Increasing oppression of Uighurs during Ramadan draws huge reaction

Published 30.06.2015 19:08
Updated 30.06.2015 19:12
Two Uighurs pray in a mosque in Xinjiang. The region is suffering from increasing oppression from the Chinese government.
Two Uighurs pray in a mosque in Xinjiang. The region is suffering from increasing oppression from the Chinese government.

The oppressive policies of the Chinese government toward the Uighur minority during Ramadan have drawn harsh criticism on social media as well as in the diplomatic arena

The Foreign Ministry issued a written statement regarding the latest development in the Xinjang Uighur Autonomous Region, also known as East Turkestan, saying it has deep concern over the ban on fasting and other acts of worship. The Foreign Ministry said it sent the statement to the Chinese Embassy in Ankara. Turkish people are reacting against the Chinese government's oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang on social media. Particularly the fasting ban and killings in Xinjiang are getting huge reactions on social media.

#FreeEastTurkestan and #StopTerrorismInChina hashtags remain the top trending topics for Turkey. Officials in Xinjiang have ordered officers to "closely monitor" the daily movements of Uighurs during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Uighurs have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls and continued poverty and joblessness in Xinjiang despite China's statements. China's ruling Communist Party last year launched an "anti-terror" campaign in Xinjiang following a string of deadly attacks blamed by Beijing on Uighurs, who are majority Muslim, seeking to establish an independent state.

China has banned civil servants, students and teachers in Xinjiang, a province with a large Muslim population in the northwest, from fasting during Ramadan. In addition to the ban on fasting, China has ordered restaurants to stay open all day during Ramadan. "Food service workplaces will operate normal hours during Ramadan," a notice posted on the website of the state Food and Drug Administration said. China has rejected criticism over the fasting ban and says it faces a "terrorist threat" in Xinjiang, which officials blame on "religious extremism" for growing violence in the region.

Uighur rights groups say Chinese oppression of minorities in Xinjiang is on the increase, especially during Ramadan. Public servants are banned from attending Ramadan iftar meals. According to local sources, if Muslims break the rule, they face the risk of losing their jobs. "China's goal in prohibiting fasting is to forcibly move Uighurs away from their Muslim culture during Ramadan. Policies that prohibit religious fasting is a provocation and will only lead to instability and conflict," spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, Dilxat Rexit, said. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the Chinese government's repressive policies in Xinjiang, including restrictions on religious practices, have provoked unrest, allegations Beijing denies.

On June 26, a young Uyghur woman detained by Chinese police in February while attempting to flee the country to join her husband in Turkey died in police custody in Xinjiang. On June 22, at least 18 Uighurs were killed by Chinese police. According to Uighur sources, the death toll was much higher. The attack occurred at the beginning of Ramadan in the southern city of Kashgar, the Uighur cultural center where tensions between Uighurs that call the region home and the majority Han Chinese, have led to bloodshed in recent years. Hundreds have been killed in violence across the region, blamed by Beijing. Armed police responded to the attack and killed 18 Uighurs, who Chinese officials called "terrorists."

On June 19, eight Uighurs were shot dead by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.On June 10, a group of five Uighur men who had "crescent moon-shaped" beards were on trial in Xinjiang for "religious extremism" after they were found to have secretly attended unsanctioned religion ceremonies.

Uighurs have long suffered from human rights abuses, with 26.3 million people being killed between 1949, when China took over the region, and 1965, and 8.7 million people since 1965. About 35 million people have died because of the Chinese army's oppression or famine. Wearing a headscarf in public, including on public transportation and when getting married in a religious ceremony, was banned in 2014, with fines of about $353 for wearing a headscarf in public. Radical behavior is banned, which the Chinese government defines as not drinking alcohol, not smoking and avoiding eating non-halal food. According to a Uyghur Human Rights Project report, 700 people were killed due to political activities last year. The number of those arrested increased 95 percent compared to the previous year, reaching 27,000. The number of those sentenced to execution or life imprisonment increased 50 percent in the last six months. Chinese officials continue to censor media in the region, as in other parts of China.

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