by Gulnaz Uighur
Feb. 5, 2023 3:00 am ET
Some days are different and cause us pain and haunt us with dark memories: 5th February is one such day for the Uyghur community. On that date in 1997, Uyghurs gathered in Ghulja (East Turkistan) to save their land, but thousands never returned.
The sudden news of China mistreating 30 Uyghur freedom activists sparked protests. Another incident involving a group of women taking part in Meshrep (a cultural practice including dance, music, and poetry) also caused people to come out on the streets. To suppress the independence movement, Beijing started cracking down on every symbol of Uyghur identity: Our faith, culture, lifestyle, and everything seen as a threat. The protests in Ghulja were a result of these harsh actions.
After two days of demonstrations where protesters shouted Islamic and freedom slogans, the police used clubs, water cannons, and tear gas to disperse the crowds. Chinese authorities showed no mercy while beating people black and blue.
My father, who witnessed it all, told of one person standing peacefully at a side when an officer thrashed him so hard that he died on the spot. Many innocents were shot dead, and the others were wounded or sent to prison.
China has always used cruelty to induce fear in the mind of Uyghurs. The Ghulja massacre was just the start. According to a report, more than 100 people died, and thousands got arrested. Today, 26 years after this incident, the Uyghur situation has only gotten worse.
China is now openly executing Uyghurs, treating them inhumanely by caging them in camps, destroying Mosques, banning Ramadan, snatching away children from their parents, forcing them to rot in orphanages, and many more unspeakable tortures are happening. There are only two kinds of Uyghurs left: ones living in the diaspora, away from their homeland, without knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones. Second, those living under Chinese occupation but dying a little each day, like we all are. Not even a single member of the Uyghur community is left untouched by the brutalities.
Our battle against China is not ours alone. Everybody who believes in freedom, practices their faith, and preserves their culture, should fight to remain an independent nation. With increasing incidents of Chinese surveillance activities in the world, their debt diplomacy, blackmailing incidents, spying tactics, etc., soon the world will face what Uyghurs have been going through. In particular, the Muslim nations allowed China to become an ambassador of Islam.
In reality, Beijing has no respect for our religion or ethics. The recent incident of the Quran burning in Sweden grabbed the eyeballs and received wide condemnation from the Muslim world. All the while copies of the Quran are being burned in China, and Imams are being punished for teaching it. Where is the outrage? Why is there no action against it? This double standard approach by the Ummah will not help them when China starts showing its true intentions.
The people who believe in a free world must unite with Uyghurs.