In 1936, the Berlin Olympic Games were a platform for Nazi propaganda. This year, the Winter Games give China cover for its own ongoing genocide.
The 2022 Beijing Olympics opened this week. For the past three years, I have fought alongside fellow activists to call attention to the fact that the International Olympic Committee inappropriately gave Beijing the prestigious privilege of hosting the Olympics, again. This is despicable.
My people, the Uyghurs, an ethnic and predominantly Muslim minority, are victims of a genocide perpetrated by the Chinese regime for their cultural and ethnic identity. The IOC has decided to make themselves complicit in this genocide. They have condemned Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and more by refusing to respect basic human dignity. They put athletes at risk. They make it impossible to watch the Winter Games without engaging in complicity.
And we have seen that the sponsors of the Olympics have decided to press forward with their partnerships. These sponsors place profit over human lives. Broadcasters like NBC place profit over human lives. It is our duty now to make sure they feel the repercussions of their decisions by not watching these genocidal games.
I ask that you join me.
My own sister has been taken
I have been an activist since my days as a student in my homeland. I took part in the campaigns protesting the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Today, I am doing my advocacy work at the cost of my own sister’s freedom. In September 2018, my sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, was taken by the Chinese regime in retaliation for my activism. Only in December of 2020 did my family learn she was secretly sentenced on false charges designed to give the regime impunity in punishing Uyghurs.
When I think about her, I can only think about how she has been treated. Whether she is still alive. If she’s languishing in a cell or if she’s forced to toil away, making the very same consumer goods that you and I buy without a second thought. Is my sister making the uniforms or the souvenirs for Beijing 2022? Despite clear warnings from history, the IOC decided to repeat history.
The Berlin-Beijing Games
The 1936 Berlin Games were known as the "Nazi Olympics." More than merely a sporting event, these Games gave Germany a platform for Nazi propaganda. The Nazis already operated concentration camps, just as China operates and deniesthe existence of Uyghur concentration camps. The Nazis promoted a false imageof a free and open society before the Berlin Games, just as China attempts to portray with Uyghurs.
The entire world is well aware of China’s atrocities. We have no excuse.
Today, more than a million Uyghurs are detained in concentration camps, where they face torture, sexual violence and brainwashing designed to “reeducate” them. Uyghurs are forced to renounce their identity, language and culture or face imprisonment. Uyghur women in particular are subject to cruel, reprehensible tortures: Survivors recount sexual violence at the hands of the guards.
Uyghur women are forcibly sterilized by at least the thousands to halt the Uyghur birth rate in its tracks, and destroy the population. They are subject to forced abortions, their bodies the battleground of this genocide. They are forced to agree to invasive IUDs. The Uyghur population has plummeted over the past few years, as a result of China’s genocidal actions.
Silence enables human rights abuses
Tens of thousands of Uyghurs – hundreds of thousands including other ethnic minorities – are coerced into forced labor picking cotton and mining quartz.
Today, 20% of cotton garments in the world contain fiber from the Uyghur region, and nearly 45% of all solar panels are tainted by Uyghur forced labor, because of Uyghur production of a primary material.
Even now, the IOC’s official supplier for uniforms is Anta sportswear, a Chinese apparel brand linked to Uyghur forced labor. And Olympics sponsor Intel backed away from its request that suppliers ensure their sourcing be free of Uyghur forced labor after a backlash in China.
The IOC refuses to acknowledge human rights abuses by China, enabling the regime as in the case of female tennis star Peng Shuai. By failing to engage with human rights activists in good faith, the IOC is an active accomplice in whitewashing the Chinese regime’s reputation. We have no confidence in the IOC – and neither should its athletes, sponsors, or you. To do nothing is to have blood on our hands. The future will never forgive us. We are all responsible for what happens next.
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