The situation in the Uyghur Region has become so dire that the world cannot remain silent. Multiple governments have now labeled China's actions toward Uyghurs and other Muslims a genocide, including the US State Department and the parliaments in Canada, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Belgium. Many Uyghurs have been detained without charge in so-called "re-education camps" or sentenced to lengthy prison terms on trumped-up charges. The ranks of the detained and imprisoned include famous scientists, writers, poets, clergymen, and even students who have returned from abroad. Several governments and corporations have now formally banned the import of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang out of a justifiable concern that they are produced with forced labor in these camps or prisons.
These conditions not only constitute a human rights crisis, but place Uyghur language and culture under existential threat. The Chinese government has closed all Uyghur-medium schools, flouting its commitment in the PRC Constitution to allow all the peoples of China to "use and develop" their languages. Uyghurs are being compelled to adopt Chinese language and culture in schools and in the camps. Uyghurs and other Muslims in the region are forbidden to wear beards or headscarves, and many are denied the right to pray, despite the Constitutionally guaranteed "freedom of religious belief."
Indiana University has long been an acknowledged leader in the study of Islam, of Central Asia, and of Uyghurs in particular. Given that Beijing has remained unmoved by critical reportage and international condemnation, it is vital for us to document the ongoing crisis in Xinjiang and make it known to the wider public.