Beijing’s intensified crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province has triggered an exodus into bordering Afghanistan, Foreign Policy (FP) reported this week.
On Thursday, FP noted:
China’s campaigns and restrictions against the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority group in the western region of Xinjiang, have spurred an exodus into Afghanistan, especially after Beijing and the local authorities intensified their crackdown on Uighur freedoms, religion, and culture.
Beijing claims that terrorism is spilling over from Afghanistan into Xinjiang. But in reality, Chinese oppression and ethnic conflict in Xinjiang are helping to further destabilize Afghanistan and turn young Uighurs, increasingly targeted by the Chinese state, toward violent resistance.
Muslim Uighur-majority Xinjiang, the largest province of China, borders Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Afghanistan is a preferred destination for Uighurs seeking to escape ethnic and religious persecution, FP stressed, adding:
In light of the restrictions placed on Uighurs by authoritarian governments in Central Asia, war-torn Afghanistan has been the only neighboring country where it is politically and religiously safe for Uighurs to seek refuge, especially in Taliban-controlled areas.
Uighurs linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have threatened to attack China. The United States has designated Uighur jihadi groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), as foreign terrorist organizations. TIP has reportedly claimed responsibility for attacks inside of China.
“China’s internal ethnic divisions, coupled with the vicissitudes of Afghan war and politics, have produced Uighur militant movements and resistance in Afghanistan, including some with connections to the Taliban and al Qaeda,” FP noted.
According to the U.S. government, China has forced hundreds of thousands of Uighurs accused of terrorist and separatist activities to internment camps, also known as re-education centers, established across Xinjiang.
Beijing denies that it is detaining members of its Uighur minority, claiming they are willingly attending what it describes as “vocational schools” aimed at combating “terrorism and religious extremism.”
The camps are intended to ensure Uighurs practice their religion within the confines of the inherently atheist communist ideology.
China reportedly forces people to listen to propaganda at the facilities to ensure the worshippers remain loyal to the Communist Party.
Human rights group have long accused China of oppressing Uighurs.