Based in faraway Australia, Nurgul Sawut’s heart lies with her aggrieved community – Uyghurs in China. As Executive Chairperson of Uyghur Freedom Forum (Australia), Nurgul Sawut, an outspoken and bitter opponent of China’s draconian policy to subjugate rights of minorities and members of her community, has narrated the systematic human rights violation orchestrated by the Communist regime that is spreading the canard to the West that Uyghurs are like the Islamic fundamentalists. In her report “Human Rights Situation In East Turkistan (‘Xinjiang’) Under Chinese Occupation”, Nurgul Sawut urges readers to condemn the genocidal policies being undertaken in China. She explains nerve wracking ordeal like how the Xi Jinping regime is committing atrocities like imprisoning Uyghurs in large-scale detention camps, in an insightful interview with Organiser Editor Prafulla Ketkar. Excerpts
What is the situation of Uyghurs in the Chiese territory, and why did you decide to move from your homeland in 2000?
For many young and aspirational people, who are seeking Freedom of Speech and other kinds of freedom, there’s no way they can remain inside. The moment when they make a dialogue or deliver a speech, they are expressing their personal views on a particular subject related to social injustice, unfair treatment of Uyghur people, they will be picked up and either put behind bars or blacklisted in severe cases. And for me, even though I was working in the Government sector as a youth, I was constantly reading and continuously observing what all was happening in the society. So, there were many ways I could see my limitations. I see the potential risk if I’m expressing myself to the Government or to society. That’s why I decided to pursue a new life and decided to leave my homeland. Many of my friends at that time, who were in the same stream, undertaking the same way of writing, having an unrestrained dialogue, and have all been arrested. And none of them is working where they should work.
Under Xi Jinping’s leadership CCP is talking about final solution now?
If you think how long it took PLA to invade our territory on October 20, 1949, the statistics speak for themself. Forty thousand people were killed at one go. All of them were dubbed as illegal people. And he (Xi Jinping) followed the famous words of Mao when he reportedly said that most resistant people should be wiped out. After six decades, we’re facing precisely the same thing. In 2014, China had decided to introduce a second generation, so-called Ethnic Minority Policy, which pretty much took away whatever it had promised for minorities especially to the so-called Uyghur Autonomous Region. We don’t have Fundamental Rights under that huge umbrella of autonomous rights, like language, our own way of living, and being part of society. Their systematic approach was to destroy our society. The first attempt was to change our way of living. Then our intellectuals and elders were targeted. All our intellectuals have been arrested, and we have lost 432 scientists, writers, intellectuals, and
According to the official Chinese position they have only patriotic schooling and a unification process. What is the actual reality on the ground?
That’s where everyone gets confused. The way China actually promoted what we call disinformation campaign comes flooding all day, like a crime against humanity. We never claim that we don’t work. We never claim that we don’t want to be part of society. Of course, we want to. But the way China wants to do things, it has no intention to bring our community together with the rest of the Han Chinese community. It is not interested in bringing our community into the mainstream of society. It’s all about one nation. And we all know what’s meant by one nation; when it happened in history it’s happening again. China’s model being promoted actively is nothing but ultra-nationalism. When I say Han Chinese in a CCP style, For the majority of Han Chinese in mainland China a whitewash is taking place. So, they want to merge and hold the process into a whitewashed mainstream. In doing so, Xi Jinping comes up with some brilliant ideas called Final Resolution which as far as we’re concerned since 2006, is a massacre. We have over thousands of camps right across our region. We have over 3 million people kept in these camps. And those are people who are constantly exposed to either torture or slave labour, or in some cases are subjected to organ harvesting. And we don’t exactly know the death toll. There’s a clear indication that they are being subjected to biological experiments. One can see the difference before they are put behind the bars and after they are released. These training camps are actually concentration camps in which large number of females are exposed to sexual abuse and torture.
“The first attempt was to change our way of living. And then all our intellectuals have been arrested, and we have lost 432 scientists, writers, intellectuals, and other professionals”
Legally in China, retirement is at the age of 65, why would you take someone who’s aged 70 into the camp? So, those kinds of evidence don’t justify what China is trying to tell to the outside world. We have to remember that there’s another system established around those camps, factories, and now we have an internationally well known banning force, where labourers produce goods for a Western democratic country. In some ways, India has participated and made notes of it, but a lot of work needs to be done.
So, for me as an activist, community leader, as well as the Executive Chair of the Uyghur Freedom Forum, we need to find a new way of handling our crisis and defeat them in the UN Human Rights Council.
China claimed in the 20th Congress party that all ethnic minorities are represented in the standing Council , and delegates. What is your take on this?
We have representatives of 55 ethnicities right across China and if you even look at the committee representative, and compare them to previous Congress, this time the number has actually dropped. That’s a significant first signal that China is not keeping up with its own commitment.
Secondly, what’s happening on the ground within our community, yes, there’s a whitewash happening. There’s a group of people, actually well trained by Chinese authority, who are representing our speaking style, using CCPs words in the international media and platforms, trying to defend what China is doing. But that doesn’t mean by actually covering up what’s happening, on the ground. People are becoming smart We from outside are watching, observing, and have a constant eye on things. Even Han Chinese have managed to speak up. If you look at what happened in Beijing just before the Party Congress – that banner on the bridge clearly indicted Xi himself and that’s the sign of how much unrest, resentment is their among the public. The main reason is, in the name of zero Covid policy, there is a lockdown, where people are staying inside houses. Yet tourists are allowed to run their business from outside, people are still visiting tourist attractions. What does that mean?
“In the name of zero Covid policy, there is a lockdown, where people are staying inside houses. Yet tourists are allowed to run their business from outside, people are still visiting tourist attractions”
That is why, people are not afraid to put up things online at the moment because there’s not enough food. They are not receiving enough medical support. And even women, giving births, are dying. The children are the hardest hit, because they are not having enough nutrition as well as enough vegetable balanced nutrients. Now, in the last eight or nine weeks, we have come up with digital protests. So, people wherever they are put up a little mimic clip, use TikTok or Weibo, one of those major Chinese social media platforms, which are censored quickly.
What is the status of population composition there. China is claiming that everything is fine on the ground.
The data we have is unreliable as the report is based on what the Chinese Government put on their websites. Dr Adrian Zenz pulled out all this data and forensically looked into tit. He identified the comparison between 2015 and 2018. There’s a huge fluctuation in the birth rates amongst the Uyghur people. In areas like, we have 97 per cent of the Uyghur population, yet in some counties in these prefectures the birth rate has dropped to 90 per cent within three years. I don’t think the number quoted of 11 to 12 million is right. I still remember Victor Gao, the former adviser to Deng Xiaoping, who was brave enough to open his mouth and claimed the Uyghur population of 7.9 million. He’s not an average person. Now I don’t know it is the actual number or it was the target.
Chinese official claim that people like you are leading it from outside China and it is similar to the so-called separatist terrorist movement or Islamic fundamentalist movement.
This is what China is trying to sell to the international community after 9/11. I’m not afraid if China calls me a separatist. You took away my land, my rights and now I’m fighting back and taking them back. You gave me only two options, either live or die. So, for that reason, if you call me separatist, I accept it. But if you are trying to blackmail me, no you cannot, and I can communicate with the outside world, no one can stop me. So, China, you can tell your side of the story, I can tell my side of the story. Let the public decide, hear out, and decide who’s actually telling the truth.
We work so hard and diligently and are working on our own Constitution for a long time, and rewiring, re-tweaking. It’s not like what China claimed to be Islamic extremists, separatists. So our Constitution is a democratic. And yes, we say that our religion is Islam, but we will give equal opportunity to all the non-Islamic people that will be the crux of our Constitution. Yes, Uyghurs will be the spinal cord of the society, but we have Kazak, Kirghiz, Tajiks. We have never conflicted with them. And we always know how to come together when we need it.
How many Uyghur activists are associated with your forum?
We are working in different areas like human rights, education, cultural revival, linguistics. We are fighting for our own dignity and freedom, and if you merge all of them, we have over 150 organisations. When it comes to genocide, we all stand together. If we focus on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Europe, North America, and Oceania, we have about 2 million people.
China describes Uyghur as Xinjiang, while you call it Turkistan. When you talk about a separate homeland or freedom, what is the idea behind it?
When we talk about the sovereignty of freedom and sovereignty of our land, we only refer to the land taken over by CCP, since October 21, 1949. We’re not talking about the Uyghur population living in Kazakhstan or the former USSR territory which is a different issue.
There are 55 Islamic countries who stand with China and are not paying any heed to the atrocities on Uyghurs.
When China was in the WTO, the whole idea was if China’s economy opens up, they will start adopting democracy but that was a big mistake. After 25 years, we’ve seen the so-called China model. They have merged capitalism with a planned economy. We don’t know how exactly they are executing their plans, what we are seeing is pretty much the ultra-nationalist basis.
For the Islamic countries, China is controlling the manufacturing supply chain. 9/11 was an another turning point. In the anti-terrorism campaign, Uyghurs were described as terrorists. Using these two issues, China introduced Belt and Road Initiative, of which Chine Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important component. If you abserve the recent financial change, Pakistan may end up like Sri Lanka, full of debt. Besides that, the BRI and the supply chain of China has influenced and bought out a lot of political power in the Islamic world.
“The entire Islamic world erupted for one copy of Quran was burnt. How many crowns are burnt in our homeland? Tons of 1000s. They (Chinese soldiers) took out the Holy Quran and have been burning it, throwing it in the toilet and no one utters a word”
Recently, the entire Islamic world erupted for one copy of Quran was burnt in Norway. How many Quran’s are burnt in our homeland? Tons of 1000s. They have been taking out the Holy Quran, burning it, throwing it in the toilet and no one utters a word. All our praying mats, Islamic decorations inside the houses are all pulled out. Even if you look at it when you pray, you are supposed to face west, it’s the corner of the house, guess what’s in the eastern corner of the house in each household now? Xi Jinping’s photo. So, if you pray, you end up praying towards Xi. This is like a religious uprooting, and as well as cleansing, and yet the Islamic world is silent. And besides that, China is very much manipulative and so-called smart enough to present those major mosques still it’s there as a part of their creation presenting to those Islamic world that Uyghurs go to mosque, we still giving them access to all the things but if you notice, no one goes into their mosque pray.
I really want to know where these Islamic leaders stand. Does idea of Islamic Umma even hold?
If we go by your description, the situation looks really grim with Xi Jinping becoming the undisputed, unchallenged, leader of China. Islamic world is not taking any strong stand and the UN seems to be losing its willpower. How do you see the future of Uyghurs and your freedom struggle?
Xi has got his highest possible power, there are no more challenges in his way for the next five years, but that doesn’t mean we accept our defeat, and will watch our people die. The society is slightly conscious about what’s happening both inside and outside. The latest outcome of that campaign is that the US has introduced a law. Now, it has been established that a decent number of resources, people, and power are needed to execute that law. The EU has just got the First Draft, and they’re working on it. We also need to make the outside world know of how we feel.
We will support our people from outside China and probably inside of China too, because their own people are now speaking up, resisting Xi, his extreme Ultra power and controlling attitude. No one can predict what will happen in the next five years, but our five years will be very grim and we will continue to fight for our rights.