China’s gulag for Muslims

China’s gulag for Muslims

Mustafa Akyol writes:

One of the darkest episodes of the 20th century was the gulag — the Soviet system of forced labor camps where dissidents were imprisoned in terrible conditions, often to perish. The camps were established by Lenin, expanded by Stalin and finally exposed to the world by the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with his 1973 masterpiece, “The Gulag Archipelago.”

“Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of Archipelago,” he wrote, and “it is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold, and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides.”

Today, Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them. But now another dictatorship, ruled by another Communist Party, is operating a new chain of prisons that evoke memory of the gulags — more modern, more high-tech, but no less enslaving.

These are China’s “re-education camps,” established in the far-western Xinjiang region, where up to a million Chinese are reportedly imprisoned in order to be indoctrinated. People are forced to listen to ideological lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays. Survivors also tell about military-style discipline, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, beatings and torture.

The target of this mass persecution is China’s Muslim minorities — especially the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people based in Xinjiang. They follow a mainstream, moderate interpretation of Sunni Islam. But that is enough of a “mental illness” for Chinese Communists, whose ideology considers all religions, including Christianity, to be backward superstitions that must be diluted and nationalized. That is why they go as far as forbidding people from having beards or fasting during Ramadan, and forcing them to consume pork and alcohol, both of which are forbidden in Islam.

Chinese authorities say they are alarmed about extremists among the Uighurs — and, in fact, a handful of terrorists have carried out attacks against government targets over the years. But those extremists arose partly in response to a decades-old policy of subjugation, along with ethnic colonialization, that Beijing has pursued against the Uighurs. That history suggests that Beijing’s current “counterterrorism” campaign will be only counterproductive — deepening a vicious cycle that authoritarian minds are often unable to understand, let alone break. [Continue reading…]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.