In 2018, a Kazakh-Chinese woman named Sayragul Sauytbay blew the whistle on the Xinjiang “re-education” camps after she was detained and tortured in one. The main targets of these detention camps are members of China’s Muslim populations, including the region’s 11 million Uighurs. Even those not personally detained are subject to surveillance and collection of biometric data. Reports of the destruction of historic mosques are not uncommon in Xinjiang.
Over the last week, there have been calls for a UN probe into reports of forced birth control and sterilization of Uighurs, as well as the seizure in the US of products thought to contain human hair from labor camp detainees. The human rights situation in Xinjiang is not new, but the abuse appears to be worsening.
Last year, Emir Yazici, a guest contributor for PV@G, analyzed the role transborder ethnic ties play in repression of minorities in neighboring states, and whether Turkey might act to protect the Uighurs. He concludes that “it is unlikely that Turkey will intervene on behalf of the Uighurs,” something that has held true.
What is next for the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang? Will the UN investigations help them? Or will their cause fade into the background once again?