A new report from the UHRP and Bahram K. Sintash reveals new evidence about China’s horrendous crimes against the Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic people in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang, China). In the brutal campaign to eradicate the Uyghur identity, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has targeted the Uyghurs’ practice of Islam.
Uyghur activist Bahram Sintash and other panelists presented their findings on #CCP’s brutal campaign on eradicating the #Uyghur identity & religion as detailed in the report titled “Demolishing Faith: The Destruction & Desecration of Uyghur #Mosques & Shrines”.
UHRP: Are there indeed too many mosques in the Uyghur region as China claims?
Bahram Sintash: On the world’s stage, China claims that they are protecting Uyghur and other minorities’ religious rights. They support their claim by citing the existence of over 24,300 mosques in the Uyghur region. This is a baseless claim.
The official number of mosques has doubled since 1950, while the Uyghur population has tripled according to official data. Taking into account the 1.8 million Kazakh Muslims, 1 million Hui Muslims and 200,000 Kyrgyz Muslims, the total Muslim population in the region is about 14.3 million. When calculated, it is easy to see that while there were 338 Muslims per mosque in the 1950s, in 2015 there were roughly 588 Muslims per mosque. Compare this to Pakistan, which has 1.3 million mosques for a population of 197 million, or 1 mosque per 148 people.
UHRP: What is your estimate of the number of mosques destroyed?
Bahram Sintash: The Uyghur region’s territory is divided into 14 prefectures, 4 prefectural level cities, 99 counties, 24 county-level cities, and 1,337 townships and 13,446 villages. The Uyghur region is the largest Chinese administrative division, spanning over 1.6 million square kilometers, equaling 4.47 times Germany’s land mass. Distances between villages and towns are far, and it is not easy for Muslim farmers to go to the town centers and neighbor villages for everyday prayer. That is why of the 24,300 mosques and other religious sites are in the region many are smaller mosques in villages for everyday religious practices, funeral services and other religious activities.
Some media reports quote local residents estimating 80% of mosques in towns and villages have been demolished. This matches what was told to me during interviews I conducted with Uyghurs living overseas who had left towns and villages in different parts of the region after 2017.
All of the mosques in this small city were affected. I believe that if you take a conservative estimate that 80% of the mosques around the Uyghur region have been affected, that would mean that as many as 10,000 to 15,000 mosques have been affected by the campaign. This includes both those that have been completely and partially demolished, as well as those with architectural elements removed.
UHRP: Why did China keep some iconic mosques in major cities from being destroyed while demolishing others?
Bahram Sintash: Although China demolished some small and large mosques in major cities, they left some alone in cities such as Korla, Kashgar, Urumchi and Ghulja. In one instance, I found that while there is evidence of three large mosques being demolished in Korla city, the Korla Jama Mosque, the largest and the oldest in the city, has survived. Authorities, however, have removed all the domes and minarets from the historic mosque, symbols representing Islam as well as the arches above the windows. According to my research on the Korla Jama Mosque, this mosque is one of the “selected” tourist destinations of Korla city. Therefore, the government kept the Korla Jama Mosque not for the sake of local Uyghur Muslim communities and their prayer needs, but as preselected tour locations to show as evidence of the government’s “protection” of Islam in the city, to lie to the international community and reporters.
A copy of the detailed report can be obtained via the below link on the UHRP website.
Here is the link to the video of the presentation and panel discussion.