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The Uighur Genocide

5 min read
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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words, terrorism? 9/11? ISIS? The Taliban? While these examples are certainly just, they don’t always represent terrorism in its entirety. Dan Brown said, “History is always written by the winners”. Stereotypes and generalizations often cause the public to overlook acts of terrorism or the subtle act of allowing it under the pretense of neutrality.

The role of a functioning government is to keep its citizens prosperous and safe. Unfortunately, one cannot be achieved without the other; citizens cannot flourish without being protected and crime will not decrease if the citizens aren’t well- cared for, and find themselves in situations where they need to break the law. Therefore, if a government is weak or unstable, criminals lose fear of such feeble and unorganized authority and become more secure in committing crime. Political climate, whether foreign or domestic often affects polarization of views and therefore, increased aggression and crime.  Because of the chaos and fear surrounding political situations, they fuel crimes against society and culture that have global reverberations including terrorism and genocide.

Terrorism is one of the most large-scale political crimes to cause civil unrest. The rise and fall of terrorism is most closely generalized as the radicalization of Islam, however, most ideological groups have extremists that are willing to go to any length to further their own agenda. This kind of violence is fueled by hate, unacceptance and narrow-mindedness. Terrorism invokes a special kind of fear because many terrorists believe that their faith is above all—even their own life—and therefore, they are willing to die for their cause. Examples of this devotion include sleeper cells and suicide bombers. Their fanaticism can be deescalated by rationale and unity, however, most of the time it only spreads fear and racism. The rise of Islamic terrorism has led to widespread Islamophobia globally and has led to not only reduced advocacy for the rights of Muslims, but also hate crime and genocide.

China’s ongoing terrorism and ‘ethnic cleansing’ towards the Muslim minority, the Uighurs, has recently come to light. “The Uighurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic ethnicity who regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. The majority live in Xinjiang, where they number about 11 million people.” (“Who Are The Uighurs?”) To understand how their peaceful existence in Xinjiang, China was stolen, the political circumstances must be examined for the integral role it plays. As an encouraged Han Chinese population migration grew towards Xinjiang, the rights of the Uighur population have been curtailed by the Chinese government. “University students in Xinjiang told the BBC in 2014 that they were banned from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In 2017, President Xi Jinping issued a directive that “religions in China must be Chinese in orientation” and “adapt themselves to socialist society”. (“Who Are The Uighurs?”) This statement was directed at the Uighur population and with the president’s support hate and racism grew in the public into something much more extensive: genocide.

The Chinese government is now openly persecuting the Uighur Muslim population and atrocities committed fit the United Nation’s definition of committing a genocide. Genocide is “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or physical elements such as killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (United Nations 1). While the Chinese treatment of the Uighur population is now classified as a serious international crime, little of substance is being done to stop these atrocities.  “Xinjiang is now covered by a pervasive network of surveillance, including police, checkpoints, and cameras that scan everything from number plates to individual faces.” (“Who Are The Uighurs?”) While these measures were said to be taken for security reasons, the Uighur population is being racially targeted and being accused of terrorism. “The Chinese government has detained up to a million Uighurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education camps”. The government is now also accused of a programme of forced sterilization against Uighur women.” (“Who Are The Uighurs?”)

As international criticism grew, 22 countries signed a document highlighting the unacceptable egregious acts by the Chinese government. Chinese officials defended the concentration camps by calling Islam an ideological illness. “China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended the country’s actions, stating, “the efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism … if we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”” (Chinese Islamophobia 1) The statement is especially ironic because they fail to mention that the terrorists in this situation is the Chinese government itself.

Genocide and terrorism aren’t just singular crimes; sterilizations, absence of freedom of religion, etc. are only some of the egregious racially motivated crimes. Instead of remembering the rise of terrorism as only Islamic, terrorism should be a word that meets the definition not the race. Holding China accountable is the first step to ending islamophobia and making the world a more diverse and accepting place. While the US has finally recognized these horrors as a genocide and has urged U.S. companies to ‘avoid’ conducting business in Xinjiang “alleged ties to forced labor” (Ponciano 1), this is clearly not enough to stop these atrocities. A stronger stance must be taken before the Uighur population is exterminated.

Works Cited

Board, E. (2020, July 14). Opinion | What’s happening in Xinjiang is genocide. Retrieved September 25, 2020.

Ponciano, J. (2021, April 11). Biden Secretary Of State Condemns China’s ‘Acts Of Genocide’ Against Muslim Uyghurs, Forbes.

Tazamal, M. (2019, January 21). Chinese Islamophobia was made in the West. Retrieved September 25, 2020

The World Knows What Is Happening To The Uighurs. Why Has It Been So Slow To Act?“. The Guardian, 2020. Accessed 24 Sept 2020.

United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020.

Who Are The Uighurs?“. Accessed 24 Sept 2020.

World Report 2020: Rights Trends In China’S Global Threat To Human Rights“. Human Rights Watch, 2020. Accessed 24 Sept 2020.

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