New Delhi: Uighurs are treated as second class citizens by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), like the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and suffer from Israeli occupation and apartheid, says Olsi Jazexhi, a Canadian/Albanian historian and journalist specialised in the history of Islam, nationalism and modernity.
In an interview with IANS, Olsi said China has build massive detention centres, which it calls Vocational Training Centres, where Uighur Muslims are detained and forced to renounce their Turkic and Islamic identity.
They are prohibited from praying, living as Muslims, speaking Turkic and forced to Sinicize themselves.
“The reason that we hear little about the Uighurs in the mainstream media is that China is very good on concealing what it does in Xinjiang, the neighbours of China and the Muslim world does not want to upset the Chinese superpower,” Olsi added.
Olsi said the Chinese leadership is not used to an open society, democracy, human rights and multicultural values.
It is very stubborn and does not accept multi-culturalism and diversity and for them the Uighur identity is not acceptable, he added.
“They see Islam, Turkic identity and Muslims as a threat to the Republic. China has officially declared war in its government papers on ‘three evils’ in Xinjiang.”
The historian said China does not respect and consider the Uighurs as citizens with human rights and wants to finish the Uighur issue once and for all.
“That is why they are mass colonising Xinjiang, mass de-Islamising and de-Turkifying the Uighurs and forcefully turning them into Chinese. While the British invaded and Anglified India for 400 years, China is trying to do the same with the Uighurs but in a much faster and more brutal way,” Olsi added.
Q: Why is the world not helping the Uighurs in China? Please tell our readers about yourself and your work on Uighur people.
A: I am a Canadian/Albanian historian and journalist specialised in the history of Islam, nationalism and modernity.
I got involved in the Uighur issue in summer 2019. I wanted to investigate the Uighur issue myself since I do not trust what I read in Western media. Very often the information that we get in the West is fake and distorted. In 2012–2013, many Syrian based terrorists were portrayed in the West as freedom fighters. We had many Muslims from Europe who were radicalised and joined the jihad in Syria and ended up committing a terrorist war against a foreign country. In Albania, we have a former terrorist organization, the Mojaheden el-Halk which runs a paramilitary camp. However some media in the West like to call them “Iranian opposition” and not what they are: a former terrorist paramilitary cult of mujahiddeens who commit acts of war against foreign countries.
My initial suspicion was that what we read about the Uighurs in the West was fake and China was being target unfairly. For these reasons I approached the Chinese embassy in Tirana and asked to join any journalist delegation and see with my own eyes the reality in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.
Q: Why is there very little information about the Uighurs in mainstream media? What is the status of social, political and economic rights of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province?
A: During my visit to Xinjiang I found that Uighurs are treated as second class citizens by the ruling Communist Party of China. They are like Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and suffer from Israeli occupation and apartheid. The autonomous region of Xinjiang has been stripped of its autonomy and the Uighur religion, culture and population is under constant attack from Chinese invaders. China has build massive detention centers: which it calls Vocational Training Centers, where Uighur Muslims are detained and forced to renounce their Turkic and Islamic identity. They are prohibited from praying, living as Muslims, speaking Turkic and forced to Sinicize themselves.
The reason that we hear little about the Uighurs in the mainstream media is that firstly, China is very good on concealing what it does in Xinjiang; second, the neighbours of China and the Muslims world does not want to upset the Chinese superpower; third, China is very aggressive on countering any story that reveals what is does in Xinjiang. China keeps Xinjiang in total lockdown and isolation at the same way as Israel keeps West Bank and Gaza Strip or how the Iranian Mojaheden keep in isolation their soldiers in Albania.
Q: The CPC regime justifies its actions against Uighur Muslims by claiming that they are Islamist radicals and have been indulging in Islamist terrorism. What would you say to that?
A: The situation of Muslims and Islam nowadays is similar to the situation of communism in the era of Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot when Marx wrote the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”. From China to the United States different regimes and governments use Islam and Muslims as scapegoat for their internal and domestic problems.
China has copied the US and India’s ‘war on terrorism’ ideology and is using it to destroy its Uighur and other Turkic Muslim population which live in Xinjiang. While it is true that some Uighurs became radicalised in 2010s and joined extremist groups in Syria and some have even committed terrorist acts within China, this does not justify China’s suppression with an iron fist of the Uyghur and Turkic people’s rights, culture and religion.
Terrorism is being used by China as a scapegoat in order to justify its repressive policies against its Muslim population.
Q: Is there a possibility of resolution to the conflict between Uighur dissidents and the CPC regime? If yes, what are its conditions?
A: Yes. China can resolve its Uighur issue very easily if it wants to. When I was in Xinjiang I told our Chinese friends to stop their crazy policies against the Uighurs since they will further radicalise them. I advised them to close the concentration camps, to allow Uighurs to practice their religion, to open mosques, madrasas and schools in their native language and instead of turning them into enemies China should make them partners in the development of the country.
However, the Chinese leadership is not used to an open society, democracy, human rights and multicultural values. It is very stubborn and does not accept multi-culturalism and diversity and for them the Uighur identity is not acceptable. They see Islam, Turkic identity and Muslims as a threat to the Republic. China has officially declared war in its government papers on “three evils” in Xinjiang:
1. Terrorism, which means Uighur Muslims who fight with Chinese forces.
2. Separatism, which means peaceful Muslims who want to become independent from China like Mahatma Gandhi did in India.
3. Religious extremism, which means any Uighur Muslim who practices his religion and believes in Allah and not the Communist Party of China.
China considers all these three groups as enemies which must be destroyed. Mahatma Gandhi like Dalai Lama would have been considered terrorists and killed in China or be sent to concentration camps to be de-radicalised.
China does not respect and consider the Uighurs as citizens with human rights. It wants to finish the Uighur issue once and for all. That is why they are mass colonising Xinjiang, mass de-islamizing and de-Turkifying the Uighurs and forcefully turning them into Chinese. While the British invaded and Anglified India for 400 years, China is trying to do the same with the Uighurs but in a much faster and more brutal way.
Q: Why have the super powers of the world remained so apathetic towards the persecution of Uighur people in Xinjiang?
A: The US, the UK, Canada, Australia, the European Union, Turkey and their allies are not apathetic towards the Uighur persecution. They have condemned the persecution of the Uighurs but obviously they cannot force China to stop what it is doing like they cannot do to much about Hong Kong or Tibet. China is an economic and nuclear super power. It has the power it needs to do whatever it wants with the Uighurs and get away with murder.
Russia on the other hand does not talk about the Uighur issue since, even though they know very well the situation. They need China as an ally to face off Western imperialism.
If I would quote the ancient Greek historian Thucydides about what China is doing today with the Uighurs I would say:
“The strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must.”
Q: How can the world hold the CPC regime accountable for its oppression of Uighur people?
A: The world can hold the CPC regime accountable in three ways:
1. Through the international law. But China has veto power in the United Nations Security Council.
2. Through ‘the Right to Protect’ doctrine of Western imperialism. Which means through the threat of a military intervention or arming of Uighurs to defend themselves, which is impossible since the West will not fight for Muslims like it does for Israel.
3. Through a worldwide moral and social mobilization, which is also impossible since China is an economic superpower and many countries of the world are not willing to put China under embargo for its treatment of Muslims.
In few words we came to the conclusion of Thucydides. China will continue its oppression of the Uighurs since it is strong and can do what it can. The weak Uighurs will suffer what they must.
Only Allah who can twist the history of mankind as He wants, can change the desperate situation of the Turkic Muslims of China.