“This is part of the attempt to completely eradicate the culture and religion of the people in Xinjiang. It is part of the strategy of secularization, of turning the Uyghurs secular and indoctrinating them to follow the Communist Party and become agnostic or atheist.”
In a newly published book by Sayragul Sautbay, a Uyghur Muslim who was released from one of China’s detention camps spread across the northwestern province of East Turkestan (renamed Xinjiang in Chinese), she details her horrifying ordeal while being arbitrarily detained in a concentration camp.
Detailing her continued nightmares and flashbacks of the numerous instances of “humiliation and violence” she endured while being detained by China, her book details the systematic cases of torture, sexual abuse, and forced sterilization. In addition, she also details a highly disturbing instance of humiliation and shame Uyghur Muslims were forced to endure while in the camps: the forced consumption of pork.
Explaining that the experience was “difficult to explain in words”, she describes that every time she was forced to eat the meat, “I was feeling like I was a different person. All around me got dark. It was really difficult to accept.”
In addition to the already horrifying indignity of forcing Uyghur and other ethnic minority Muslims to eat pork, the authorities reportedly forced them to eat this on Fridays, the holy day of the week for Muslims. Sautbay stated:
Every Friday, we were forced to eat pork meat. They have intentionally chosen a day that is holy for the Muslims. And if you reject it, you would get a harsh punishment…The days I have spent in the concentration camp will not be erased from my memory, and I have to live with it my entire life.”
Another worrying report coming from the region is that China is attempting to promote agricultural development in Xinjiang/East Turkestan – particularly in the field of pig farms. In November of 2019, Shohrat Zakir, Xinjiang’s top administrator, had claimed that the region would be turned into a “pig-raising hub” – and based on local reports, a new pig farm project in the southern Kashgar area is aiming to produce more than 40,000 pigs every year and occupy a 25,000 square-meter area. The project is also reportedly not for export purposes, but instead to “ensure the supply of pork in Kashgar”. This is strikingly suspicious in the region that is around 90% Muslim.
Adrian Zenz, a Uyghur scholar and anthropologist based in Germany, stated:
This is part of the attempt to completely eradicate the culture and religion of the people in Xinjiang. It is part of the strategy of secularization, of turning the Uyghurs secular and indoctrinating them to follow the Communist Party and become agnostic or atheist.”
Sautbay’s account and the recent reports on the state-sponsored pig farming projects are just another example of China’s brutal genocidal campaign – operating with almost full impunity as much of the international community remains silent. In addition to the numerous detention camps across the province of Xinjiang, or East Turkestan, where up to two million Uyghur and other ethnic minority Muslims are subjected to physical and psychological torture, mass rape, mass sterilization, and forced renunciation of Islam and cultural identities, the Uyghur people’s cultural, religious, and historical heritage sites are also being systematically eradicated by China.
Important burial grounds are being razed, mosques are being demolished or “de-Islamified”, and a brutal crackdown on anyone deemed “too religious” means that Uyghur Muslims in the region of East Turkestan/Xinjiang are being systematically targeted by the state itself. Uyghur Muslims in the region can be arrested and thrown in detention camps for something as simple as having a beard, wearing a hijab, or praying in public.
The Chinese government claims this is part of their “anti-terror” campaign, stating that their horrifying campaign against Uyghur and other ethnic minority Muslims within the region is because they remain a national threat to state security. The state-sponsored campaign of genocide, however, is in no way justified and is a blatant example of severe human rights violations and arguably should be tried as a crime against humanity.
Frustratingly, the majority of the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being conducted in China against the Uyghur Muslims. Muslim majority countries have also decided to remain silent while loudly announcing new partnerships with China in lucrative economic and political gains. Most infamously, 37 nations signed a letter in support of China’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” last year – these countries included Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
As China continues to systematically destroy Uyghur lives, cultural heritage, and religious and linguistic identity, the world remains relatively passive while the atrocities continue. Human rights groups and Uyghur activists across the world continue to campaign against China’s ongoing genocide, however, with the power of China’s political and economic leverage, it seems that the majority of the international community will continue to turn a blind eye to the abuses being conducted against Uyghur Muslims.