Column: LED Curtain

By: Ali Majidi

There’s a stark contrast between China’s Olympic ceremony and the Uyghurs in internment camps

The Olympics is the oldest and greatest athletic event in history, where all of the chivalric people around the globe who have defeated their national rivals, get together to represent their powers to the world and to wave their national flags on the summit of honor and glory. They should dance like a swan on the ice; fly with skis like an eagle, inspired from Finnish soldiers in World War II; remember the Call of the Wild and talk to dogs; speed up like the Apollo down the iced track and do their best in the hockey team. All of them are fighting with their whole spirit to even for one moment make their people happy.

Now this honorable tournament is held in China, the land of dragons flying through the skies protecting the great wall from the dark spirits passing on the tea farms and herbs that come from the heavens that can cure any kind of disease.

Each Olympics begins with a stunning opening ceremony and this one was truly beautiful and creative. Zhang Yimou, the director of the Chinese opening ceremony, used some Chinese traditions and symbols to show their rich culture.

For example, the ancient poem featuring the Yellow River, Mother River of China, representing a unique image of all winter games with technology and displaying a background of spring. Four hundred performers holding green LED willows to illustrate this season.

“Faster, Higher, Stronger, Together–” a peaceful slogan which tells us that it is the time to put aside our political conflicts and he also strengthens this message by John Lennon’s Imagine song. During the snowflake scene, Zhang wanted to bring west and east together. He took this view from the English saying “no two snowflakes are alike” and an eighth century Chinese poem that illustrates a snowing canopy as a setting for gathering and union.

The basis of all of these scenes with its light and color was to awe the audience at this ceremony. My point of these describing and explanations was to pull you down where I wanted to deceive you and think only about the beauty and sport aspect of the Olympics.

Now that the Olympics are over, and the LED curtain has shut off, what do we see?

There are currently twelve million Uyghurs living in China in an area called Xinjiang, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). They are Muslim, ethnically close in relation to central Asiatic groups. There has been reports of Uyghur demonstrations since 2009, that spiked between 2013 and 2015, which has led Chinese authorities to create mandatory “Sinicization” programs, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Being Muslim is not a crime. But the XUAR authorities and their “Sinicization” programs have made it almost illegal for Uyghurs to express themselves culturally. “The XUAR government enacted a law in 2017 that prohibits “expressions of extremification” and placed restrictions upon dress and grooming, traditional Uyghur customs, and adherence to Islamic dietary laws (halal). Thousands of mosques in Xinjiang reportedly have been closed, demolished, or “Sinicized,” whereby Islamic motifs and Arabic writings have been removed,” details the Congressional Research Service in their report.

Thousands of Muslims have been interned at “re-education” camps. Between one million and 1.8 million Muslims, mostly Uyghurs, were interned at these camps and “held on the basis of past religious, cultural, scholarly, social, and online activities that the government now deems as extremist, also referred to as “pre-criminal offenses…” continues the report. Conditions for release include renouncing their Islamic faith and customs.

Some detainees reported they faced unsanitary conditions, psychological pressure, food deprivation, and sexual abuse. This situation is so depressing I cannot find appropriate words to write it down. It is much worse for women.

According to a BBC investigation, women detained in these camps, like Tursunay Ziawudun, said that women were taken every night, raped and tortured by Chinese men.

They have their future and dreams, only thinking of getting out of this hell. This is their wish not graduating from the university with the best scores or going to Napoli to eat Italian pizza or Paris to find love. I’m just writing about the sexual violence and have no idea what they are just like you no one can imagine those places. No one wants to know what is going on with their children, even John Lennon.

All of our thoughts were about the Olympics and the competition between heroes. This is exactly the repetition of history. 1936 in Nazi Germany with a glorious and ridiculous opening ceremony covered by lies to forget the Jewish people. It seems that we didn’t take lessons from our fathers because we misremember. That’s our problem. I believe that we people are like mosquitos. We are attracted to the light and hypnotized by colors. I asked many students here in Findlay what is the purpose of the Olympics and none of them mentioned bringing peace and reminding the humans of humanity not animosity. Yes, you are here and they are in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it’s none of your business, but as Saadi Shirazi, one of the greatest Persian poets, said:

“Human beings are members of a whole, 

In creation of one essence and soul,

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain,

If you have no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain.”

So, tonight instead of putting your head on a pillow, write something on social media about those 20 million minority people. It won’t help too much, but one step is better than nothing.

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