Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Comment

@UyghurCollective: a safe space for Uyghurs

@uyghurcollective
© @UyghurCollective via Instagram

Roar writer Laura Saracino examines the @UyghurCollective, created to document the lived experiences of persecuted Uyghur minorities.

Like any other day, I open Instagram, but this time with purpose. I know I will be interviewing the administrator of @uyghurcollective and I am beyond curious to check the page. The more I scroll down the feed, the more I feel captured, intrigued, involved. My eyes get stuck at a beautiful black and white picture, portraying a girl dancing to the beat of a tambourine. She seems joyful, light-hearted, and yet from another world. It reminds me of the illustrations in history books. I am looking forward to meeting the creator of the page and ask my million questions.

@uyghurcollective is a little window to the culture, lifestyle and traditions of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority living in the Xinjiang region of western China. They have become well-known worldwide, not for their extraordinary diversity and cultural richness, but for being systematically harassed and threatened by the Chinese government.

Munawwar Abdulla created the page to show the Uyghurs in a different light – one from the Uyghurs’ perspective, not Western or Chinese state media. As part of a generation that was brought up on the Internet, she often comes across images of what “Uyghur” means, and it just does not hold up to reality. She wanted to create at least one space online that shows what it truly means to be a Uyghur – their vibrant culture, their zest for life.

The Instagram profile was born, with the project of sharing bits and pieces of Uyghurs’ real life. Then, as the situation in China got worse, the account became a place to rally support and provide information about what was happening. There was no grand plan to start raising awareness through the internet and social media. It just became the logical consequence of witnessing the reality.

Munawwar is not only the administrator of the Instagram page, but she also works as a frontline community-building and Uyghur advocacy volunteer. She states that the situation Uyghurs face is one of cultural genocide:

“For decades, Uyghurs have been struggling to live free from the oppression of the colonial Chinese Communist Party, which [has] not only occupied lands, but also persecute the people who have been facing numerous onslaughts of human rights abuses. In this day and age, instead of providing the rights that Uyghurs sought for, and that are outlined in Chinese laws, the CCP has enacted a greater crackdown that involves mass incarceration in the form of concentration camps, which they refer to as ‘re-education centres’.

They seek to re-engineer Uyghur society through forceful and, at times, violent means. This has led to a generation of Uyghur children left without adults to care for them and living in state-run orphanages, and a pervasive police state that uses advanced technology as well as a police grid system to detain any person they deem ‘suspicious’. 

[There has been] a huge rise in incarcerated individuals, most of whom do not have access to a fair trial or legal advice, restriction of movement both nationally and internationally, destruction of religious sites, businesses, schools, graveyards, homes. This is on top of other forms of forced assimilation practices already in place, such as the eradication of formal education in the Uyghur language, restriction of cultural and religious practices that the government does approve – but that is protected in international laws – restricted access to information, censorship, and so on.”

Social media has great potential to raise awareness and educate on global scale. It’s global reach makes it not only a means to an end, but a tool for propagating knowledge on things that matter.

@UyghurCollective is not exactly what you would call an advocacy or activist platform; this is more of a community. For years now, Munawwar has been sharing the regular things that make Uyghur heritage, culture, history, humour, and people.

“I wanted to share unique and interesting images about Uyghurs so that we could learn more about ourselves…and so that others could learn about Uyghurs outside of a victim-story or even [a] propaganda-story. Of course, I also share information regarding activism and the issues that are crucial to discuss – not so much ‘what is happening’ since most of my audience is Uyghur and we already know what is happening – but more so the actions we can take and the progress we have made in terms of safeguarding our society and people.

But I also make sure that Uyghurs are seeing the good in themselves too, and not always these terrible and traumatic images that are always on the news. I hope to be a bit of a positive influence and a safe space for Uyghurs.” 

China is bringing about a cultural genocide to stamp out Uyghur identity and re-programme Uyghurs into more Han Chinese people. It is important that everyone knows this truth. Munawwar urges readers to stop putting faith in government spokespeople and propaganda, and actually listen to victims in the diaspora, to research and verify information themselves.

There is nothing new in what has been said. The only thing that can bring change is what we do and say in the future. The future starts today. If we wait until tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, it becomes history. It loses strength. That girl in the picture, dancing and smiling, does not want to come up in a history book. She just wants to live, now.

writer

5'2 of curls, optimism and loud laughs.
Fond of humans and always chatting with everyone about this and that.

Latest

Comment

Staff writer Alisa Sheludko examines the implications of guerrilla journalism on traditional news media and the possibility of their collaboration in the future. Introduction...

Women's Football Women's Football

Sport

Staff Writer Grace Holloway writes how despite recent successes, women’s football is still far from equal with the men’s. Women’s football has become increasingly...

Wisteria on a white wall with a window Wisteria on a white wall with a window

Culture

Staff Writer Charlotte Galea takes a look at the new season of the famed Netflix show and concludes that giving up on historical accuracy...

Protesters in favour of Ali as KCLSU president on Strand campus Protesters in favour of Ali as KCLSU president on Strand campus

KCLSU & Societies

Advait Joshi, who received the second most votes in the King’s College London Student Union (KCLSU) March elections, has refused to assume the office...

Comment

Staff writer Douglas Gibb scrutinizes the First-Past-The-Post system and its impact on true representative democracy in the wake of the recent UK elections. On...

Comment

Roar writer Dania Quadri on the redevelopment of Wigan and its complicity in the Uyghur genocide. Wigan, a town in Greater Manchester of 300,000...

Comment

Dania Quadri on the proposed genocide amendment to the UK’s Trade Bill. On 23rd February, Holocaust survivors Ruth Barnett BME and Dorit Oliver-Wolff BEM...