US leads condemnation of China for ‘horrific’ repression of Muslims

In this photograph taken on August 29, 2019, trainers and children from Muslim Uighur minority pray as they attend a Muay Thai training session in a boxing academy in Istanbul. In recent years, China has cracked down on the Uighur community, a mostly Muslim and Turkish-speaking minority in the northwestern Xinjiang region. (AFP / BULENT KILIC)
Updated 25 September 2019

US leads condemnation of China for ‘horrific’ repression of Muslims

  • China urged to give “immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored” access to Xinjiang for the UNHCR
  • UN says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in China crackdown

NEW YORK: The United States led more than 30 countries on Tuesday in condemning what it called China’s “horrific campaign of repression” against Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang at an event on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly that was denounced by China.
In highlighting abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said the United Nations and its member states had “a singular responsibility to speak up when survivor after survivor recounts the horrors of state repression.”
Sullivan said it was incumbent on UN member states to ensure the world body was able to closely monitor human rights abuses by China and added that it must seek “immediate, unhindered, and unmonitored” access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
Sullivan said Tuesday’s event was co-sponsored by Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain, and was joined by more than 30 UN states, representatives of the European Union and more than 20 nongovernmental organizations, as well as Uighur victims.
“We invite others to join the international effort to demand and compel an immediate end to China’s horrific campaign of repression,” he said. “History will judge the international community for how we respond to this attack on human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director for Asia of the European External Action Service, said the EU was “alarmed” by the situation and also urged “meaningful” access to Xinjiang.
“We are concerned about ... information about mistreatment and torture,” she said. “China is always inviting us to the camps under their conditions, we are in negotiations right now for terms and conditions for free access.”
On Monday US President Donald Trump had called for an end to religious persecution at another event on the sidelines of the UN gathering and repeated his comments in a speech on Tuesday.
Trump, who has been cautious about upsetting China on human rights issues while making a major trade deal with Beijing a major priority, said religious freedom was under growing threat around the world but fell short of specifically mentioning the Uighur situation.
“Volume is coming up at a pace that we hope that the Beijing government recognizes not only US but the global concern about this situation,” David Stilwell, US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs told reporters at a briefing.
“We will see how that plays out and how Beijing reacts and take it from there.”
A representative for the Chinese delegation to the UN General Assembly accused Washington of violating the UN Charter by criticizing China.
The United Nations says at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in what China describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
Sullivan said the United States had received “credible reports of deaths, forced labor, torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment” in the camps.
He said there were also many reports that the Chinese government forces detainees to renounce their ethnic identities as well as their culture and religion.
Though US officials have ramped up criticism of China’s measures in Xinjiang, it has refrained from responding with sanctions, amid on-again, off-again talks to resolve a bitter, costly trade war.
At the same time, it has criticized other countries, including some Muslim states, for not doing enough or for backing China’s approach in Xinjiang.
Rishat Abbas, the brother of Uighur physician Gulshan Abbas, who was abducted from her home in Urumchi in September 2018, told Tuesday’s event that “millions of Uighurs are becoming collateral damage to international trade policies, enabling China to continue to threaten our freedoms around the world, enable it to continue its police state.”
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has repeatedly pushed China to grant the United Nations access to investigate reports of disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly of Muslims in Xinjiang.
China’s envoy in Geneva said in June that he hoped Bachelet would visit China, including Xinjiang. Bachelet’s office said in June that it was discussing “full access” with China.


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Updated 3 min 40 sec ago

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”