have an immediate family member who is interned in this re-education camp system. This human engineering project affects every aspect of their lives. As the scholar Gene Bunin has noted recently, Uyghurs now refer to themselves as a “people destroyed.” The phrase “everyone is gone” or “disappeared” (Uy: adem yoq) is something that Uyghurs repeat on a regular basis. Many Uyghur-owned businesses have closed across the country. Whole streets have been abandoned in Uyghur towns and villages in their homeland.
The mass detention of Muslims was accelerated in 2017 when the Party Secretary of the region Chen Quanguo, with the encouragement of the Xi Jinping administration, instituted a mass evaluation of Uyghur and Kazakh society. Chen asked security personnel and civil servants to determine who had studied or taught unauthorized forms of Islam, or who had traveled internationally or had international contacts. Through this process the state determined, without due process, that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Uyghurs and Kazakhs were “unsafe” and their worldview needed to be “eradicated” from society.
As a result of this categorization the police sent these men and women either to prison or to the reeducation detention system. The Xi and Chen administration has also forced hundreds of thousands of others to attend day or night schools. In addition, Uyghurs and Kazakhs who were determined to be “safe” were often pressed into service as instructors, guards and low-level police officers in the reeducation and prison systems. Tens of thousands of the children of those detained have become wards of the state and are being raised in state-run facilities that center around Chinese-language education and Han cultural values and practices.
This process has also explicitly targeted Uyghurs in positions of social and cultural influence. The Xi and Chen administration has arrested or disappeared hundreds of prominent Uyghur public intellectuals. These public figures include (but are not limited to) the widely-recognized pop star Ablajan Awut Ayup, the expert on Uyghur folklore and human geography Rahile Dawut, the former president of the Xinjiang University Hospital Halmurat Ghopur, the first translator of the Quran into Uyghur Muhammad Salih Hajim, the world-class dutar player Abdurehim Heyt, the soccer player Erfan Hezim, the translator and widely-read commentator Abdulqadir Jalaleddin, and Xinjiang University president Tashpolat Teyip.
Conditions in the detention centers are often quite poor. Many reports have noted malnourishment and severe psychological distress among the detainees. In some cases, shoelaces and belts are confiscated, due to the prevalence of self-harm and suicide. Those who do not fully participate in political reeducation are often subjected to beatings, isolation, and forms of religious and psychological violation. There have been numerous reports of deaths in the centers, particularly among the elderly and infirm, but also of younger people who were in good health when they were taken.
For further reading on the unfolding mass trauma in Northwest China please consult this bibliography compiled by Magnus Fiskesjö.
Image by Carolyn Drake, used with permission of the artist.
#NoReeducationPrisons #FreeTheDisappeared #UyghurRightsAreHumanRights
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