For The Nation
Last February, after nearly four months of interrogations and being forced to sit through lectures extolling the greatness of the Chinese Communist Party, Khayrat Samarkand tried to kill himself in the cell he shared with a dozen other men. “I threw myself at the wall and hit my head repeatedly on it until the guards came,” he said.
Samarkand’s injuries were so severe that after a day of treatment in a hospital, the guards simply let him walk out. He crossed the border into Kazakhstan, one of a handful of witnesses to the mass detention of Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said this August that at least 1 million Muslims—ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities—in Xinjiang were being “held incommunicado…without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism.” In massive camps called “reeducation” centers, detainees are subjected to round-the-clock surveillance and attend classes where they are coerced into shedding traditional Islamic practices like praying, wearing a headscarf, growing a beard, or abstaining from pork and alcohol.
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