|Members of the Atajolt Youth Volunteer
Organization pose at the memorial event on
March 18. (Photo: ChinaAid)
(Almaty, Kazakhstan—March 24, 2018) On March 18, a civil organization in Kazakhstan organized a memorial ceremony for Kazakhs who died in China’s far western Xinjiang region.
Atajolt Youth Volunteer Organization, a civil group in Kazakhstan, organized the event as a way of commemorating more than 60 Kazakhs who died as a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s intense crackdown in the Xinjiang region.
Saierkejian Bilaixi, a member of the hosting organization, told reporters that the victims in Xinjiang were not given funerals according to Islamic tradition. The Chinese government forbade Islamic ceremonies, despite the fact that the majority of Kazakhs are Muslim.
“Many of the attendees condemned the atrocities that the Chinese government committed against the Kazakh Muslims,” Saierkejian said. “Nowadays, the Muslims from Xinjiang cannot even recite the Quran during the funerals. Instead, they have to observe the Han Chinese customs and simply list the significant life experiences of the dead. According to Islamic traditions, the Muslims should recite the Quran during the funeral and wash the body for three times, but the Xinjiang government prohibits such practices.”
More than 200 people were in attendance, people who travelled from Xinjiang and other parts of China, as well as the Soviet Union. Attendees included members of the Kazakhstan Muslim Association, the national bureau of religious affairs, elites from different fields in Kazakhstan, politicians, and critics. During the ceremony, which lasted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Islamic funeral traditions were observed, including recitations from the Quran.
Notable guests included renowned writer Habudiexi Zhumadilifu and Dr. Sabietihan Gebasifu, an academician of the Kazakhstan Academy of sciences. Reasuli Zhumale, a politician and former member of the Xinjiang Writers’ Association was also in attendence, as well as Daolietibieke Kangbakoufu and Kelimu Yeliemisi, a magazine editor. Many of the attendees gave speeches criticizing the discrimination practices that the Chinese government carries out in Xinjiang.
“Some died in political training centers,” another Kazakh who attended the event said, referring to the detainment camps in which members of minority groups in Xinjiang are detained for months on end and forced to learn communist propaganda. “Some could not stand the torture and committed suicide. Some were imams who were imprisoned. Many of their family members attended the ceremony yesterday. They said that the policies in China are worse than those of the Cultural Revolution.”
The Xinjiang government has drastically increased persecution against minority groups in Xinjiang, especially the Uyghur and Kazakh groups, both of which are predominantly Muslim. Minority citizens who travel abroad often have their passports confiscated if they return to China, preventing them from leaving again. The Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan has also issued warnings to try to convince Chinese-born Kazakhs to return to China, which many fear is a trap to confiscate travel documents.
Food manufacturers in China are forbidden from labelling foods as halal or not, according to Muslim custom. Authorities forbid Kazakh language from being printed on billboards or on signs for stores, and products from Kazakhstan are also not allowed to be sold.
During the Chinese New Year celebrations, authorities also visited minority homes and forced them to hang decorations for the occasion. Officers also threatened Kazakhs and Uyghurs, telling them that if they refused to break halal and eat pork dumplings with their Han Chinese neighbors, they would be taken away to the political training centers for re-education.
At the ceremony, Kazakhs in attendance also wrote a letter to Nursultan Nzarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, explaining the terrible conditions of Kazakhs in Xinjiang and asked him to act on their behalf. Politicians as well as friends and family members of the victims signed. Thus far, the Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned the Chinese government about the situation twice, but there has been no progress.
The Atajolt Youth Volunteer Organization also used the event to urge the human rights institutions of the United Nations and human rights groups in Europe and the United States to continue following the situation in Xinjiang and pressuring the Chinese government to stop the persecution.
ChinaAid reports on persecution events, such as the ongoing government abuses in Xinjiang and the memorial held for the victims of persecution, in order to promote human rights and religious freedom in China.