Reports Highlight the Persecution of Uyghur Senior Citizens by CCP

By Uyghur Times

April 30, 2024

In February 2024, 96-year-old Abidin Ayup died in a Chinese prison. His body was not returned to his family; instead, it was sent to the Atush Police Department and buried two days later. Ayup, a father of 11 and the imam of a local mosque in Qayraq, was known for his dedication to sharing his faith with the community. His role as a religious leader had previously landed him in trouble during the Cultural Revolution and again in the 1990s. Arrested once more in 2017 at the age of 89, Ayup was sentenced to nine years in prison for “promoting religious extremism.”

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has extensively researched the harsh crackdowns on Uyghur religious leaders. Their 2021 report, Islam Dispossessed: China’s Persecution of Uyghur Imams and Religious Figures, documented 1,046 instances of detention or imprisonment of Turkic imams and other religious figures, primarily due to their involvement in religious instruction and community leadership. This year, UHRP published Twenty Years for Learning the Quran: Uyghur Women and Religious Persecution, detailing the Chinese state’s targeting of women religious leaders, including seniors like Patihan Imin, who was sentenced to six years in prison at age 70 for engaging in Quranic studies and other “offenses.”

Disturbingly, Uyghur seniors have been disproportionately affected by China’s persecution. The Xinjiang Victims Database reported in March that 1,972 individuals aged 55 and over are serving prison sentences. The Xinjiang Police Files, leaked documents detailing internment in two regional counties, revealed that 86 individuals over 60 were in concentration camps in 2018. Notably, 65 seniors received prison sentences of 20 years or more. For instance, 72-year-old Tursun Barat and his wife Zahidem Helpehaji, aged 69, were sentenced to 20 years in prison for traveling to Turkey and performing a pilgrimage to Mecca, accused of “terrorism.”

UHRP’s research highlights that Uyghurs, Turkic, and other non-Han peoples in the Uyghur Region account for over a third of China’s estimated prison population, despite being only one percent of the overall population. This indicates a targeted approach to erasing Uyghur culture and identity, with older persons being particularly vulnerable due to their role as knowledge bearers.

The persecution extends beyond religious leaders to intellectual and cultural elites. UHRP’s 2021 report documented 312 Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectuals detained, with a significant number being seniors. Renowned figures such as religious scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim, aged 82, and author Nurmuhammad Tohti, aged 70, died in detention due to the harsh conditions.

This alarming trend contradicts Chinese media’s portrayal of President Xi Jinping’s “exemplary role in caring for the elderly.” The reality is a systematic effort to cleanse Uyghur society of its cultural and religious knowledge, targeting older individuals who play a crucial role in preserving and passing down traditions.

Internationally, there is a pressing need for stronger protections for senior citizens. The Principles for Older Persons, a 1991 UN General Assembly resolution, outlines safeguards against ageist discourses and discriminatory actions. However, a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons would provide a legally binding framework to protect the rights and well-being of senior citizens globally.

For Uyghur seniors like Abidin Ayup, Patihan Imin, and many others, the right to share their knowledge was assumed, yet they faced severe persecution for it. As UHRP Director of Research Henryk Szadziewski notes, their plight underscores the urgent need for international action to protect the rights of older persons and to hold the Chinese government accountable for its systematic abuse of Uyghur seniors.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Post

Antony Blinken: Beijing is continuing to commit genocide against Uyghurs

Wed May 1 , 2024
By Tursun Uyghur, May 1 The State Department’s annual human rights report, which documents abuses recorded all over the world during the previous calendar year, repeated language from previous years on the treatment of Uyghurs in China-colonized Uyghur homeland. In its executive summary, the report said, “Genocide and crimes against […]
blinken-Uyghur genocide

You May Like