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"It is clear that Uyghur culture and identity are being deliberately destroyed." — Radio Free Asia

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Lina Renberg received her Ph.D. She took a program at the University of San Francisco in May, where she researched and wrote about the genocide against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China and the Uyghur diaspora’s resistance to state violence in China. Did. Her Renberg book is the first Western scholarly treatise devoted solely to the Uyghur crisis. An educator for more than 20 years and Northern California representative of the Human Rights Educators USA group, Renberg recently spoke to RFA Uyghur reporter Kurban Niyaz about her writings and work on behalf of the Uyghur people. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

RFA: What inspired you to work on this topic?

Renberg: I ​​worked at an international school in San Francisco, and there were a lot of Chinese and international students there. There was a year when two Uyghur brothers came with Chinese passports.So I started talking to them and asking [questions]I didn’t know there was this ethnicity in China.i only knew han [Chinese]At that point I had heard of Tibet but had never heard of Uyghur and knew nothing of Xinjiang.

I heard more and more about some of the hardships their families went through with their Han classmates when they were children. As I met Uyghur adults connected to these students and others in the Bay Area, I heard incredible stories of discrimination and oppression. This was before anyone talked about genocide. Then in 2016, I went back to university and completed my PhD in Human Rights Education. As a human rights educator, I teach all about social justice. All my students know about Uyghurs.

In 2017, news of the camp and everything else started to hit the news. I have been following all this news carefully since 2017. [When] I decided that I had to write my dissertation, but I felt that this issue had not been given enough attention. As China continues to deny everything, I felt an obligation to myself and the Uyghur community here that I have become friends with. [as] A Russian-born Jew who came to the United States as a child because of religious persecution in my own family. [with] Holocaust, I grew up hearing “never again!”and here we are and it’s happening [again]I hope my paper will be used as part of advocacy.

RFA: When we talk about genocide, most people tend to associate it with mass murders like those that occurred during World War II. And some experts refuse to call it genocide. What are your thoughts on this?

Renberg: It’s not. that is not correct. [it fits] The internationally accepted definition of genocide. This was intentionally created by the United Nations after the Holocaust to prevent these things from happening again.genocide convention [contains] The internationally accepted definition of genocide, signed by China.genocide convention [has] It’s a list of what can be considered genocide, and you can see that everything on the list is taking place in China right now. I think there is a common misconception that genocide simply means the mass murder of people, but in reality it is any act or series of acts aimed at destroying an ethnic group.

Here again the same pattern of expropriation, oppression and destruction of ethnic groups. China is not only controlling the population, separating children and families, but destroying Uyghur culture. This is something I feel people don’t talk about. There is much debate about issues related to forced labor and economic issues. However, looking at what is happening and what has been going on for years, it is clear that Uyghur culture and identity are being deliberately destroyed. [with] The destruction of mosques and cemeteries, restrictions on naming children, bans on Islam-related practices, bans on growing beards, etc., all of which I suggest are mechanisms of Uyghur population and social control. increase. The management and destruction of Uyghur identity, which is also part of the genocide.

RFA: What are the similarities and differences between the Holocaust that happened 70 years ago and the Uyghur genocide?

Renberg: The big difference is that when the Holocaust happened, many people didn’t know it was happening until it was too late. But now the world knows what’s going on. A great deal of information has come from scholars, journalists, eyewitnesses and camp survivors.There are so many coherent testimonies — hundreds of coherent testimonies — that it feels like there is no excuse in the world right now. feel [that’s] It’s been going on since at least 2017.

People deny this because of economic ties with China, especially the Belt and Road [Initiative]All countries that China already builds infrastructure in now owe China. This is really a matter of denial that puts economic interests ahead of human rights. It is a very dangerous way for the international community to deal with this kind of problem.

We can now see that other countries allied with China are doing with impunity what is causing public suffering. I fear this will make other authoritarian regimes around the world feel like they can do whatever they want with impunity and without consequences. .

RFA: In your paper, you write that Uyghurs in the diaspora believe that China’s genocidal crimes began relatively long ago. why do they believe this?

Renberg: I ​​completely trust what the diaspora Uyghurs are saying.I see no reason for them to lie. and has lost contact with most of his family. There is ample historical and current evidence that this is China’s goal. All these actions they are taking in Chinese society seem to show that they do not respect the Uyghur life, culture and identity.

RFA: Given China’s power and global silence, what can members of the Uyghur diaspora do to try to stop the atrocities?

Renberg: This raises a whole other issue of fear of persecution for relatives of those still in East Turkistan. What I have heard widely from diaspora Uyghurs is that they recognize that their activities, their resistance to Chinese state violence, are limited by the fear of retribution against their relatives, and that people are directly threatened. It means that there is [so that] They quit politics.Uyghurs from Diaspora around the world, World Uyghur Congress, Uyghur Human Rights Project, Campaign

Uighurs have actively done what they can by raising their voices and organizing protests. We really need to remember that they are doing it at the risk of themselves and their families. has been very proactive in cooperating with various world governments, such as issuing [but] Still, there has been little reaction from the international community.

Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.