Just one week after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the world blinds itself to genocide.
The 2022 Winter Olympics are being held in Beijing, China despite significant evidence of China’s crimes against humanity.
In an extravagant yet deceiving opening ceremony, Dinigeer Yilamujian, an Uyghur cross country skier, delivers the ceremonial flame—a strategic message from the Chinese government (NBC). This ceremony comes at a fragile time for China’s international image, in which China faces accusations of ethnic cleansing against the Uyghur minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
What’s going on in Xinjiang?
Xinjiang is the traditional home of the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Central Asia (Britannica). Most Chinese Uyghurs are Muslim.
Under the false guise of repressing Islamic radicalism, China excuses incarcerating Uyghurs in labor camps and “re-education” programs as a form of precaution, but the government’s fears of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ seem baseless. This so-called “precaution” extends to destroying mosques, attacking religious figures and freedoms, and the forced sterilization of women; presumably in order to reduce Uyghur birth rate and “purify” the Han majority population. While their parents are detained in internment camps, China abducts Uyghur children and places them in vocational schools where speaking their native Uyghur language is prohibited. The Chinese government employs torture, brainwashing, enslavement, re-education, mutilation, and murder of over one million Uyghers as “assimilation” policies that undoubtedly fall under the immoral umbrella of ethnic cleansing (BBC).
The Washington Post claims these tactics are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dystopian mission to merge China’s 50+ ethnic groups into a pure, homogenous national identity crafted around the Han majority culture (Washington Post).
China’s actions against the Uyghurs match all of the constituents outlined in Article II of the Genocide Convention, including forcibly reducing group birth rate and relocating children, inflicting physical and mental harm on the group, and murdering members of the group, yet China is rewarded by the International Olympic Committee by hosting this year’s winter games (UN).
How can the Olympics go on as planned while Uyghers are enslaved in internment camps, re-”educated”, mutilated, abused, and murdered? Our tolerance of and complacency in this genocide will only further harm the Uyghur people.
Berlin Olympics 1936
We’ve seen this before. Nazi Germany hosted the international games in 1936, less than a year after the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws; discriminatory rulings that legalized persecution of the Jews in Germany, and the harbinger of the largest organized genocide in history. Yet the international community turned a blind eye to growing European antisemitism and granted Hilter the international stage to promote pro-Nazi propoganda, display Aryan “supremacy” and hide history’s most systematic, pre-planned and meticulous genocide: The Holocaust. William Shire, a distinguished 20th century historian on Nazi Germany, once wrote: “The Olympic games held in Berlin in August 1936 afforded the Nazis a golden opportunity to impress the world with the achievements of the Third Reich, and they made the most of it.”
The 1936 Berlin Olympics set the backdrop for the massacre of millions of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and people with disabilities. Those that did not fit Hitler’s definition of “Aryan” were wiped from German society and the rest of Nazi-ruled Europe.
Today it is widely undisputed that it was wrong to allow Nazi Germany to hold such a signifcant international presence as it unrolled the blueprints for Aushwitz’s gas chambers. Yet, in 2022, we find ourselves at a similar crossroads.
Despite accusing China of committing genocide, the US will participate in the Olympics games under the semblance of a diplomatic boycott in which US officials will not attend. This, however, is nothing more than an empty display of disapproval. The winter games are written in Uyghur blood—and American athletes and companies will profit from it.
Since the Olympics have proceeded as planned, we must at least use this event as a learning opportunity to spotlight and advocate for the Uyghur cause.
As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, I feel a special connection, empathy, but most of all responsibility to the Uyghur cause. Raised with the principle of “never again,” I believe I have a moral obligation to the suffering of others; I never want to see the crimes of dehumanization, enslavement, and eradication touch another human being. When I was younger, I wondered how the world could allow such evils to persist and promised myself that I would have stood for what is right, against the wave of indifference. Here I am in a new generation, a new genocide. The historical trend toward national supremacy and oppression of minorities has given me the opportunity to prove my younger self right. How will I stand up against the mass murder of Uyghurs? My grandfather’s story will not be told in vain.
Because of our guiding values and shared experiences of diaspora, persecution, and genocide, it is imperative for us as Jews to stand up and stand STRONG against the ethnic cleansing of others. We will not be silent in the face of genocide and we will use our voice when others cannot speak up for themselves. Never Again.
Boycott the Olympics. Don’t be complicit in genocide.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can stand up for the Uyghurs, check out these amazing organizations. Together, we will make a difference!
Jewish Movement of Uyghur Freedom: https://jewishmovementforuyghurfreedom.org/
Berlin Beijing: https://www.berlinbeijingolympics.com/
Uyghur Human Rights Project: https://uhrp.org/
Uyghur NextGen Project: https://uyghurnextgen.org/about
“The views expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and not UCLA or ASUCLA Communications Board.”