Why So Silent?


Maddie Beischel

Junior Raabia Qureshi was selected to serve as the Area One KAY President on Nov. 12.

Raabia Qureshi, Writer

A few weeks ago, Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner called it quits–and now that I’ve grabbed your attention, there are much more pressing matters to discuss. 

Almost 80 years ago, the world said “Never again” after witnessing one of the most horrendous periods of time: the Holocaust. Today, that phrase is needed more than ever as the Chinese government commits cultural genocide against the Uigher Muslims.

Within the western region of Xinjiang, China, officials at highly secured compounds the Chinese government call “voluntary re-education camps” strip hundreds of thousands of Ughier Muslims of their cultural identity, both physically and psychologically. Physical torture and sexual abuse are only two of the tormenting methods that occur on a day-to-day basis, all in the effort of “ridding China of all terrorist and extremist thoughts,” Chinese government officials claim. 

What is even more appalling is the deafening silence from other countries. In July of 2019, 22 countries, mostly Western, criticized Beijing for its “disturbing reports of large-scale arbitrary detentions” and “widespread surveillance and restrictions” through a joint statement to the High Commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. No more than a day later, 37 mostly Muslim countries swooped in to Beijing’s defense, praising its human rights record. As a Muslim myself, I’m ashamed on behalf of each country which signed off on the letter in support of Beijing. It’s one thing to stay silent and speculate, but it’s another to willingly act as cheerleaders in support of China’s gruesome behavior. 

The truth is, a collective statement successfully brings the issue to the table, but that’s about it. No single country has taken the responsibility of leading the operation because none of the signatories are willing to risk creating tension between themselves and China. Clearly, economic and political interests take precedence over endangered lives.

In the US, the Trump Administration has recently imposed Chinese visa restrictions. Moreover, the administration placed sanctions on significant government and business organizations assisting with China’s campaign to eradicate the culture of Uighur Muslims. 

But none of these actions will be sufficient until the Uighurs are freed.

The most disappointing aspect of it all is, as a generation often utilizing social media as a means of calling out abuse of power, we are silent. China’s goal is to suppress the voices of its victims and manipulate the world into remaining silent. By failing to take advantage of our rights to free speech, we are essentially tolerating their actions and falling in line with their goal.

In the past year, a greater number of news outlets have taken deliberate measures to explore the truth about what’s occurring behind the gates of China’s so-called “re-education camps.” However, the Uigher Muslims have been subjected to these camps for almost four years. Why has it taken the media four years to finally cover such a gruesome violation of human rights?

No, the Chinese government won’t stop because of an Instagram story, but the world should be informed about what’s going on. Last April, after a devastating fire tore through Notre Dame, one of the most historically-prized cathedrals in the world, social media sprang to life. People who didn’t watch news reports of the fire on television quickly became informed of what happened. Every other Instagrammer was quick to express their concern about the partial loss of a concrete building, but they tend to turn a blind eye to the endangerment of Chinese Muslims. The worst part is that people seem to only show concern when the issue pertains to them or their values. I have yet to see someone outside Muslim culture raise awareness about the Uighers. 

Now, as thousands of lives are on the line, it’s the media’s responsibility to dedicate that same energy, if not more, into spreading awareness about what’s happening to the Uigher Muslims. Instead of remaining caught up in the news regarding stardom and other trivial matters, people should educate themselves about the issues that matter most, the ones endangering actual human lives.