Uyghur immigrant Hamid Kerim escaped persecution in China and became a successful businessman in the United States. But not many Uyghur people, including his own family, can say the same.
In 1997, Kerim’s brother led a protest asking the Chinese government to free the Uyghur people — a group of about 12 million that lives in northwest China — from oppression. As a result, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail. However soon after he was released, he was forced into a “re-education camp” for the Uyghur population.
Kerim, now the owner of the Dolan Uyghur Restaurant in Washington, D.C., reflects on the time he was blacklisted in China for his Muslim identity.
“I had a good friend working in the government, and he told me that I could face the same problem too. So in April of 2017, I came to the United States to start a new life,” said Kerim.
In 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered that all religions should be of Chinese origin. This ostracized the Uyghur people, who are predominately Muslim.
“Jewish people experienced genocide one time and the entire world said we cannot let this happen again,” said the restaurant owner. “Now in 2017, genocide starts happening again America has accepted that Uyghur’s are experiencing genocide because of the CCP, but there has been no action in 2 to 3 years. For my motherland, the genocide continues.”
Human rights groups in the U.S., such as the Uyghur American Association, are concerned that the situation is worsening as China has detained thousands of Uyghurs in camps.
The nation’s “re-education camps” were built in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where most Uyghurs live. The Chinese Communist Party has targeted Muslim groups by also destroying mosques throughout the state.
Organizations have accused the Chinese Communist Party of cultural erasure, some noting that the nation has twisted the knife deeper while hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.