Who The Uyghurs Are And Why We Should Care

Gary Baumgarten
4 min readMar 9, 2021

I have to admit that before I first interviewed Salih Hudayar, I really didn’t know who the Uyghurs were. Nor for that matter, could I pronounce Uyghurs (most Americans come close by saying “We-gurs”).

Nor was I well informed about East Turkistan.

But as I researched the issue and began talking with Hudayar on a fairly regular basis, an image of atrocities began to emerge.

I always wondered how the world remained so silent for so long during t he Holocaust (six million Jews perished), the Killing Fields of Cambodia (more than 1 million people died) and the Rwanda genocide (more than half-a-million people died). We Jews have a phrase surrounding the Holocaust: “Never Again!” But many of us believe that cry is not just about those who were exterminated during the Holocaust. But for any future instances of religious or ethnic cleansings.

A new report is out today, once again detailing genocide against the Uyghur people. Prompting me to revisit the issue. The report by the NewLines Institute for Strategy and Policy accuses China of breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention.

It accuses the Chinese government of having the ‘’intent to destroy” its Uyghur minority population.

This is not the first time, of course, that China has been accused of this. A week ago, for example, the Dutch Parliament passed a resolution accusing China of genocide against the Uyghurs. As did the Canadian Parliament recently. And last year, the United States imposed sanctions over the treatment of Muslims in China. But the plight of the Uyghurs isn’t exactly what people might talk about around the water cooler if they actually were still working from their offices.

It all started back in 1955, when East Turkistan was declared by China to be the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” A policy of repression followed. The East Turkistan Government-in-Exile says during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese massacred thousands of Uyghurs. Eventually, they say, millions of Uyghurs were killed. They say that 750,000 died because of 46 nuclear tests the Chinese government conducted in East Turkistan.

Then, they say in 2016 so-called re-education camps were erected to incarcerate Uyghurs. The East Turkistan…