Rebiya Kadeer: The world must take a stance against China’s “re-education” detention camps in the Uyghur region

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 10:07 -- Kanat

Dear international organizations, national leaders, human rights activists, scholars, religious leaders, public figures, journalists and all champions of human rights and democracy,

My name is Rebiya Kadeer, and I’m an Uyghur human rights activist. This is my plea for the preservation of the human rights and dignity of my people – the Uyghurs of Chinese occupied Eastern Turkistan. Earlier last year, the world became aware of the existence of detention camps called “re-education” centers in the Uyghur homeland. The situation in the Uyghur homeland has dramatically deteriorated since then. The detention camps rapidly multiplied during the last quarter of 2017 and now detains more than 500,000 Uyghur men and women. The mass detentions and the increased suffering of my people has me deeply worried about the future survival of the Uyghur people.

The level of oppression and dehumanization suffered by Uyghurs in the 21st Century –in these past few years –is unprecedented. Yet China’s perpetuation of mass atrocities against the Uyghurs continues to silently unfold in the very eyes of the international community. Today, almost one in every two Uyghur families have lost at least one member to the countless detention centers blighting the landscape of our homeland. China tells us the Uyghurs are being “re-educated” to be “cured” of extremism and “wrong” political views. Meanwhile, Uyghurs report their loved ones being taken without notice to suffer in deplorable conditions in what are essentially prisons. The detainees are forced to repent for their past “wrong” thoughts and conduct before being forced to learn the Chinese language, laws designed to oppress them, and the communist party ideology. Any Uyghur between the ages of 18 and 84 is eligible for this “special” education program. When they will complete their “re-education” and be united with their families, when the detention camps will close, and when this terrifying dystopian tale will end – all remain a mystery.

We receive horrifying news about the detention camps every day – reports the camps are so overcrowded that people are not permitted to sleep on their backs, accounts of interrogations accompanied by inhumane treatment, and even word of deaths in the camps. But what concerns us most is the possible evolution of these camps into something far more dreadful –something comparable to the Nazi extermination camps in Europe during World War II.

The human race has witnessed too many unforgettable tragedies in the 20th Century –in Nazi controlled Germany, in the Gulag labor camps in the former Soviet Union, in Bosnia, in Rawanda, etc. Those events remain stained into the fabric of our history and collective memory. The institutions that enabled the suffering and dehumanization of millions only collapsed after violent bloodshed that scars us to this very day. As someone who has spent six years as a political prisoner and come to know the intricacies of Uyghur-Sino relations, I worry deeply that the mass detention of Uyghurs, the suffering in those camps, and the extreme securitization of the region, will fuel further resentment among Uyghurs and trigger, in return, a bloody suppression that may well endanger the survival of my people.

Today, China dons an invisible dome through which almost nothing penetrates without state surveillance and censorship. There is no freedom of press or expression in China. The same party that crushed its youth under tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 continues to suppress the voices of dissent today, including that of Ilham Tohti and Guo Feixiong among many others. China may be a great economic and military power today, but it has only regressed in human rights and diplomacy. The ruling regime seeks to make China a world superpower, but seems to have learned little or nothing from the failures of Nazi Germany. History teaches us a regime that oppresses and dehumanizes the masses cannot last.

We, the Uyghur people, call on all champions of human rights and freedom in Congress to raise their voices. The world has lamented the silence of the free world in past atrocities, repeatedly saying “never again.” Your silence today will only encourage China to inflict suffering to many more innocent Uyghur souls. Today, in this dark era in Uyghur history, we cry out for your help. Please speak up for the millions of silenced men, women and children in the Uyghur homeland. Call for:  

  1. Independent investigation of conditions at the “re-education” detention camps;
  2. Release of Uyghurs detainees in the “re-education” detention camps; and
  3. Immediate shut-down of all “re-education” detention camps.