There are millions of Uighur Muslims in China who are still suffering unprecedented human rights abuses and being detained in internment camps under harrowing conditions. Yet many world leaders have forgotten their moral responsibilities in putting this issue higher up on the agenda.
I have reported countless times that China’s political and economic power should not be the reason for any government or authority to remain deafeningly silent in the wake of injustice. When the world denounces the persecution of those suffering around the world where is a statement to condemn and take action against the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China?
I recently came across a heart-breaking video of two Uighur Muslim children, Aisha aged 9 and Abdul Aziz, aged 5, who made a plea to rescue their Uighur mother from the concentration camp in China. Amina Allahberdi, a 32-year-old Uighur woman and mother from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) married Saudi Arabian national Sait Ibn Abood Shahrani in 2010 and relocated to Saudi Arabia.
According to a report by RFA when Shahrani did not hear from his wife, he spent one month in China trying to track down her whereabouts, but was forced to return home to Saudi Arabia to care for the couple’s two children. He recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that he learned Allahberdi is being held in one of a network of political “re-education camps,” where authorities in the XUAR are believed to have detained some 1.1 million Uighurs.
In an emotional plea Allahberdi’s children stated that, “My mother is from East Turkestan. When she went back home, China sent her to prison and we haven’t heard from her since.” The young boy begins to cry calling out for his mother and it is this point that I could not hold back the tears.
As a mother myself, it is extremely upsetting to see children being put in a situation where they experience the pain of being forcibly separated from their loved ones. There is no action from any government including the Saudi Arabian government to make efforts to locate the children’s mother or stand up for Uighur Muslims in China.
I cannot imagine what both these two vulnerable children would be feeling and countless other Uighur children who have been placed in orphanages even if their parents are still alive. This is just one harrowing example of injustice being inflicted on innocent Uighur families, but there are countless other examples of China’s brutal crackdown.
Uighur Muslims are being made to denounce their faith and embrace the Chinese Communist Party. Many mosques in Xinijang remain empty, fasting during Ramadan and Islamic education are being heavily restricted and banned and islamophobia is being spread by party authorities to gain support. The number of deaths in these horrific internment camps has increased and detainees are still being forced to do things against their will.
What would it take for a head of state in the Muslim world to challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping on the condition of Uighur Muslims? Is getting an investment from China a reason to sell out millions of innocent Uighur Muslims who fear for their lives? Frustratingly, countries such as Egypt and even Saudi Arabia have been deporting Uighurs who managed to escape China.
The struggle of the Uighurs has been one that has a long history of deliberate discrimination from the Chinese government. Beijing first issued a “warning” by submitting documents to the United Nations describing the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist organisation.
As a journalist, as a mother and as a fellow human being I ask this again: how long can countries around the world continue to remain silent and who will take action and make a stand for Uighur Muslims in China? If I had the power and authority to do so I would have taken immediate action but the real power lies with leaders who have the moral responsibility to take action and make a positive change. The question is when will they?