Why don’t we care about China’s Uighur Muslims?

Why Don’t We Care About China’s Uighur Muslims?

Uighur human rights advocate Nury Turkel joins Mehdi Hasan to discuss the cultural genocide against the Muslims of Xinjiang.

It’s been described as the worst human rights crisis in the world — the arbitrary detention in sprawling camps of a million or more Uighur Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province. The Chinese government has claimed that the camps are merely vocational training centers, but in November a trove of leaked documents, dubbed the China Cables, confirmed what the world had long suspected: the camps are Communist Party re-education centers in which Uighurs are forced to abandon their traditional religion and language. Nury Turkel is a U.S.-based attorney and Uighur rights advocate and he joins Mehdi Hasan to discuss the situation in Xinjiang — and why so much of the world doesn’t seem to care about it.

Mehdi Hasan: Hello, this is Mehdi Hasan and before we get to today’s show, I have a small request. The Intercept and Deconstructed rely on readers and listeners like you to support the journalism that we do here every day. Right now you can head to theintercept.com/give and do just that. Membership is not only about money, it’s about a proud and public declaration of support for the kind of fierce adversarial journalism we do every day. All donations are welcome. Consider becoming a sustaining member at $5 or $10 a month. It may seem small, but it has a big impact over time. Your donation no matter what the amount does make a difference. This is a community effort. When everyone chips in, it adds up quickly. Deconstructed has big plans for 2020 with your support, election coverage, debate coverage, more live events out on the road, like our recent show in DC with Michael Moore and Ilhan Omar. So, please do consider becoming a member. Head to theintercept.com/give. That’s the intercept.com/give. On to the show.

[Music interlude.]

MH: When was the last time you spoke to a family member?

Nury Turkel: Last summer.

MH: Summer 2018?

NT: Yes.

MH: You haven’t spoken to a family member in China for nearly 18 months?

NT: I have aging parents. I cannot call them.

MH: I’m Mehdi Hasan. Welcome to a special end-of-the-year episode of Deconstructed, a bonus if you will, in which we’ll examine, discuss, cast a light on, what’s become perhaps the biggest human rights crisis in the world this year – even though it still, in my view, doesn’t get enough attention globally, including here in the West.

NT: As a lawyer, as an advocate, as a Uighur, I believe that my people are going through a modern day cultural genocide.

MH: That’s my guest today, Nury Turkel, a prominent Uighur-American lawyer and human rights campaigner. Nury says China is carrying out a “cultural genocide” against his people So, why isn’t the world, why aren’t we, doing more to stop it?

[Music interlude.]

MH: Who are the Uighurs and why do they matter, why should they matter? Well, they’re one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the Chinese government; a mainly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority group who comprise less than 1% of the Chinese population – though they live in China’s biggest province, Xinjiang. Or East Turkestan as many Uighurs prefer to call it, especially those who support from independence from China.

Now, the Chinese government has been cracking down on the Uighurs for decades, but post 9/11, Beijing took advantage of George Bush’s so-called War On Terror to brand all opposition to Chinese rule as evil “Islamic terrorism” of the Al Qaeda variety. In recent years, they’ve gone much further and now seem to see all Uighurs as potential terrorists, extremists, separatists.

Newscaster: The Chinese government is making no apologies for the way it’s running Xinjiang. It has told the UN that there’s been a major crackdown there in order to rein in violent Islamic extremism and those who would separate Xinjiang from the rest of China.

MH: Beijing has banned Uighur parents from naming their sons “Muhammad;” blocked their children from entering mosques; forbade Uighur government employees from fasting during Ramadan. Uighur Muslim men are prohibited from growing “abnormally” long beards, while Uighur Muslim women cannot wear the face veil in public.

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