‘Targeting Uighurs Akin To A Slow Cultural Genocide’

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NEW DELHI: A report based on leaked internal documents accessed by The New York Times recently detailed the crackdown that the Uighur ethnic minority in China has been facing in the Xinjiang region in recent years. The NYT report also indicated that directives for the persecution of Uighurs were coming from the Communist Party of China’s top leadership, including the country’s President, Xi Jinping, through his speeches to party officials. SNI’s Deputy Editor Parul Chandra spoke to Dr Darren Byler, a lecturer in the department of anthropology at the University of Washington in the United States. Dr Byler has worked extensively on Uighur Muslims and has spend a year in the Xinjiang region during 2014-15. Detailing the repression of these ethnic Muslims, Dr Byler said that as per current estimates, nearly 1.5 million Uighurs, Turkic Muslims as well as Kazakhs are in detention amidst claims by Chinese authorities that they are battling Islamic extremism in the region. But as Dr Byler says in this interview, a sort of cultural genocide is being carried out against the Uighurs where there is no violence but both people and their institutions are being targeted. So, sporting beards or wearing veils is seen as flaunting religious symbols and now comes under the category of 75 signs of “extremism” listed by the Chinese authorities, notes Byler. Visits to mosques are not permitted except for the elrderly and Uighurs are carted off to internment camps which the Chinese authorities describe as “vocational training centres”. At these centres, Uighurs are taught Chinese, made to sing “patriotic songs” and indoctrinated in both the state’s ideology and President Xi’s teachings, said Dr Byler. Watch this interview to get an insight into how the Chinese state is persecuting an ethnic minority community on the pretext of countering Islamic terror.

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