“‘Never again’ is happening in the 21st century”: Uyghurs fight China’s concentration camps

The below article was published by WDVM, Photo credit: ETNAM

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Two weeks ago, the House passed Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton’s bill that discourages manufacturing in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The area is also known as East Turkistan.

East Turkistan is a Chinese occupied region in the northwestern part of the country. It’s also home to the Uyghurs, people of mostly Muslim faith, with a 6,000-year history in the region. They’ve been fighting for independence since 1949—a threat to China’s oil and natural gas industry.

“Especially given that Central Asian countries, formerly West Turkistan, has already gained its independence, China has started to take out this ‘final solution,” said East Turkistan’s Prime Minister Salih Hudayar. He followed his father to the U.S. in the early 2000’s. His father fled East Turkistan in the 1990’s.

Stateside, Hudayar is fighting for the Uyghurs’ independence. Since 2014, he’s also been fighting for their freedom. Millions of people are locked up in concentration camps across the region. Satellite imagery has identified hundreds of camps.

“By the end of 2019, I had over 100 relatives that were detained in the concentration camps or the prisons. Four have died as the most up to date information that I have is from April of 2019,” Hudayar said. “I believe a lot of us have insomnia. We can’t sleep. We constantly worry about our family members in East Turkistan. But we have to do everything that we can here in the free world to exert pressure and call on governments and organizations to take some form of action.”

According to China’s leaked National Defense Strategy, firsthand accounts from escapees, and prisoners’ family members, Uyghurs are being tortured and starved. They’re dying of the disease. Women are being sterilized. Organs are being harvested and purchased outside of the country. Children are being sent to orphanages and boarding schools. They’re also manufacturing parts of Apple’s iPhones and materials in Nike apparel. 

Prince William County resident Subi Yuksel is a Uyghur searching for her father. He was arrested in 2017 in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Yuksel hasn’t heard from him since. “CCP was threatened by his talent and knowledge and his experience in leadership,” Yuksel said. They also arrested her uncle. 

Yuksel says her father is “giving and loving.” He always put his family’s happiness first.

“I am a mother of three—a newborn and two toddlers—who are struggling to fulfill my duties as a loving and caring mother due to this injustice of my father’s imprisonment,” Yuksel said. “Every day this has been a challenge. Sleepless nights, panic attacks, and utter feeling of helplessness for my brother and me. My family and I feel like we have lost our happiness forever.” She doesn’t know where her father is or how he is faring. The 71-year-old cancer survivor has diabetes and high blood pressure.

Wexton’s bill is one step in the right direction. If passed in the Senate, U.S. publicly listed companies would be required to review and actively audit supply chains for forced labor. Hudayar is also asking Congress and other governments around the globe to formally recognize what’s happening in China as a genocide.

“We’re a so-called ‘autonomous region,’ but we’ve never had any rights,” Hudayar said. “The only autonomy we’ve had is to be sent to concentration camps, to be assimilated, to be used as slave labor in the 21st century.”

Yuksel wants the American government to help her locate and free her father. She’s started a petitiononline. Meanwhile, she wants consumers to avoid spending money at Amazon, Burberry, Burlington, Costco, Foot Locker, Guess, Zara, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, TJ Maxx, Walmart, and Walt Disney, all of which she says are using labor from Uyghur concentration camps. 

“I won’t stop until my last breath until I see my father free,” she vowed.