As many Australian Muslims gathered with households and pals throughout the holy month of Ramadan, Rayhangul Abliz was feeling responsible about celebrating the Islamic holy month.

The Uyghur mom of three, who moved to Melbourne 11 years in the past, has fond recollections of spending Ramadan together with her mother and father in Atush, a metropolis in China’s north-western Xinjiang area.

However Ramadan has been a fraught time for Ms Abliz since 2017, when she misplaced contact with a lot of her family members.

Ms Abliz stated she later discovered from her pals in Atush that her mother and father and a number of members of the family have been detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang, which China refers to as vocational coaching centres.

“This celebration is meant to be [about] happiness, [but it’s] simply unbelievable unhappiness and disappointment,” she stated.

A huge detention complex in Xinjiang seen by satellite, it has a high perimeter wall with watchtowers.
Ms Abliz succeeded in contacting her mother and father in 2018, however that was their final name. (

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A latest report by Human Rights Watch said the Chinese language authorities has dedicated and is constant to decide to “crimes towards humanity” towards Uyghurs, Kazakhs and different Turkic communities in Xinjiang. 

Alleged abuses embrace mass surveillance, mass arbitrary detention, compelled disappearances, sexual violence and compelled labour.

Though the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Australia this 12 months enabled Ms Abliz to go to pals throughout Ramadan, she discovered it onerous to be joyful understanding her mother and father have been unable to do the identical.

A child rests near the entrance to a mosque where a banner in red reads "Love the party, Love the country".
A banner outdoors a Xinjiang mosque reads: “Love the social gathering, Love the nation”.(

AP: Ng Han Guan, File

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The ABC has contacted the Chinese language overseas ministry and its embassy in Australia to ask in regards to the destiny of Ms Abliz’s mother and father. 

Fasting as a forbidden phrase

A young Uyghur woman looks at the camera smiling.
Adila Yarmuhammad says there may be “survivor’s guilt” amongst younger Uyghurs in Australia for celebrating Ramadan.(

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Adila Yarmuhammad, a 20-year-old Adelaide-born Uyghur, has been instructing her youthful siblings about Ramadan customs this month.  

She stated it was vital to go on cultural traditions, particularly as many within the Adelaide neighborhood have misplaced contact with their households and pals in Xinjiang since 2017.

“Some folks even haven’t got entry to speak to their very own kids,” she stated.

Ms Yarmuhammad stated the lack of connections made Ramadan a tragic time for her and the neighborhood, because it was meant to be about “connecting with God and folks round you”.

“And it makes lots of people even really feel responsible for with the ability to have fun Ramadan the best way that we’re in Australia, as a result of loads of [Uyghur] folks in Xinjiang are fairly spiritual, or even a lot extra spiritual than [us who] are right here in Australia,” she stated.

Fasting from dawn to sundown is a core tenet of Islam, however Chinese language authorities have characterised the follow  — together with different shows of spiritual affiliation, together with beards, headscarves, common prayers and avoidance of alcohol — as indicative of extremism.

Earlier than 2017, Ms Yarmuhammad stated her household in Adelaide may nonetheless repeatedly have video chats with different members of the family in Xinjiang throughout Ramadan.

However they might keep away from speaking about Ramadan explicitly, solely in obscure phrases.

“They would inform us that they awakened very early within the morning as we speak. And to us, we perceive that as, sure, they’re fasting as we speak as a result of they get up early,” she stated. 

China’s narrative on Ramadan in Xinjiang

Beijing has pushed again towards widespread accusations it’s suppressing spiritual freedom for Muslims.

On the second day of Ramadan this 12 months, China’s state information company Xinhua printed an English-language article about Uyghur Muslims observing the holy month on the Ak Mosque in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

Visitors pose for photos outside a mosque in Xinjiang
Guests pose for pictures outdoors the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar throughout a government-organised go to for overseas journalists throughout Ramadan.(

AP: Mark Schiefelbein

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It stated “roughly 300 Muslims” attended the Ak Mosque to hope on the primary day of Ramadan. One other Xinhua report quoted native imams as saying Muslims in Xinjiang have been celebrating Ramadan “usually and freely”.

However media stories, rights watchdogs and consultants on ethnic minorities in China say Muslims residing in China are dealing with mounting limitations on the flexibility to practise their faith.

The Australian Strategic Coverage Institute estimated in 2020 that some 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed or broken, largely since 2017.

Muslim minorities outdoors Xinjiang such because the Hui and Utsuls have additionally reported state-imposed restrictions on their spiritual follow and locations of worship.

In 2019, authorities advised companies in Beijing to take away Arabic script and Muslim symbols, together with indicators indicating halal certification.

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“Beneath Xi Jinping, this new period of type of autocratic authoritarianism, it is more and more tough for Chinese language Muslims to practise their faith, notably throughout delicate instances, like Ramadan,” stated James Leibold, an affiliate professor at La Trobe College and an knowledgeable on ethnic minorities in China.

“And so typically they are going to parade out a small group of Muslims, for instance, throughout the begin of Ramadan … [to] make false claims about how anyone can practise their constitutionally-protected proper to non secular freedom.”

Students at Xinjiang Islamic Institute
Chinese language authorities insist Uyghur Muslims are free to practise their faith.(

AP: Mark Schiefelbein

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Alim Osman, president of Uyghur Affiliation of Victoria, stated many Uyghur Muslims “felt fortunate” to have the ability to have fun Ramadan in Australia freely.  

“Australia is a free and democratic nation, so we are able to absolutely categorical ourselves anyway we are able to,” Mr Osman stated.  

A Uyghur man wearing a traditional colourful stitched shirt and pink blazer with a Uyghur flag pin.
Alim Osman, president of Uyghur Affiliation Victoria, says China has restricted free expression of religions. (

ABC Information: Jarrod Fankhauser

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“So solely the expression needs to be aligned with [the] Chinese language Communist Occasion’s personal narrative, which is the social gathering needs to be primary.”

Chinese language-Australian Muslims embrace freedom of faith

A Chinese man sits next two a Pakistani woman, with two kids in between.
Andy Chan is completely satisfied to see his son obtain his fasting targets this Ramadan. (

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Andy Chan, a Hong Kong-Australian born and raised in New South Wales, transformed to Islam 12 years in the past.

This Ramadan, his 10-year-old son joined him and his Pakistani spouse to quick and pray.

“I am very pleased with him,” Mr Chan stated.

Mr Chan stated his mother and father had no spiritual background, nor curiosity in conventional Chinese language customs equivalent to worshipping ancestors.

However after they discovered about Mr Chan’s conversion to Islam, they have been “supportive”.

Mr Chan stated his mother and father additionally made modifications, equivalent to avoiding going to eating places that served pork after they ate collectively.

Yahya Ye, who moved to Sydney from Beijing and transformed to Islam 10 years in the past, is a committee member on the Chinese language Talking Muslim Affiliation Australia (CSMAA).

Mr Ye advised the ABC he loved with the ability to have fun Ramadan in a multicultural neighborhood, the place he would collect with different Muslims and go to the aged.

A Chinese Muslim sits next to a dining table.
Yahya Ye says Ramadan is a time for getting collectively.(

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“There are various Muslims right here, so should you quick right here or be a part of group prayers, you will really feel very heat, as a result of there are many Muslims round. It is a huge neighborhood right here in Sydney,’ he stated.  

Mr Ye additionally stated the length from dawn to sundown was round 12 hours in Australia this 12 months, which was “good” for fasting.

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