Dr Sheldon Stone, a retired NHS consultant physician and university academic, is a member of the World Uyghur Congress Advisory Group which runs the STOP UYGHUR GENOCIDE campaign. In this blog he describes the plight of the Uyghurs and why it resonates so strongly with him, as a member of the Jewish community.
Image: Legend. A still from drone surveillance of Uyghurs blindfolded and shackled being transferred by train to concentration camps.
My very good plumber asked me (if you want his number just email!), ''Do you mind me asking, but what is it with you and the Uyghurs? What gets a nice orthodox fella like you so worked up?'.
It all began Saturday night, in the middle of the Jewish festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). I went on-line, checked the footie, then the Israeli press. Haaretz (the Israeli equivalent to the Observer newspaper) had such appalling witness testimony about the Uyghur Muslims’ situation in China, that I knew I had to do something. I went on a demonstration, started blogging on the Times of Israel newspaper, learnt to tweet, and then, via Mia Hanson-Gross of Rene Cassin, (the Jewish Voice for Human Rights), found myself talking to Rahima Mahmut, head of the World Uyghur Congress (UK), about a Uyghur-lead cross-community coalition. I’ve been helping ever since.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic Muslim people, like Kazakhs, with their own language. Since China invaded their ancient homeland in 1949, they have been persecuted. Documentary evidence, drone surveillance and witness testimonies show they now face the biggest Genocide since the Holocaust. China uses advanced digital surveillance and biometrics (voice, face and iris recognition, and DNA analysis) to arrest, interrogate, and take up to 3 million Uyghurs’ in trains to concentration, labour and prison camps simply for growing beards, praying, owning Korans, using WhatsApp or talking to relatives abroad.
Inside the camps they face starvation, torture, murder, widespread rape, slave labour, forced sterilisation, abortion, and organ donation. Their hair and beards are shaved and sold as wigs.
Outside the camps, hundreds of thousands supply slave labour for multinational high-street brands, girls are forced to marry Han Chinese, children are sent to boarding schools that forbid their language and religion and women face forced sterilisation. This focus on women was what got me worked up. Until recently, the world was silent.
All this speaks to Jews’ historical experience and ethical beliefs. The Uyghurs may not be suffering the rapid physical extermination of the Holocaust, but China’s declared aim is to wipe them out as a cultural and religious entity, to, as Maisumujiang Maimuer, a religious affairs official, wrote 'break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins'.
After the Holocaust, the world said, 'Never Again'. In that spirit, what can you do?
One: write to your MP, emailing Rene Cassin’s template letter, asking for sanctions on officials, proscription of companies and a declaration of Genocide.
Two: BOYCOTT products made from Uyghur Slave Labour (see the below image)
Three: donate to STOP UYGHUR GENOCIDE
Invoking the Holocaust to encourage action against another Genocide does not devalue its unique nature but honours the promise, 'Never Again', made to its victims.
Follow Sheldon on Twitter and the STOPUYGHURGENOCIDE Campaign to keep up to date with the national campaign against the persecution of Uyghur Muslims. You can read more by Sheldon in his blogs for The Times of Israel.
The HMDT blog highlights topics relevant to our work in Holocaust and genocide education and commemoration. We hear from a variety of guest contributors who provide a range of personal perspectives on issues relevant to them, including those who have experienced state-sponsored persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.