Opinion | We must speak out for the Uyghurs

The current systemic oppression of a Muslim-majority people in China has not been under enough scrutiny from those of us in the West.



An Uyghur woman walks along an area of reconstruction in Kashgar, China. Many homes in the old urban district of Kashgar are being reconstructed, and many have been raised to build a new park.

Zeina Aboushaar, Opinions Columnist

There comes a time when our tears are not enough, and our sorrows are not enough. It is our silence that will echo throughout history.

China has been under international scrutiny for sending Uyghurs — a predominantly Muslim group — to detention camps. Following World War II, this is the largest mass internment of religious groups.

Upward of a million Uyghurs are being detained in so-called “re-education” camps — prison and internment camps. China has built more than 260 structures since 2017, according to a Buzzfeed News investigation.

These programs include studying communist propaganda, using waterboarding and other forms of sexual abuse and torture, forced sterilizations, and many other measures aimed at reducing the population and the indoctrination process. An Associated Press reporter said that, “authorities have gone hunting for such parents, ripping them away from their families unless they can pay huge fines.”

Muslims are being forced to renounce Islam. Yet, this remains another topic that we save for our children’s history lessons.

The U.S. often sees itself as having achieved religious freedom. Yet — when the President Trump has the power to assist the Uyghurs — he instead approves the concentration camps saying it is “the right thing to do.”

Trump fails to stand up for the Uyghurs and instead gives the affirmation to continue torturing millions of innocent Muslims. This shows the inherent hypocrisy of the U.S. and how we only question these violations if they pertain to the majority.

Cornell University students and professors have held demonstrations to raise awareness and shed light on the situation. The University of Iowa needs to taking measures to not only support the Uyghurs, but also the Muslims that attend the school.

One way is to be transparent about the relationship with Chinese companies, who are in the development of technologies that can be used in Xinjiang for security.

These atrocities are happening at a large scale and are too fundamental to the values of American humans’ rights and liberties to ignore. This also ties in to Islamophobia everywhere, especially in the West.

Under the disguise of “fighting terrorism,” North Americans and European governments have instituted policies that target Muslims and dictate how to practice their religion. Whether it’s banning them from the country or simply banning the headscarf for women, these are are all violations of an individual’s humans rights. Muslim identity was always seen as extremist or radical.

What we’re witnessing in China is not new, it is the product of a belief that points to Islam as the cause of terrorism, and this viewpoint finds its roots in Western political values.

I find it heartbreaking that I watch as mosques are burned down, young hijabi girls who are just like me being raped, mothers being ripped away from their families, fathers being tortured, across the world while we sit here safe with the ones we love, not even batting an eye at the genocide.

I was taught to believe the U.S. would not stand for this sort of violation. It would not stand idly by while countless lives are being destroyed and ended, all the while standing off to the side and giving a complicit thumbs up to the man in charge of these atrocities.

For a country that prides itself as being a champion of human rights and crying out “Never Again,” it seems awfully willing to let it happen again.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.