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How China Is Able To Get Away Even With Its Ethnic Cleansing Project Of The Uyghurs

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As the United States House of Representatives recognised the Armenian Genocide in a historic vote in October 2019, silence loomed beneath the echoes of the Uyghurs’ suffering. The Xinjang Uyghur Autonomous Region is been home to Turkish ethnic minorities, namely Uyghurs and Kazakhs. These minority communities were perceived as a threat to the Chinese State and therefore, similar connotations had been used by the Young Turks towards its Christian minorities, the Armenians, during 1914, of which the genocide had been the ultimate result.

However, marginalisation remains an inherent factor in the first stage of purification. Since the 1990s, the Chinese Government has pushed for ‘bilingual education’, but it was prioritising Mandarin, while the Ugyhur language wasn’t given any importance. On the other hand, Uyghurs have been forbidden to give their babies names that might have any religious connotation as the State opines that such names encourage religious fervour. It was in 2014 when the Chinese Government waged the ‘Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism’ under the leadership of Party Secretary Chen Quanquo. As a result, fanguiju, who are cadres from government agencies, had been deployed and stationed in villages with a Turkish population and were subjected to regular surveillance.

The Turkish minority officials have been accused of being disloyal to the Government as the Chinese authorities argue that these men engage in corruption, with then detention and imprisonment as the end road. The terminology of ‘separatism’ has been evoked as the Chinese authorities believe that the Turkish ethnic minorities have been proliferating pan-Islamism. Exercising border control is a major objective of this campaign as Xinjiang authorities in 2016 started to recall passports of the targeted group.

The Human Rights Watch has documented the directive of the authorities to collect biometrics, including DNA samples, fingerprints as well as iris scans of the targeted group. The freedom to practice one’s own religion, in this case Islam, has been curtailed. Firstly, any form of appearance that is believed to display religious fanaticism and disseminate religious extremist has been banned. Muslims are now required to restrict halal to only a certain set of products. Adding to this, religion is not allowed to be taught in school curriculum, along with prohibition of practice of the religion taught by parents to their children. Children are neither allowed to participate in religious activities, nor leave school for any religious reasons.

People hold placards during a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, on December 21, 2018. Photo credit: Afriadi Hikmal/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The history of introducing the Strike Hard Campaign can be traced back to 1990s, when armed confrontation between Uyghurs in Baren township, northwest of Kashgar, led the Chinese authorities to tighten control over the Uyghur area. As the Soviet Union collapsed, new Central Asian Republics emerged, stirring up fears of ethno-nationalist ambition in Xinjiang. A list of 75 behavioral indicators of religious extremism was published, naming the symptoms that are regarded as unusual by the State.

The Baluntai government in north-central Xinjiang gives us an insight into the implementation of the campaign. The government exercises control over buying of matchsticks and lathes in the fear that they might get used for weapon-making. The government also orders its officials to subject three generation of relatives who have been detained previously as well as collect information on the family’s income as well as family members who have been staying abroad.

The Shanghai Corporation Organisation, comprising Kazakhstan, Kygyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Uzbekistan as well as India and Pakistan, supported the measure to suppress Uyghurs from advocating their independent Uyghur nation. This measure included monitoring their activities and deportation. Detention centres have been built, although the terminology used for these centres is ‘educational camps’ or ‘vocational training centres’, created for the betterment of its people and teaching Mandarin.

This has led the United States to opine in the United Nations that China must stop detaining the Uyghurs. To this, China’s UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, warned the gathering that such a comment is not beneficial for the ongoing trade talks between the two countries. It is believed that US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping would be signing an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. The United States’ accusation is perceived as interventionist and an attempt to interfere in China’s internal matters, which are nonetheless ‘baseless’ on behalf of the former, as the latter aims to eradicate terrorism, separatism and radicalisation by opting for forced assimilation as its method.

One could therefore be using the nomenclature of ethnic cleansing as resettlement of Uyghurs is taking place throughout the region of Xingjing. Such a measure by the Government is nothing but a violation of Human Rights and must be brought to an end. Trump’s administration has successful blacklisted 28 Chinese entities, including video surveillance from Hikvision and artificial intelligence companies such as Megvil Technology and SenseTime. The United Nations has also decided to curb visas of Chinese officials until repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims is not stopped.

It is believed that Donald Trump and Xi Jingping are to sign an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. However, the US’ accusation is perceived as interventionist and an attempt to interfere in China’s internal matters.

Mike Pompeo has opined that these detention camps are similar to Hitler’s concentration camps where the Jewish population was killed recklessly by the Nazis. On the other hand, China’s intent has not yet been established, although it cannot be denied that the Turkish ethnic minority groups have been killed, but to use the nomenclature of a ‘genocide’ would require establishing China’s intent as annihilation of the Turkish minorities, whereas Recap Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, termed the event as a form of genocide in 2009.

But since 2012, Turkey has viewed itself as a potential ally of China. prohibiting itself from criticising on the issue of the detention camps and Islamophobia. China justifies these detention camps by saying that the camps have been built to counter terrorism, and describes Islam as a religion that gives birth to extremist ideologies.

However, China is not the only country that houses detention camps. After the declaration of National Register of Citizens in Assam, many of the state’s people were identified as foreign nationals after the list got  released on 31st August, 2019. The criteria for this list had been for the applicant to have his name in the first NRC in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to 24th March, 1971.

Assam is home to six detention camps that are run out of six district jails. The horror of the fate of those suffering in Assam and China’s detention camps must be countered by countries who are voicing protests against such grotesque measures by the existing government as Human Rights are being violated and the population is being forced to get ‘cleansed’ for the betterment of the nation, in case of China. The horrifying history of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust is known to all and has taught us that these incidents must not be repeated again. The rights of citizens must be protected and humanity shouldn’t get destroyed in the greed for power.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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