Giving Compass' Take:
- Andrew McCormick, at Yes!, reveals how a Uyghur youth movement has taken steps to revive its culture in a genocidal diaspora.
- What can we do to elevate the voice of this Uyghur youth movement? How crucial is cultural survival in the face of violent oppression?
- Become more informed about the Uyghur genocide in China.
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Munawwar Abdulla has a knack for creating the things she wants to see in the world. So, when she was a teen, Abdulla assembled a team at the Uyghur-language school she’d attended as a kid to start a bilingual Uyghur-English magazine for the students, complete with kids games, cultural lessons, and the students’ writing and art.
In 2013, when she was 19, Abdulla started a website dedicated to Uyghur heritage. She posted snippets of history, paintings, and poems; images of Uyghur food and fashion and videos of Uyghur dance and musical performances. She kept up with the site in the following years. Then, in 2017, the Chinese Communist Party undertook a brutal campaign of mass internment in Xinjiang; to date, more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims have been corralled into modern-day concentration camps, and communication with the outside world is all but impossible.
The atrocities in Xinjiang are harrowing. Thousands have been pressed into forced labor, and in February a landmark BBC report conveyed detailed allegations of systemic rape in the camps. China’s actions are believed to constitute the largest internment of an ethno-religious minority group since the Holocaust.
With the rights abuses have come myriad efforts to eradicate Uyghur culture. Authorities have burned books, bulldozed mosques, and banned so many aspects of traditional Uyghur life, including prayer and various dress and dietary customs. In the Chinese government’s own words, uncovered by a 2018 Agence France-Presse investigation, the camps’ purpose is to “break [Uyghurs’] lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.”
At this moment when Uyghur culture risks being stamped out in Xinjiang, a growing community of young Uyghurs in the diaspora is mobilizing to preserve and promote that culture abroad.
Read the full article about the Uyghur youth movement by Andrew McCormick at YES! Magazine.