If you've perused Instagram Explore as much as I have, maybe you've seen some mention of the alleged hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims who have been placed in internment camps in China. Interestingly enough, there hasn't been any mention in the televised news (at least, not as far as I have seen) of this torment, despite the plethora of mentions on social media. Here's what you need to know about this humanitarian crisis.
The Uighurs are majority Muslim, and there are approximately 11 million of them in China's Xinjiang region. Their language is similar to Turkish, and they see themselves as ethnically close to those in Central Asian nations. With the recent migration of the Han Chinese, China's ethnic majority, to Xinjiang, the Uighurs feel that their cultures and livelihoods are being threatened. Xinjiang is located in the far west of China and is the biggest region in the nation. Xinjiang is bordered by India, Afghanistan, and Mongolia, and, in theory, is an autonomous region. However, it actually faces major restrictions from the central government.
So what's happening to the people in this region? This is where the stories shared on Instagram come in. In August of 2018, a United Nations human rights committee received notice that China had turned the Uighur community into a region resembling a giant internment camp, and about a million people had been detained. The people are rounded up, placed in these internment camps, prevented from contacting the outside world, and then are forced to learn Mandarin, swear their loyalty to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and finally criticize or renounce their faith. The Human Rights Watch says that the Uighur people are especially subjected to this intrusion, in addition to various other invasions of privacy—in the forms of facial recognition cameras, surveillance, and QR codes on people's doors—all so officials can keep tabs on who is present at any given time.
The media is almost completely prohibited from the Xinjiang region, but BBC has been able to visit the area multiple times and obtain satellite images of the region and found a large police presence and at least 44 high-security buildings in the region. Nowadays, no one seems to be released from this forced detention, but released prisoners have accounted for a brutal schedule of being woken up before dawn to learn new laws. Others have provided accounts of the horrifying torture suffered at the camps, where prisoners are not allowed to sleep and are instead hung up and beaten for hours at a time.
It would seem that China is using the excuse of threats from various Islamic terrorist organizations in order to justify the persecution and subsequent treatment of its Uighur Muslim population. Based on the fact that only small amounts of concrete reporting and news are available regarding these camps and conditions, one can only assume that China is using its state as a Communist country to silence the mentions of any crimes within its borders. This lack of free speech leads to a lack of evidence and a seeming inability for any other nation to take any action further than mere condemnation of these conditions. It seems that one lack of freedom simply leads to the next, causing a domino effect that is impossible to escape, unless the world takes notice and does something about it.