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The Re-education of the Uyghur Muslims

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

Over recent years, China has been accused several times of committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslim population living in the region of Xinjiang. Reports state that China had subjected Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims to mass detention, surveillance, and torture and is reportedly holding more than a million people in ‘re-education camps’ that were intended to be run as high-security prisons.

Several escapees of the camps have spoken of the ‘re-education’ methods that were used in these camps:

43-year-old Sayragul Sauytbay, a Uyghur Muslim woman was forced into a Chinese re-education camp to teach the inmates revealed the horrors she witnessed in the camps: inmates were routinely starved except for Fridays when they were force-fed pork, and spent hours learning political slogans such as ‘I love Jinping’. Their lessons included learning Chinese, rehearsing propaganda songs, and repeating political slogans praising the Communist Party. After a break for lunch, pupils were told to ‘confess’ sins including not knowing the Chinese language or cultural traditions. Those who failed to think of sins or invent some were punished by facing the wall with their hands raised and told to think about their crimes again. Most of the other punishments were carried out in the ‘black room’ as nicknamed by the prisoners. Sauytbay said tortures included being forced to sit on a chair covered with nails, beatings with electrified truncheons, and having fingernails torn out.

Another escapee, Zumrat Duwat, recounts her tale of being dragged off to a camp. Amongst several other horrors, she recounted that every day the inmates were taken to a large hall and made to sit 4-5 hours at a time, “the camp guards stated Allah did not exist but Xi Jinping did and did many good things for us”. And when asked “Does Allah exist?” Duwat recounts that she was not able to say no, and was beaten for it. Even after having been released from the camp, she stated that every Monday morning, they were forced to attend a Chinese flag-raising ceremony and praise Xi Jinping.

In another instance, VICE News’ Isobel Yeung posed as a tourist to gain access to the Xinjiang region, which has been nearly inaccessible by journalists. She captured footage of colourful kindergarten schools where Uyghur Muslim children whose guardians or parents were imprisoned were held. The school was surrounded by massive brick walls with barb wire fencing. And while Yeung was not allowed entry into the schools, she caught footage of an elementary school full of Uyghur children being told to chant “I will protect the unification of the Motherland and unity among ethnicities” and were then asked by their teacher “what is the first [question]?” to which they replied “Are you Chinese?”; the second question was “Do you love China?” and the third being “Do you want China to be strong?”

Yeung states near the end of the video: “There’s no doubt that inside Xinjiang and in these schools a massive social engineering program is underway. The Chinese government’s goals are clear: for these next generation of Uyghurs to not be Uyghurs, to break all links to their culture, their religion, even their families, until the only identity they have left is Chinese”

While it is clear that education can be used as a tool to put a stop to segregation and unrest, education can just as likely be used as a brainwashing tool to promote these in the same way. And even though China is trying to keep everything hidden, there is no denial of the fact that no minorities are safe in Xinjiang.

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