“Like We Were Enemies in a War": China's Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in XinjiangJune 11, 2021
Amnesty International interviewed numerous people who said mosques in their towns and villages had been destroyed or repurposed. Many former detainees reported seeing dramatic changes in their villages when they returned home after months of detention, including the destruction or repurposing of mosques and other cultural artefacts. Baurzhan told Amnesty what it was like when he saw his village for the first time after being released from the camp. “They removed crescents from every mosque… and from the furniture in homes… Now every house had to have a picture of Xi Jinping. Before we had a picture of a mosque,” he said. Aitugan told Amnesty many of the mosques in his area were destroyed and restaurants were no longer allowed to display halal signs. “It’s like they are trying to erase Islam,” he said. Aidar told Amnesty his township used to have 15 mosques, including two in his village, but that 13 had been repurposed:
Only two mosques are operating now. Thirteen closed down… Only a very small number of people still pray [at the remaining mosques]. They are all very old… I couldn’t even pray at home. They were monitoring me. I was afraid… Some [of the closed] mosques are empty, some are clothing factories… but all minarets have been demolished and Islamic decorations removed… Both mosques in my village [including the one still operating] had minarets demolished.
Witnesses also mentioned that Islamic crescents and Arabic script had been removed from the remaining mosques as well as from other cultural and religious sites, including gravesites. “Some mosques were demolished… others had crescents taken off and Chinese flags put up in their place… Crescents were also taken off gravesites. For example, my mother died, and my brother had to take the crescent off the gravestone. Officials in the village made him do it,” Abzal said. “Part of my job was to take crescents off of Muslim gravesites… I used to have to paint over the Arabic words… I painted over my relative’s gravestone,” Mehmet said.