A World Issue: Uighur Muslims in China


Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (in red.) Image from Wikipedia with Creative Commons permission.

Muslima Khalilova, Staff Writer

Who are Uighur Muslims?

Around 11 million Uighurs live in Xinjiang, China. They include the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajik, Kyrgiz, and Hui. In 2017, around one million Uighurs disappeared and nobody really knew why until a satellite and some documents were leaked to the internet.

So, what exactly is happening to the Uighur Muslims?

The satellite zoomed into an area completely surrounded by an electric fence and located in the middle of nowhere. A little bit later, people did research and some even leaked some Chinese documents regarding the camps. More than 85 camps were built between 2017 and 2018. The Chinese government denied all of this news but when pictures of the constructions were leaked the government acknowledged these camps as “re-education camps” for Uighurs. There were some Muslims who escaped this nightmare and told the news that they were beaten and interrogated and made to do things that were against their religion. It turns out that they were not really being re-educated but being interned.

Why is the Chinese government doing this?

China claims that Uighurs have been responsible for the attacks that took place in 2013 and 2014 and that China sees them as a threat to security. Before the camps were built, the government made laws such as men couldn’t grow beards and women could not wear any sort of covering for their hair. The government also demolished many mosques.

World Reaction

Around July, the U.N. Humans Rights Council, including 22 countries, mainly European countries sent a letter to China responding to the disturbing reports of the detention camps. Unfortunately, 37 countries defended China by stating that, “…by protecting their country from, separatism, and religious extremism.”

What can you do?

There are a couple of things you can do that may help the Uighurs out of this situation. For example, you can go to protests or pressure the president to link with other countries to support the Uighurs during these harsh times.  Or you can simply talk about this topic with your friends and family and spread the word on social media.

WMS student Muslima Khalilova is from an Uzbek family.  She was born in Uzbekistan and this issue is important to her and her community.