Uyghurs

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Context of Uyghurs

The Uyghurs (English: WEE-goorz or OOY-goorz), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. The Uyghurs are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. They are one of China's 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. The Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government as a regional minority and the titular people of Xinjiang.

The Uyghurs have traditionally inhabited a series of oases scattered across the Taklamakan Desert within...Read more

The Uyghurs (English: WEE-goorz or OOY-goorz), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. The Uyghurs are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. They are one of China's 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. The Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government as a regional minority and the titular people of Xinjiang.

The Uyghurs have traditionally inhabited a series of oases scattered across the Taklamakan Desert within the Tarim Basin. These oases have historically existed as independent states or were controlled by many civilizations including China, the Mongols, the Tibetans and various Turkic polities. The Uyghurs gradually started to become Islamized in the 10th century and most Uyghurs identified as Muslims by the 16th century. Islam has since played an important role in Uyghur culture and identity.

An estimated 80% of Xinjiang's Uyghurs still live in the Tarim Basin. The rest of Xinjiang's Uyghurs mostly live in Ürümqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, which is located in the historical region of Dzungaria. The largest community of Uyghurs living outside of Xinjiang are the Taoyuan Uyghurs of north-central Hunan's Taoyuan County. Significant diasporic communities of Uyghurs exist in other Turkic countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. Smaller communities live in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Australia, Russia and Sweden.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has subjected Uyghurs living in Xinjiang to widespread human rights abuses, including forced sterilization and forced labor, in what has been described as genocide. Scholars estimate that at least one million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily detained in the Xinjiang internment camps since 2017; Chinese government officials claim that these camps, created under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping's administration, serve the goals of ensuring adherence to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideology, preventing separatism, fighting terrorism, and providing vocational training to Uyghurs. Various scholars, human rights organizations and governments consider abuses perpetrated against the Uyghurs to amount to crimes against humanity or genocide.

More about Uyghurs

Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 12314800
History
  • Read more
     
    Uyghur princes from Cave 9 of the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, Xinjiang, China, 8th–9th century AD, wall painting

    The history of the Uyghur people, as with the ethnic origin of the people, is a matter of contention.[1] Uyghur historians viewed the Uyghurs as the original inhabitants of Xinjiang with a long history. Uyghur politician and historian Muhammad Amin Bughra wrote in his book A History of East Turkestan, stressing the Turkic aspects of his people, that the Turks have a continuous 9000-year-old history, while historian Turghun Almas incorporated discoveries of Tarim mummies to conclude that Uyghurs have over 6400 years of continuous history,[2] and the World Uyghur Congress claimed a 4,000-year history in East Turkestan.[3] However, the official Chinese view, as documented in the white paper History and Development of Xinjiang, asserts that the Uyghur ethnic group formed after the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate in 840, when the local residents of the Tarim Basin and its surrounding areas were merged with migrants from the khaganate.[4] The name "Uyghur" reappeared after the Soviet Union took the 9th-century ethnonym from the Uyghur Khaganate, then reapplied it to all non-nomadic Turkic Muslims of Xinjiang.[5] Many contemporary western scholars, however, do not consider the modern Uyghurs to be of direct linear descent from the old Uyghur Khaganate of Mongolia. Rather, they consider them to be descendants of a number of peoples, one of them the ancient Uyghurs.[6][7][8][9]

    Early history

    Discovery of well-preserved Tarim mummies of a people European in appearance indicates the migration of a European-looking people into the Tarim area at the beginning of the Bronze Age around 1800 BC. These people may have been of Tocharian origin, and some have suggested them to be the Yuezhi mentioned in ancient Chinese texts.[10][11] The Tocharians are thought to have developed from the Indo-European speaking Afanasevo culture of Southern Siberia (c. 3500–2500 BC).[12] A study published in 2021 showed that the earliest Tarim Basin cultures had high levels of Ancient North Eurasian ancestry, with smaller admixture from Northeast Asians.[13] Uyghur activist Turgun Almas claimed that Tarim mummies were Uyghurs because the earliest Uyghurs practiced shamanism and the buried mummies' orientation suggests that they had been shamanists; meanwhile, Qurban Wäli claimed words written in Kharosthi and Sogdian scripts as "Uyghur" rather than Sogdian words absorbed into Uyghur according to other linguists.[14]

    Later migrations brought peoples from the west and northwest to the Xinjiang region, probably speakers of various Iranian languages such as the Saka tribes, who were closely related to the European Scythians and descended from the earlier Andronovo culture,[15] and who may have been present in the Khotan and Kashgar area in the first millennium BC, as well as the Sogdians who formed networks of trading communities across the Tarim Basin from the 4th century AD.[16] There may also be an Indian component as the founding legend of Khotan suggests that the city was founded by Indians from ancient Taxila during the reign of Ashoka.[17][18] Other people in the region mentioned in ancient Chinese texts include the Dingling as well as the Xiongnu who fought for supremacy in the region against the Chinese for several hundred years. Some Uyghur nationalists also claimed descent from the Xiongnu (according to the Chinese historical text the Book of Wei, the founder of the Uyghurs was descended from a Xiongnu ruler),[19] but the view is contested by modern Chinese scholars.[2]

    The Yuezhi were driven away by the Xiongnu but founded the Kushan Empire, which exerted some influence in the Tarim Basin, where Kharosthi texts have been found in Loulan, Niya and Khotan. Loulan and Khotan were some of the many city-states that existed in the Xinjiang region during the Han Dynasty; others include Kucha, Turfan, Karasahr and Kashgar. These kingdoms in the Tarim Basin came under the control of China during the Han and Tang dynasties. During the Tang dynasty they were conquered and placed under the control of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West, and the Indo-European cultures of these kingdoms never recovered from Tang rule after thousands of their inhabitants were killed during the conquest.[20] The settled population of these cities later merged with the incoming Turkic people, including the Uyghurs of Uyghur Khaganate, to form the modern Uyghurs. The Indo-European Tocharian language later disappeared as the urban population switched to a Turkic language such as the Old Uyghur language.[21]

    The early Turkic peoples descended from agricultural communities in Northeast Asia who moved westwards into Mongolia in the late 3rd millennium BC, where they adopted a pastoral lifestyle.[22][23][24][25][26] By the early 1st millennium BC, these peoples had become equestrian nomads.[22] In subsequent centuries, the steppe populations of Central Asia appear to have been progressively Turkified by East Asian nomadic Turks, moving out of Mongolia.[27][28]

    Uyghur Khaganate (8th–9th centuries)
     
    An 8th-century Uyghur Khagan

    The Uyghurs of the Uyghur Khaganate were part of a Turkic confederation called the Tiele,[29] who lived in the valleys south of Lake Baikal and around the Yenisei River. They overthrew the First Turkic Khaganate and established the Uyghur Khaganate.

    The Uyghur Khaganate lasted from 744 to 840.[6] It was administered from the imperial capital Ordu-Baliq, one of the biggest ancient cities built in Mongolia. In 840, following a famine and civil war, the Uyghur Khaganate was overrun by the Yenisei Kirghiz, another Turkic people. As a result, the majority of tribal groups formerly under Uyghur control dispersed and moved out of Mongolia.

    Uyghur kingdoms (9th–11th centuries)
     
    Uyghur Khaganate in geopolitical context c. 820 AD

    The Uyghurs who founded the Uyghur Khaganate dispersed after the fall of the Khaganate, to live among the Karluks and to places such as Jimsar, Turpan and Gansu.[30][note 1] These Uyghurs soon founded two kingdoms and the easternmost state was the Ganzhou Kingdom (870–1036) which ruled parts of Xinjiang, with its capital near present-day Zhangye, Gansu, China. The modern Yugurs are believed to be descendants of these Uyghurs. Ganzhou was absorbed by the Western Xia in 1036.

    The second Uyghur kingdom, the Kingdom of Qocho ruled a larger section of Xinjiang, also known as Uyghuristan in its later period, was founded in the Turpan area with its capital in Qocho (modern Gaochang) and Beshbalik. The Kingdom of Qocho lasted from the ninth to the fourteenth century and proved to be longer-lasting than any power in the region, before or since.[6] The Uyghurs were originally Tengrists, shamanists, and Manichaean, but converted to Buddhism during this period. Qocho accepted the Qara Khitai as its overlord in the 1130s, and in 1209 submitted voluntarily to the rising Mongol Empire. The Uyghurs of Kingdom of Qocho were allowed significant autonomy and played an important role as civil servants to the Mongol Empire, but was finally destroyed by the Chagatai Khanate by the end of the 14th century.[6][32]

    Islamization

    In the tenth century, the Karluks, Yagmas, Chigils and other Turkic tribes founded the Kara-Khanid Khanate in Semirechye, Western Tian Shan, and Kashgaria and later conquered Transoxiana. The Karakhanid rulers were likely to be Yaghmas who were associated with the Toquz Oghuz and some historians therefore see this as a link between the Karakhanid and the Uyghurs of the Uyghur Khaganate, although this connection is disputed by others.[33]

    The Karakhanids converted to Islam in the tenth century beginning with Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan, the first Turkic dynasty to do so.[34] Modern Uyghurs see the Muslim Karakhanids as an important part of their history; however, Islamization of the people of the Tarim Basin was a gradual process. The Indo-Iranian Saka Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan was conquered by the Turkic Muslim Karakhanids from Kashgar in the early 11th century, but Uyghur Qocho remained mainly Buddhist until the 15th century, and the conversion of the Uyghur people to Islam was not completed until the 17th century.

     
    Chagatai Khanate (Moghulistan) in 1490

    The 12th and 13th century saw the domination by non-Muslim powers: first the Kara-Khitans in the 12th century, followed by the Mongols in the 13th century. After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, Transoxiana and Kashgar became the domain of his second son, Chagatai Khan. The Chagatai Khanate split into two in the 1340s, and the area of the Chagatai Khanate where the modern Uyghurs live became part of Moghulistan, which meant "land of the Mongols". In the 14th century, a Chagatayid khan Tughluq Temür converted to Islam, Genghisid Mongol nobilities also followed him to convert to Islam.[35] His son Khizr Khoja conquered Qocho and Turfan (the core of Uyghuristan) in the 1390s, and the Uyghurs there became largely Muslim by the beginning of the 16th century.[33] After being converted to Islam, the descendants of the previously Buddhist Uyghurs in Turfan failed to retain memory of their ancestral legacy and falsely believed that the "infidel Kalmuks" (Dzungars) were the ones who built Buddhist structures in their area.[36]

    From the late 14th through 17th centuries, the Xinjiang region became further subdivided into Moghulistan in the north, Altishahr (Kashgar and the Tarim Basin), and the Turfan area, each often ruled separately by competing Chagatayid descendants, the Dughlats, and later the Khojas.[33]

    Islam was also spread by the Sufis, and branches of its Naqshbandi order were the Khojas who seized control of political and military affairs in the Tarim Basin and Turfan in the 17th century. The Khojas however split into two rival factions, the Aqtaghlik ("White Mountainers") Khojas (also called the Afaqiyya) and the Qarataghlik ("Black Mountainers") Khojas (also called the Ishaqiyya). The legacy of the Khojas lasted until the 19th century. The Qarataghlik Khojas seized power in Yarkand where the Chagatai Khans ruled in the Yarkent Khanate, forcing the Aqtaghlik Afaqi Khoja into exile.

    Qing rule
     
    Uyghur General Khojis (-1781), governor of Us-Turfan, who later resided at the Qing court in Beijing. Painting by a European Jesuit artist at the Chinese court in 1775.[37]

    In the 17th century, the Buddhist Dzungar Khanate grew in power in Dzungaria. The Dzungar conquest of Altishahr ended the last independent Chagatai Khanate, the Yarkent Khanate, after the Aqtaghlik Afaq Khoja sought aid from the 5th Dalai Lama and his Dzungar Buddhist followers to help him in his struggle against the Qarataghlik Khojas. The Aqtaghlik Khojas in the Tarim Basin then became vassals to the Dzungars.

    The expansion of the Dzungars into Khalkha Mongol territory in Mongolia brought them into direct conflict with Qing China in the late 17th century, and in the process also brought Chinese presence back into the region a thousand years after Tang China lost control of the Western Regions.[38]

     
    Minaret of Turpan ruler Emin Khoja, built by his son and successor Suleiman in 1777 in the memory of his father (tallest minaret in China)

    The Dzungar–Qing War lasted a decade. During the Dzungar conflict, two Aqtaghlik brothers, the so-called "Younger Khoja" (Chinese: 霍集佔), also known as Khwāja-i Jahān, and his sibling, the Elder Khoja (Chinese: 波羅尼都), also known as Burhān al-Dīn, after being appointed as vassals in the Tarim Basin by the Dzungars, first joined the Qing and rebelled against Dzungar rule until the final Qing victory over the Dzungars, then they rebelled against the Qing in the Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas (1757–1759), an action which prompted the invasion and conquest of the Tarim Basin by the Qing in 1759. The Uyghurs of Turfan and Hami such as Emin Khoja were allies of the Qing in this conflict, and these Uyghurs also helped the Qing rule the Altishahr Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin.[39][40]

    The final campaign against the Dzungars in the 1750s ended with the Dzungar genocide. The Qing "final solution" of genocide to solve the problem of the Dzungar Mongols created a land devoid of Dzungars, which was followed by the Qing sponsored settlement of millions of other people in Dzungaria.[41][42] In northern Xinjiang, the Qing brought in Han, Hui, Uyghur, Xibe, Daurs, Solons, Turkic Muslim Taranchis and Kazakh colonists, with one third of Xinjiang's total population consisting of Hui and Han in the northern area, while around two thirds were Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang's Tarim Basin.[43] In Dzungaria, the Qing established new cities like Ürümqi and Yining.[44] The Dzungarian basin itself is now inhabited by many Kazakhs.[45] The Qing therefore unified Xinjiang and changed its demographic composition as well.[46]: 71  The crushing of the Buddhist Dzungars by the Qing led to the empowerment of the Muslim Begs in southern Xinjiang, migration of Muslim Taranchis to northern Xinjiang, and increasing Turkic Muslim power, with Turkic Muslim culture and identity was tolerated or even promoted by the Qing.[46]: 76  It was therefore argued by Henry Schwarz that "the Qing victory was, in a certain sense, a victory for Islam".[46]: 72 

    In Beijing, a community of Uyghurs was clustered around the mosque near the Forbidden City, having moved to Beijing in the 18th century.[47]

    The Ush rebellion in 1765 by Uyghurs against the Manchus occurred after several incidents of misrule and abuse that had caused considerable anger and resentment.[48][49][50] The Manchu Emperor ordered that the Uyghur rebel town be massacred, and the men were executed and the women and children enslaved.[51]

    Uyghur chieftain from Wushi, Kucha and Aksu, with his wife. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[52] 

    Uyghur chieftain from Wushi, Kucha and Aksu, with his wife. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[52]

    Uyghur commoners from Wushi, Kucha and Aksu. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[53] 

    Uyghur commoners from Wushi, Kucha and Aksu. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[53]

    Uyghur people from Hami, in Anxi subprefecture. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[54] 

    Uyghur people from Hami, in Anxi subprefecture. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[54]

    Uyghur people from Ili, Taleqi, Chahan and Wusu. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[55] 

    Uyghur people from Ili, Taleqi, Chahan and Wusu. Huang Qing Zhigong Tu, 1769.[55]

    Yettishar

    During the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877), Andijani Uzbeks from the Khanate of Kokand under Buzurg Khan and Yaqub Beg expelled Qing officials from parts of southern Xinjiang and founded an independent Kashgarian kingdom called Yettishar ("Country of Seven Cities"). Under the leadership of Yaqub Beg, it included Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan, Aksu, Kucha, Korla, and Turpan.[citation needed] Large Qing dynasty forces under Chinese General Zuo Zongtang attacked Yettishar in 1876.

    Qing reconquest

    After this invasion, the two regions of Dzungaria, which had been known as the Dzungar region or the Northern marches of the Tian Shan,[56][57] and the Tarim Basin, which had been known as "Muslim land" or southern marches of the Tian Shan,[58] were reorganized into a province named Xinjiang, meaning "New Territory".[59][60]

    First East Turkestan Republic

    In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. By 1920, Pan-Turkic Jadidists had become a challenge to Chinese warlord Yang Zengxin, who controlled Xinjiang. Uyghurs staged several uprisings against Chinese rule. In 1931, the Kumul Rebellion erupted, leading to the establishment of an independent government in Khotan in 1932,[61] which later led to the creation of the First East Turkestan Republic, officially known as the Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan. Uyghurs joined with Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz and successfully declared their independence on 12 November 1933.[62] The First East Turkestan Republic was a short-lived attempt at independence around the areas encompassing Kashgar, Yarkent, and Khotan, and it was attacked during the Qumul Rebellion by a Chinese Muslim army under General Ma Zhancang and Ma Fuyuan and fell following the Battle of Kashgar (1934). The Soviets backed Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai's rule over East Turkestan/Xinjiang from 1934 to 1943. In April 1937, remnants of the First East Turkestan Republic launched an uprising known as the Islamic Rebellion in Xinjiang and briefly established an independent government, controlling areas from Atush, Kashgar, Yarkent, and even parts of Khotan, before it was crushed in October 1937, following Soviet intervention.[63] Sheng Shicai purged 50,000 to 100,000 people, mostly Uyghurs, following this uprising.[63]

    Second East Turkestan Republic

    The oppressive reign of Sheng Shicai fueled discontent by Uyghur and other Turkic peoples of the region, and Sheng expelled Soviet advisors following U.S. support for the Kuomintang of the Republic of China.[64] This led the Soviets to capitalize on the Uyghur and other Turkic people's discontent in the region, culminating in their support of the Ili Rebellion in October 1944. The Ili Rebellion resulted in the establishment of the Second East Turkestan Republic on 12 November 1944, in the three districts of what is now the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.[65] Several pro-KMT Uyghurs like Isa Yusuf Alptekin, Memet Emin Bugra, and Mesut Sabri opposed the Second East Turkestan Republic and supported the Republic of China.[66][67][68] In the summer of 1949, the Soviets purged the thirty top leaders of the Second East Turkestan Republic[69] and its five top officials died in a mysterious plane crash on 27 August 1949.[70] On 13 October 1949, the People's Liberation Army entered the region and the East Turkestan National Army was merged into the PLA's 5th Army Corps, leading to the official end of the Second East Turkestan Republic on 22 December 1949.[71][72][73]

    Contemporary era Historical populationYearPop.±% p.a.1990[74]7,214,431—    20008,405,416+1.54%201010,069,346+1.82%Figures from Chinese Census
     
    Ethnolinguistic map of Xinjiang in 1967
     
    Map showing the distribution of ethnicities in Xinjiang according to census figures from 2000, the prefectures with Uyghur majorities are in blue.

    Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949. He turned the Second East Turkistan Republic into the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, and appointed Saifuddin Azizi as the region's first Communist Party governor. Many Republican loyalists fled into exile in Turkey and Western countries. The name Xinjiang was changed to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Uyghurs are the largest ethnicity, mostly concentrated in the south-western Xinjiang.[75]

    The Xinjiang conflict is an ongoing separatist conflict in China's far-west province of Xinjiang, whose northern region is known as Dzungaria and whose southern region (the Tarim Basin) is known as East Turkestan. Uyghur separatists and independence movements claim that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally incorporated by China in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. Uyghur identity remains fragmented, as some support a Pan-Islamic vision, exemplified by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, while others support a Pan-Turkic vision, such as the East Turkestan Liberation Organization. A third group would like an East Turkestan state, such as the East Turkestan independence movement. While the East Turkistan Government in Exile strives for the restoration of East Turkistan's independence as a secular pluralistic Republic that guarantees freedom and civil liberties for all people. As a result, "[n]o Uyghur or East Turkestan group speaks for all Uyghurs, although it might claim to", and Uyghurs in each of these camps have committed violence against other Uyghurs who they think are too assimilated to Chinese or Russian society or are not religious enough.[76] Mindful not to take sides, Uyghur "leaders" such as Rebiya Kadeer mainly tried to garner international support for the "rights and interests of the Uyghurs", including the right to demonstrate, although the Chinese government has accused her of orchestrating the deadly July 2009 Ürümqi riots.[77]

    Eric Enno Tamm's 2011 book states that, "Authorities have censored Uyghur writers and 'lavished funds' on official histories that depict Chinese territorial expansion into ethnic borderlands as 'unifications (tongyi), never as conquests (zhengfu) or annexations (tunbing)' "[78]

    Human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang

    Since 2014, Uyghurs in Xinjiang have been affected by extensive controls and restrictions which the Chinese government has imposed upon their religious, cultural, economic and social lives.[79][80][81][82] In Xinjiang, the Chinese government has expanded police surveillance to watch for signs of "religious extremism" that include owning books about Uyghurs, growing a beard, having a prayer rug, or quitting smoking or drinking. The government had also installed cameras in the homes of private citizens.[83][84]

    Further, at least 120,000 (and possibly over 1 million)[85] Uyghurs have been detained in mass detention camps,[86] termed "re-education camps", aimed at changing the political thinking of detainees, their identities, and their religious beliefs.[87] Some of these facilities keep prisoners detained around the clock, while others release their inmates at night to return home. According to Chinese government operating procedures, the main feature of the camps is to ensure adherence to Chinese Communist Party ideology. Inmates are continuously held captive in the camps for a minimum of 12 months depending on their performance on Chinese ideology tests.[88] The New York Times has reported inmates are required to "sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write 'self-criticism' essays," and that prisoners are also subjected to physical and verbal abuse by prison guards.[83] Chinese officials are sometimes assigned to monitor the families of current inmates, and women have been detained due to actions by their sons or husbands.[83]

     
    Protesters Amsterdam with the Flag of East Turkestan

    In 2017, Human Rights Watch released a report saying "The Chinese government agents should immediately free people held in unlawful 'political education' centers in Xinjiang, and shut them down."[89] The internment, along with mass surveillance and intelligence officials inserting themselves into Uyghur families, led to widespread accusations of cultural genocide against the CCP. In particular, the size of the operation was found to have doubled over 2018.[90] Satellite evidence suggests China destroyed more than two dozen Uyghur Muslim religious sites between 2016 and 2018.[91]

    The government denied the existence of the camps initially, but then changed their stance to claim that the camps serve to combat terrorism and give vocational training to the Uyghur people.[92] Activists have called for the camps to be opened to visitors to prove their function. Media groups have reported that many in the camps were forcibly detained there in rough unhygienic conditions while undergoing political indoctrination.[93] The lengthy isolation periods between Uyghur men and women has been interpreted by some analysts as an attempt to inhibit Uyghur procreation in order to change the ethnic demographics of the country.[94]

    An October 2018 exposé by the BBC claimed, based on analysis of satellite imagery collected over time, that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs were interned in rapidly expanding camps.[95] It was also reported in 2019 that "hundreds" of writers, artists, and academics had been imprisoned, in what the magazine qualified as an attempt to "punish any form of religious or cultural expression" among Uyghurs.[96]

    Parallel to the forceful detainment of millions of adults, in 2017 alone at least half a million children were also forcefully separated from their families, and placed in pre-school camps with prison-style surveillance systems and 10,000 volt electric fences.[97]

    In 2019, a New York Times article reported that human rights groups and Uyghur activists said that the Chinese government was using technology from US companies and researchers to collect DNA from Uyghurs. They said China was building a comprehensive DNA database to be able to track down Uyghurs who were resisting the re-education campaign.[98] Later that year, satellite photos confirmed the systematic destruction of Uyghur cemeteries.[99][100]

    There have been few sustained protests from Islamic countries against the treatment of Uyghurs in China. In December 2018, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initially acknowledged the disturbing reports from the region but it later issued a report saying that the OIC "commends the efforts of the People's Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People's Republic of China." Saudi Arabia, which hosts a significant number of ethnic Uyghurs, have refrained from any official criticism of the Chinese government,[101] while Turkey's President Erdogan tacitly supported China saying that "It is a fact that the people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang are leading a happy life amid China's development and prosperity" while visiting China,[102][103][104] after its Foreign Ministry denounced China for "violating the fundamental human rights of Uyghur Turks".[105][106] In 2019, Indonesian scholar Said Aqil Siradj said the situation in Xinjiang was "really good" and suggested that the Indonesian government did not need to follow the Western countries in raising accusations of Uyghur persecution at international forums.[107][108] Some observers have connected the lack of criticism from the Islamic world to Muslim countries' dependence on Chinese economic aid.[109]

    In July 2019, 22 countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, raised concerns about "large-scale places of detention, as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang".[110] The 22 ambassadors urged China to end arbitrary detention and allow "freedom of movement of Uyghurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang".[111] However, none of these countries were predominantly Islamic countries.[112] In June 2020, former United States President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act,[113] which authorizes the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Chinese government officials responsible for re-education camps.[114]

    On 12 July 2019, ambassadors from 50 countries issued a joint letter to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights showing their support for China, despite condemnation by several states over the detention of as many as two million Uyghur Muslims. These countries included mainly countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.[115][116] On 20 August 2019, Qatar withdrew its signature from the letter, ending its support for China over its treatment of Muslims.[117]

    According to a 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), several Chinese firms were benefitting from the forced labor of Uyghurs, where more than 80 companies across the world were "directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive labor transfer programs". While the United States and the United Kingdom had imposed restrictions on imports of cotton and other products from China, Japan was pressured to take action, and 12 major Japanese firms established a policy to cease business with the Chinese firms indicated by the ASPI to be using forced labor of Uyghurs.[118]

    In June 2020, German anthropologist Adrian Zenz,[119] released a report alleging that Uyghur women, under the threat of internment, were being forced to abort children, undergo sterilization surgery, and be fitted with intrauterine devices.[120][121] The report revealed that growth rates in Xinjiang had declined 60% between 2015 and 2018,[122] with the two largest Uyghur prefectures declining 84% in that same time period.[123] The birth rate declined a further 24% across the region in 2019 alone compared to the 4.2% drop across all of China in the same year.[122] The report also noted that in 2014, 2.5% of new IUD placements throughout the country were in Xinjiang.[120] By 2018, 80% of new IUD placements were in Xinjiang despite the region comprising 1.8% of the national population.[123] Zenz said that these efforts by China to repress the Uyghur birth rate met the criteria of genocide under Article II, Section D of the United Nations Genocide Convention by "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group."[122][123] The measures have also been compared to China's past one-child policy targeting its Han population.[124][125] Pundits from Pakistan Observer,[126] Antara,[127] and Detik.com disagreed with allegations of lowered Uyghur births, claiming their birth rate was higher than in earlier years and higher than the Han birth rate.[128]

    On July 6, 2020, the East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), urging it to investigate and prosecute PRC officials for genocide and other crimes against humanity.[129][130]

    On 13 July 2020, China decided to take reciprocal measures against US officials and announced sanctions on US lawmakers and an envoy over the issue of Uyghur rights in Xinjiang.[131]

    In October 2020, 39 countries condemned China's human rights abuses against Uyghurs. Diplomats said some other countries were pressured by China not to join the other 39 countries condemning China's actions.[132] Conversely, 54 countries have voiced their support for China,[133] including North Korea,[132] though one notable country not on either list is South Korea, who has looked to gain political autonomy in recent years by remaining neutral on key contentious issues.[134]

    In January 2021, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that China's treatment of Uyghurs amounts to torture.[135] That same month, the U.S. government declared it a genocide.[136]

    On 8 March 2021, the US-based nonpartisan think tank Newlines Institute released what was in their words "the first independent expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention to the ongoing treatment of the Uyghurs in China." The report concluded "that China is responsible for breaches of each provision of Article II of the Convention" and "bears State responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, in breach of the Genocide Convention."[137]

    In April 2021, Human Rights Watch released a report that labelled the treatment of Uyghurs by the Chinese government as "crimes against humanity".[138]

    The treament of Uyghur Muslims in China has resulted in citizens of the ethnic minority group to seek asylum in other nations. A large number of these people chose to confide in the Muslim-majority nations like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. However, having good ties with China, these countries began detaining and deporting the Uyghur Muslims back to China. Authorities in Dubai and other Islamic countries received extradition requests from Beijing, as per which many exiled Uyghurs were detained, separated from their families and deported to China. Concerns were raised that while western countries like the US were calling it a "genocide", the Muslim-majority countries like the Emirates were ignoring the issue and rather deporting the Uyghurs to China.[139] The Arab nations were focused on the crucial economic ties they maintained with China, which is a primary consumer of Middle East oil and a crucial trading and investment partner for these countries.[140]

    On 30 June 2021, a Han Chinese woman, Wu Huan, who was on the run to avoid extradition to China because her fiancé was considered a Chinese dissident, said in an interview that China has a secret jail in Dubai. According to Wu, she was abducted from a hotel in Dubai in late May and detained by Chinese officials for eight days at a villa converted into a jail, where she saw or heard two other prisoners, both Uyghurs. According to Wu, she identified the women as Uyghurs based on what she said was their distinctive appearance and accent. Dubai police denied the presence of any foreign government run detention centers within its borders.[141]

    In August 2022, the United Nations released a report alleging that China’s crackdown in Xinjiang may amount to crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs, which included physical and mental torture, forced labor, massive displacement, enforced sterilization and separation of children from their parents. The report was criticized by some activists for not calling the crimes a genocide. Many Uyghurs outside China saw it as a formal acknowledgement of the sufferings of Uyghurs in China, hoping it will add fuel to their campaign at the international level.[142][143]

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