By, Rushan Abbas Source: fortherevolution
My name is Rushan Abbas. I am a Muslim, a Uyghur-American, a mother and a human rights activist.
Background – Uyghurs under CCP Rule
The tragedy unfolding today is beyond comprehension and comparable to the worst human rights atrocities the world has seen.
I was born in Urumqi, East Turkistan which is a symbolic and historical name for my homeland, a region the Chinese government refers to as its “New Frontier” – Xinjiang. By name, Xinjiang is called the “Uyghur Autonomous Region” In reality, it is anything but autonomous. In fact, it is China’s colony; an Orwellian, mass-surveillance state where around three million Uyghurs are arbitrarily detained; outside the legal system, inside fascist concentration camps. The Uyghur people are an ethnically and culturally distinct Turkic people, held captive under Communist China’s authoritarian control since 1949. As a result of our unique ethnic identity, culture, language, religion, and our desire to be shown respect of our basic rights and freedoms, we have been persecuted and repressed for seven decades.
Since Mao Zedong’s occupation, the communist regime has tried relentlessly to destroy Uyghur culture and religion, which has since then been under constant attack. Since the horrific attacks on September 11th 2001, Beijing has rebranded its repressive campaign against the Uyghurs as part of the global “War on Terror,” and criminalized the entire Uyghur population based on their ethnic identity. China has characterized all political resistance as “Islamic terrorism,” and on that pretext has developed a police state. Under the guise of fighting “Islamic Extremism,” the Chinese Communist Party has carried out a brutal campaign to oppress the Uyghur people. Due to the Chinese government’s extreme censorship, many people in the world do not know about the circumstances of the Uyghur people. The tragedy unfolding today is beyond comprehension and comparable to the worst human rights atrocities the world has seen. The situation has continued to rapidly deteriorate. Because the world has turned a blind eye to the Chinese government’s practices, China has been able to avoid accountability.
Systematic Oppression of the Uyghur People
The persecution against the Uyghurs is racially and strategically motivated. The PRC’s Belt and Road initiative is causing destruction in our homeland and contributing to populating massive concentration camps the CCP calls “re-education centers”. China’s campaign of despotism extends far beyond the camps. Ubiquitous security carried out by a massive, high-tech police state, is the cruel reality for the entire region in West China. According to numerous testimonies inside of the camps, detainees are intensely subjected to Communist Party propaganda indoctrination, and they are forced to renounce Islam. They are subject to rape and torture. China claims that these sprawling camps with barbed wire and armed guard towers are humane job training or vocational training centers. This is a lie. Uyghur prisoners have also been dispersed throughout China proper as an attempt to hide the numbers of those who have been detained. The Uyghurs’ economy has been destroyed and the government is redistributing Uyghurs’ wealth and re-allocating their lands to Han Chinese.
The streets are filled with cameras equipped with facial recognition, roadblocks, and police checkpoints around every corner, and GPS tracking devices are installed on every vehicle. Uyghur homes are assigned QR Codes to monitor residents’ activities. The Chinese government admitted in the party’s newspaper to deploying more than a million Chinese government officials to live in Uyghur homes to act as their supervisors.
According to the news accounts, the Chinese government is building crematoriums for a culture that does not practice cremation.
China’s first concentration camp was built under the “Strike hard Campaign” in 2014. According to the news accounts, the Chinese government is building crematoriums for a culture that does not practice cremation. The last time the world saw crematories and concentration camps together, an outright holocaust took place.
The CCP Gets Away With It
Dr. Michael Pillsbury points out in his book “The Hundred-Year Marathon” that in the hearts and minds of Chinese Communist Party leaders, “every place could be a battlefield in the future.” By challenging western democratic systems in the world, and undermining internationally recognized rules of law, Beijing is indeed treating every single country as their own battlefield, taking extraordinary measures to target individuals and whole governments to keep them quiet and passive to the world’s largest systematic mass incarceration of an ethnic minority since the Holocaust.
Since April 2017 as the situation in our homeland has deteriorated rapidly, everything that makes the Uyghurs unique has been treated as an abnormality—a disease— to be eliminated. This includes our language, culture, history, religion, identity, and way of life. According to the Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s regime is trying to turn Uyghurs into quote-unquote “normal persons.” Today, all “normal religious activities” in Islam are banned, labelled as “extreme” and “illegal”.
My Activism Led to the Abduction of My Sister
Unfortunately, my sister’s story is not unique. China harasses Uyghurs in the Diaspora, with relatives back home, presenting them with a heartbreaking choice: keep silent about the abuses or let your friends and family suffer the consequences.
I decided to expose the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese government in East Turkistan, the fate of my in-laws, and the conditions of the camps. As retaliation by the Chinese government for this activism, my sister Dr. Gulshan Abbas was abducted and became a victim. Unfortunately, my sister’s story is not unique. China harasses Uyghurs in the Diaspora, with relatives back home, presenting them with a heartbreaking choice: keep silent about the abuses or let your friends and family suffer the consequences.
I would like to reexamine the regime’s rhetoric that this concentration camp system is made up of schools for vocational training. If that is true, then surely a person like my sister, a skilled, professional medical doctor, does not need any training. She is a thoughtful, caring, amiable soul, with compassion, who made helping others the most important part of her life. She retired at an early age from practicing her profession due to health conditions. She is not an outspoken person but rather very introverted and would never choose to be active in any kind of political activities whatsoever. I am not sure if she will be able to endure the harsh conditions of the camps for long and I wonder how she could survive for 15 months now. Honestly, I do not know if she is alive.
In acute crisis situations such as these, we must look to international bodies for support. But sadly, one of the most important such bodies for the global Muslim community, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (the OIC), has completely shirked its duty. Right now, the OIC is facing a crisis of authenticity. At the end of 2018, the OIC publicly stated its support for the Uyghur cause and criticized their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government. However, a few months later, the OIC withdrew its criticism, having gone so far as to commend China in an official resolution for the continuation of its actions against the Uyghur Muslims. For an organization that claims to speak for the global Muslim community, it is hard to imagine a more direct betrayal. It saddens us. The Chinese regime threatens other countries with economic warfare, and this tactic has proven to be largely effective, adding to the repeated shame of the international community.
Between trade threats, the power of the Belt and Road Initiative, debt trap diplomacy and manipulation within the U.N., China has become a power able to strong-arm the world into kowtowing to its every wish. The Chinese regime is bribing and leveraging key politicians, decision makers, the media, influential scholars, and important businessmen around the world. With that, China has successfully silenced international criticism of its shameful human rights record.
In their actions, the PRC has managed to kill four birds with one stone:
Forcing millions of Uyghurs into slavery and using them to work on production.
Dislocating Uyghurs from their homes, neighborhoods and towns, to reallocate property to Han Chinese settlers and open the land for the Belt and Road Initiative.
Jailing Uyghur men in camps and prisons and forcing unwed and abandoned Uyghur women into arranged marriages with Non-Muslim Han Chinese men with government gratifications such as money, housing and jobs. This leaves neither the girls nor their families able to decline in fear of repercussion.
And lastly orchestrating organ farms, where millions are forced to undergo DNA tests and prepped for slaughter. The human rights organizations in the world need to pay attention to and take the lead against the PRC’s Organ Slavery trade practices.
Children have also become the main target of China’s policy of assimilation and social engineering. The Chinese government is trying to eradicate the Uyghur ethnic identity by targeting the younger generation. While their parents are detained in the camps, Uyghur children are taken away and held hostage in Chinese government-run orphanages, where they are indoctrinated, forced to abandon their Uyghur identity and swear loyalty to the CCP, and forced to recognize Xi Jinping as God. Uyghur children have also been forced by their aforementioned “supervisors” to spy on their parents if they have any expression of disloyalty to the Communist Party’s ideology or any trace of religious expression.
The individual freedom to choose ‒ to choose what we believe, how we believe, and why we believe ‒ is one of the major achievements of the modern world. It defines our sense of liberty, and our freedom of conscience. Yet now this foundation of our freedom has come under attack. This disturbing trend is clearly visible in the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans and Hong Kong citizens today. These blatant violations of human rights by the Chinese communist regime is only one part of a rising tide of intolerance that is rapidly suffocating the world.
Original thought and religious beliefs are a danger to any Communist regime. Now, this formerly antiquated totalitarian ideology has returned to the world with Xi Jinping. The individual freedom to choose ‒ to choose what we believe, how we believe, and why we believe ‒ is one of the major achievements of the modern world. It defines our sense of liberty, and our freedom of conscience. Yet now this foundation of our freedom has come under attack. This disturbing trend is clearly visible in the persecution of the Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans and Hong Kong citizens today. These blatant violations of human rights by the Chinese communist regime is only one part of a rising tide of intolerance that is rapidly suffocating the world. Our struggle should be of enormous concern for everyone who values the basic human rights of dignity, respect, and freedom of belief for all people. These rights are a fundamental part of the human legacy, our legacy, that is increasingly under attack. It challenges our basic integrity, and the world cannot be silent when over 3 million Uyghurs and other Muslims are being detained, stripped of their religion, culture, and forced to swear blind loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and Xi Jinping. It has become about the right to live and the means to survive as human beings for Uyghurs.
A Global Responsibility During the Time of The Virus
I am at a loss for words to understand how the western democratic countries are rewarding China by inviting its mass surveillance tech companies to build their own next generation telecommunications backbone.
As crazy as the world which I have described is to fathom, the rest of the world’s reaction is even more shocking. The world is not only turning a blind eye to technologically-enabled mass violations of rights, but it is actively investing in China’s Communist Party-controlled companies and even inviting those very companies to build the 5G infrastructure in Western democracies. One would think that a China that instills such fear in 12 million Uyghurs, who cannot use the phone to talk with relatives abroad lest they be sent to the camps, would not be a China that is the main supplier of telephones to the world. I am at a loss for words to understand how the western democratic countries are rewarding China by inviting its mass surveillance tech companies to build their own next generation telecommunications backbone.
In the case of China, I have to wonder whether the number of people in the concentration camps would have reached into the millions if the world would have acted early on, when Uyghur intellectuals like Yalqun Rozi were among the first ones imprisoned. But it is already late. There are over three million in the camps. For over a year, we have been asking governments around the world to enforce the Global Magnitsky Act and impose sanctions on Chinese officials who are responsible for this atrocity. Because of these delayed responses, China’s actions in my homeland now include every single act listed in the 1948 Genocide Convention, each of which the world, including China, is obligated to prevent.
[Leaked] documents verify discoveries that journalists, researchers and activists have made over the past few years. They reveal Xi Jinping’s ability to mislead the international community about the nature of the camps, the brutal policies in our homeland and the governments egregious crimes against humanity.
Three sets of Chinese government’s leaked documents provided an unprecedented inside view of their government’s racially targeted hatred and brutality toward the innocent Uyghurs. These documents verify discoveries that journalists, researchers and activists have made over the past few years. They reveal Xi Jinping’s ability to mislead the international community about the nature of the camps, the brutal policies in our homeland and the governments egregious crimes against humanity. In the same way they have been misleading and continue to mislead the public about Covid-19. It is China’s authoritarian narrative to continue denying the truth, to keep quiet, to misinform and to punish whistleblowers, taking a security crackdown approach. This lack of transparency and hard-sought punishment of those willing to provide the necessary information is what turned the epidemic from Wuhan into a global pandemic. To this point this too has claimed thousands of lives.
China’s Coronavirus response is particularly concerning, specifically due to the massive threat it poses to the detainees kept in concentration camps and inside forced labor facilities. As the coronavirus grows rampant around the globe, countries fighting the virus are urging their citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing. In many parts of the world, countries are enforcing lockdowns of entire cities and regions. China is failing to take adequate steps to empty these camps. Maintaining them as they are, guarantees the spread of the virus and thus will lead to the death of millions. As per accounts of former detainees, the camps are highly unhygienic, cramped and a perfect breeding ground for the virus, especially considering that there is no medical attention provided.
While this period of self-quarantine is posing difficulties to many around the world; whether that be due to financial strain due to being laid off, or loneliness which feeds the depression, stress and anxiety, it is worth considering that there are the Uyghurs in concentration camps who have been living this reality for over 3 years. However, they do not get the luxury of being in the comfort of their homes.
Not only did the Chinese government fail to release Uyghurs detained in the camps, but they left many to starve while in lockdown in their homes. With breadwinners locked in camps, families struggle to survive. Many could not afford to purchase food, and some couldn’t go outside to get food. While China struggled to contain the virus in Wuhan and cancelled all the flights out of the city, the only flights that continued to fly as normal were those to East Turkistan. China took absolutely no precautions to protect Xinjiang, let alone the people they placed in concentration camps and forced labor facilities. Not only that, but they provide no medical help or attention to Uyghurs who would have contracted the virus.
Simultaneously, China has taken further measures which jeopardize Uyghur lives by carrying out a forced exodus of Uyghur youth into mainland China where the virus is still widespread. The Chinese Communist Party has condemned these youth to a spiritual, and possible physical death, in an initiative to enslave them in forced labor facilities. TikTok and DouYin videos pouring out of Xinjiang during the past two weeks have confirmed fears that Beijing is using Uyghur and other Turkic youth as slave laborers and cannon fodder to kickstart the Chinese economy. Given that the nation is only just getting back on its feet after months of lockdown, and experts still have yet to give the all clear regarding the virus, the clips showing hundreds of corona-masked Uyghurs being amassed at transport hubs around the region with marching orders to work in factories across the interior of China. The Chinese government is also ramping up their ongoing campaign to encourage Han Chinese citizens from China proper to move into East Turkistan, offering them free housing, free land, lump sum money, and ready job opportunities just for coming and settling in our homeland. These are bad omens of worse to come.
Since China was given the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics 2022, it is important to highlight the working values of the Olympic games, as they are not compatible with China’s governing principles.
Another byproduct of the coronavirus is the International Olympic Committee rescheduling the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020 to the summer of 2021. As the virus continues to spread, the death toll soars and there is no cure on the horizon, these precautions are taken to ensure containment and a decrease in infected persons. Since China was given the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics 2022, it is important to highlight the working values of the Olympic games, as they are not compatible with China’s governing principles. These are; universality and solidarity, unity in diversity, autonomy and good governance, and sustainability. When asked about why the Olympics are being held in a country which does not uphold the Olympic values, (on a private email message to IOC media relations team) the IOC stated, “These issues were raised with the government and local authorities and we received assurances that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected in the context of the Games.”
Merely inquiring of the Chinese government to assure the IOC that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be upheld is not nearly sufficient. Especially owing to the fact that China is anything but transparent about its actions, and in particular pertaining to the human rights violations committed against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. This inquiry is the same as global companies relying on China’s audits and due diligence processes put forth in forced labor facilities. China’s powerful and compelling façade in combination with the World’s proclivity to accept whatever China has to say is thus perpetuating these crimes against humanity.
“Strengthening transparency, good governance and accountability are key elements of Olympic Agenda 2020. Based on these principles, the IOC is moving forward by including provisions in the Host City Contract aimed specifically at protecting human rights and countering corruption,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
China is not being held accountable for the atrocities being committed, and if the IOC does in fact move forward with choosing to host the Olympic games in countries where basic principles of human rights are upheld, then China should be the last country to be considered to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. This action echoes a painful history of the 1936 games in Berlin, where Hitler announced the opening of the competition. It is a history we all hope not to repeat.
The IOC President Bach listed all the principles and values that China fails to uphold or even respect. There is no transparency, or accountability regarding the coronavirus and definitely none in regard to gross human rights abuses. China is not being held accountable for the atrocities being committed, and if the IOC does in fact move forward with choosing to host the Olympic games in countries where basic principles of human rights are upheld, then China should be the last country to be considered to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. This action echoes a painful history of the 1936 games in Berlin, where Hitler announced the opening of the competition. It is a history we all hope not to repeat.
Each of us may choose to act bravely in the face of evil, that we may not be a bystander complicit in this genocide by our silence. I hope the world will wholeheartedly stand on the right side of history with the sure knowledge that by our efforts to save these innocent lives, we are saving the world and the hope for our shared humanity. Time is running out.
Rushan Abbas started her activism work while she was a student, participating in the pro-democracy demonstrations at Xinjiang University in 1985 and 1988. Since her arrival in the United States in 1989, Ms. Abbas has been an ardent campaigner for the human rights of the Uyghur people and has worked closely with members of Congress since the 1990s. Ms. Abbas was a co-founder of the California-based Uyghur Overseas Student and Scholars Association in 1993, the first such Uyghur association in the United States, and served as that organization’s first Vice-President. The charter co-drafted by Ms. Abbas later served as the blueprint and played an important role in the establishment of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) in 1998. Ms. Abbas was subsequently elected Vice President of UAA for two terms. When Radio Free Asia launched Uyghur service in 1998, Ms. Abbas was the first Uyghur reporter broadcasting daily to the Uyghur region.
Ms. Abbas has also provided linguist and translator services for several federal agencies including the Department of Defense, and President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush. From 2002 Ms. Abbas worked with the US Department of Defense, Department of Justice, State Department and US administration with their efforts on resettlement of 22 Uyghurs from Guantanamo Bay to Albania, Sweden, Bermuda, Palau, Switzerland, El-Salvador, and Slovenia.
In 2017, Rushan Abbas founded Campaign for Uyghurs to advocate and promote human rights and democratic freedoms for Uyghurs, and mobilize the international community to act to stop the human rights atrocity in East Turkistan. Under her organization, Ms. Abbas introduced and led the “One Voice One Step” movement and successfully organized a demonstration on March 15th, 2018, in 14 countries and 18 cities on the same day to protest China’s detention of millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps.
Rushan Abbas has almost 20 years of experience in global business development, international relations, and government affairs throughout the Middle East, Africa, CIS regions, Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and Latin America.
Ms. Abbas frequently briefs US lawmakers and officials on the human rights situation in East Turkistan. She regularly appears on media outlets to advocate for the Uyghur cause and gives public speeches in universities and think tanks.