While Muslims around the world are celebrating the end of Ramadan with prayers and joys this week, Uighurs overseas are celebrating it heavy-heartedly and with forced smiles as they are separated from their loved ones – some are missing, while others are known to be in China’s 21st-century concentration camps in East Turkistan. Their family members back in East Turkistan have essentially been banned from celebrating Ramadan and Eid and are facing horrific religious persecution at the hands of the Chinese government. Those detained in concentration camps, where three million or more Uighurs and other Turkis ethnic Muslims have been arbitrarily detained since April 2017, cannot even know when Ramadan starts and when Eid is coming. Their children who have been taken by force to state-run orphanages are being indoctrinated to celebrate the Chinese New Year instead of the traditional holidays of Uighur Muslims.
According to the latest Amnesty International report, Chinese authorities view fasting in Ramadan – along with any other open or even private displays of religious affiliation including Islamic greetings, beards, headscarves, regular prayers, and avoidance of alcohol, etc. – as a “sign of extremism” in East Turkistan. “Any of these can land you in one of Xinjiang’s internment camps, which the government calls ‘transformation-through-education centers’”, the report says. Aljazeera reports from CJ Werleman, a journalist and author who has collected testimonies from dozens of Uighur refugees: “Numerous credible and corroborated reports and testimony point to evidence Chinese authorities are deploying the whole gamut of repressive measures in East Turkistan to carry out what can only be described as cultural genocide, including the establishment of a network of concentration camps; accounts of torture, forced marriage, and adoption and sterilization programs”.
For Uighurs overseas, fasting in Ramadan and observing other types of Islamic activities are luxuries things that they could never imagine doing back in East Turkistan due to the repressive and inhumane policies of the Chinese regime against Uighurs.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalist Gulchehra Hoja left Chinese occupied East Turkistan (aka Xinjiang) 18 years ago. It was only after she moved to the United States that she was finally able to fully observe Ramadan. Speaking of her time in Xinjiang, she said: “I remember only elderly people like my grandma were fasting and making dua (prayer) asking Allah to forgive her children for not fasting. Now it’s my turn to continue to pray for my family and the entire Uyghur people.”
At such a critical time when dark clouds are hanging over Uighur Muslims, the Uighur Times wishes a Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims throughout the world, BUT, at the same time, urges them not to forget about the Uighur Muslims who are victims of mass internment camps at this very moment. This is because:
We can say, Salam – they cannot.
We can say, “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Eid Mubarak”- they cannot.
We can fast – they cannot.
We can name our babies “Muhammad or Fatimah” – they cannot.
We are free – they are not.
We live in a democracy – they live under a Communist/Fascist regime.