Uyghur Muslims: Oppression and Forced Labour – A New Trend For The Fashion Industry?

Featured Image: Lutpulla – Anonymous

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“Kindness is a mark of faith and whoever is not kind has no faith.”

 – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

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The History:

Uyghurs are a Muslim minority group in Xinjiang, a northwestern region in China. Xinjiang is the ‘so-called’ home to 10 million Uyghurs. From having their own culture and speaking their own language, Uyghurs compensate for around half of Xinjiang’s population.

After the migration of Han Chinese, ethnic tensions arose in the regions. Uyghurs felt targeted and oppressed, which led to riots across some major cities. Over 200 lives were lost during these protests and left many other injured. Due to this, Muslim minorities in China have been targeted for extremist views, which led to high security and less freedom in the regions that these minorities resided. This also led to the formation of re-education camps.

Since these tragic events, over one million Uyghurs have been forced into concentration camps. These camps are designed to strip Uyghurs of their religion and ethnic identity. To date, millions of Uyghurs are at risk of being detained and put into concentration camps by the Chinese government.

Inside The Camps:

“They would punish inmates for everything.”

– Sayragul Sauytbay (Detainee in China’s re-education camp)

The brutalities in these camps are horrific and inhumane. The mass discrimination and oppression of millions of Uyghurs by the Chinese government meets the UN’s definition of genocide. Those interned in camps are subjected to forced labour. Chinese authorities have reportedly used many forms of torture, while Uyghur women face sexual abuse.

In a recent report by the ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute), the Chinese Government has transferred Uyghur Muslims from Xinjiang to factories in various parts of China. These factories reportedly are no less than prisons, with high security and surveillance cameras in place to watch over the detainees. These factories hold over 80,000 Uyghurs who are forced to work for little to no wages. Similarly to the camps, these factories participate in heinous acts and torture the detainees if they disobey the orders of the authorities. Excessive hours, abusive working conditions, isolation, and restricted movement — these are just to name a few inhumanities the factories consist of.

“Their predominant crime is simply being Muslim.”

– Ethical Unicorn (Uyghur Forced Labour: What’s Going On In China & How The Fashion Industry Is Complicit)

How The Fashion Industry Is Supporting The Genocide:

Brands source millions of tons of cotton and yarn from the Uyghur region, which is grown in Xinjiang. Many global brands are now being linked to these factories which have Uyghur detainees. Turning a blind eye, these brands to date are getting supplies from factories across China.

Like most others, I was unaware of the reality of these brands. Brands and the fashion industry always portray a sense of luxury and comfort, while the reality is far from it. Sadly, none of this is new and in fact, many high fashion brands are linked to modern slavery. The Uyghurs are merely one of the many involved in these injustices.

To name a few, brands such as Nike, Zara, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and GAP are all involved in supply chains from these factories. Many German car brands are linked to modern slavery as well. Many retailers have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which essentially allows participation in the modern slavery of Uyghurs.

End Uyghur Forced Labour Campaign:

In light of this, since the news of the re-education camps has started trending, over 100 human rights organizations have stepped forward in support and launched a campaign in support of the Uyghur Muslims. These campaigns are aimed at putting pressure on brands and companies which support modern slavery and give power to this genocide. Since this movement, brands such as H&M and IKEA have come forward, saying they would discontinue buying cotton from this region.

“Now is the time for real action from brands, governments, and international bodies — not empty declarations, to end the slavery and horrific abuses of Uyghurs…”

– Jasmine O’Connor OBE, CEO of Anti-Slavery International

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Ultimately, people like you and I can also play a part in helping. Here are some ways to help:

Share this information: You can link this or any article of your choice to spread awareness.

Boycott or tag brands in articles and social media pages.

Make donations to the Uyghur Human Rights Project.