Forum

CMU organizations' statement on East Turkestan

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

We are motivated to speak following many dismaying reactions to the GSA's March 8, 2021 statement within the Carnegie Mellon University community. We recognize that the specifics of the GSA's statement are divisive and the tastefulness of many aspects are debatable. We are alarmed, however, by larger trends within Carnegie Mellon which were illustrated by this incident — specifically the perceived punishments for discussing the on-going atrocities in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang), and the widely expressed denial of these occurrences. Our central concern is ensuring truth, representation, and awareness continue to evolve at Carnegie Mellon, and that none of these pillars be stifled by any crowd reaction, no matter the size. To this end, we stand behind the following:

To the extent that the international community knows anything about events in the world over the last several decades, we acknowledge that the events mentioned in the third paragraph of the GSA's statement are true and accurately reported.

Of particular note, we recognize that there are systematic attempts to push the Uighur people and distinct cultures of East Turkestan into extinction — facts that could imply a cultural genocide and exploitation of an ethnicity for forced labor (for instance, [2 - 25]). The seriousness of these claims requires complete frankness in any community which dedicates itself to diversity, equity, inclusion, and general human rights. Members of Carnegie Mellon’s community must, at a minimum, continue to discuss these verified stories and spread cognizance of these issues. Not only are discourse and growth of understanding in line with the foundational values that any legitimate university should have, they are essential to ensure that all members of our community — especially those whose own lives are being radically reshuffled by the events cited — are not disserved by silence at Carnegie Mellon.

We are gravely concerned that recent reactions to the GSA's statement at Carnegie Mellon give a false message that those who speak supporting these reports’ veracity will face consequences, regardless of whether that signal was intentionally sent or not. Many reactions we observed have included vocal and deeply disturbing denials of facts — troubling responses which at best result from lack of prior informedness regarding the distressing accounts. In the face of these reactions and their magnitude, we believe that our statement — and continued efforts by Carnegie Mellon’s members, organizations, and administration — are adequate steps to ensure that the growing seeds of awareness and discourse are not stomped out.

Carnegie Mellon can, and should, lead by example in fostering a dynamic academic environment conducive to its core values and hopes — principles also broadly held by its community. We make our statement to aid in that pursuit, in order to counter fears which promote stagnation, increase silence, disserve underrepresented members of our community, and otherwise run counter to the core values of the university. Neither silence nor ignorance are virtuous, productive, or kind — they are often the default and easiest paths. It is up to all of us at Carnegie Mellon to ensure these are not the paths taken, especially when confronted by serious events that stand entirely antithetical to human dignity.

To sum up, this resolution by the Turkish Student Society (TUSO) and the Iranian Student Association (ISA) at Carnegie Mellon University calls on all members of this prestigious institution to recognize and denounce racism, discrimination, and religious intolerance in all their incarnations — and particularly in the outrageous forms being executed in East Turkestan.

Appendix: Referenced Material and Brief Overview of Claims
Reports of human right abuses in East Turkestan (aka Xinjiang) have been raised by numerous independent media outlets and international organizations, spanning multiple countries and cultural spheres. Reports cover an astonishingly wide range of practices apparently geared toward the erasure of the Uighur ethnicity and cultural identity, including, but not limited to: forced sterilization; forced abortion; involuntary reeducation camps for adults and children; forced labor; systematic rape and torture; mass surveillance; separating Uighur children from their extended families, including by involuntary adoption; compulsory housing of government overseers in Uighur family homes to enforce anti-religious, pro-party customs; thinning of the regional Uighur population density by coerced relocation to elsewhere across China; systematic attempts to erode Islam in East Turkestan by banning attendance of mosque, religious head-garb, and traditional phrases with religious etymologies (e.g., as-salamu alaykum), as well as compulsory consumption of haram nutriments (e.g., pork and alcohol); and destruction of mosques and landmarks indicative of the local cultures in East Turkestan. A small, representative sample of related reports are provided here in references [2 - 25].

[1] GSA’s March 8th Message On Anti-Asian Sentiment (The Wayback Machine).
[2] Uyghurs | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)
[3] Uyghurs for sale | Australian Strategic Policy Institute | ASPI
[4] WATCH: Undercover in the Most Dystopian Place in the World (vice.com)
[5] U.S. Declares China's Human Rights Abuses Against Muslim Uighurs 'Genocide' | Here & Now (wbur.org)
[6] Uighur Refugees Describe Conditions and the Crackdowns in Xinjiang (Moscow Times)
[7] Uighur Women Reportedly Sterilized to Suppress Population (Deutsche Welle, DW)
[8] Systematic Tracking and Arrests of Uighurs (DW)
[9] New Evidence of Arbitrary Oppression of the Uighurs (DW)
[10] Exploitation of Uighurs Called Modern-Day Slavery (DW)
[11] Video of Uighurs in Questionable Conditions (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC)
[12] Satellite Images Expose Forced Reeducation Camps for Uighurs (ABC)
[13] UN Demands Access to Uighur Region of East Turkestan (Al Jazeera)
[14] Leaked Internal Documents Show Details of Xinjiang Crackdown (Al Jazeera)
[15] Germany Raises Issue of Abuse of Uighurs’ Human Rights (Al Jazeera)
[16] UN Panel: One Million Muslim Uighurs Held in Secret Camps (Al Jazeera)
[17] Dutch Parliament Says Treatment of Uighurs is Genocide (Al Jazeera)
[18] Academics Condemn Reeducation Camps in Xinjiang and Urge Sanctions (Al Jazeera)
[19] Newlines Institute Calls Treatment of Uighurs Genocide (Al Jazeera)
[20] Overview of Uighur Reeducation Camps as of October 2018 (British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC)
[21] Who are the Uighurs and why is China being accused of genocide? (BBC)
[22] UK accuses China of 'gross' human rights abuses against Uighurs - BBC News
[23] Escapees Report of Reeducation Camps in East Turkestan (Haaretz)
[24] Report Accidentally Released Indicating Forced Relocation, Retraining of Uighurs (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC)
[25] Independent Report Calls Treatment of Uighurs Genocide (CBC)

Appendix: Student Organizations that Wish to Publicly Support this Statement:
The Arab Student Organization (ASO)
The International Student Union (ISU)
Mayur - South Asian Student Association (SASA)
The CMU Hillel Jewish Student Association (JSA)
SIAM (Thai Student Association)
The Spanish and Latin Student Association (SALSA)
The Muslim Student Association (MSA)