Dr. Olsi is an Albanian historian, specializing in the history of Islam, nationalism and modernity.
Nadir Ali Wani is a frequent contributor to The Taiwan Times based in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
In this transcript of a recent interview with Dr. Olsi, they look at China’s Belt & Road project and its implications for India, Pakistan and the wider Anglo-American world.
They first discuss the silence of the Muslim World towards the Uyghur issue, and seemingly contradictory support that the Evangelical anti-Muslim government of the United States gives to the Muslims of China.
The Taiwan Times made the decision to release this transcript – only with minor edits for clarity – out of respect for the English used by Dr. Olsi, and to leave it as close as possible to the original.
Nadir Ali: As an Albanian Historian, what is your interest in China and what drove you to study the Xinxiang Uighur Issue?
Dr. Olsi: Well, I am Muslim and a historian, seeing and observing different articles about situation of Muslims in China.
I have a particular interest to learn exactly what is going on. We professional historians have a rule when we want to investigate something, we must look (at) sources when we get news from secondary sources.
We are not as reliable when we go and check ourselves.
Allah shows Muslims in Surat-UL-Alhujrat Allaha (and) tells us in the Quran when we must judge people, we must make sure what we are saying and thinking about them.
Before we came into a conclusion (and) this is a Quranic order, for this reason, in July of 2019, I approached (the) Chinese Embassy in Tirana, Albania.
I assured my profile there to my Chinese friends and more ever I am critical to US imperialism. I told my Chinese friends I am (seeing) the stories coming from western media outlets about the situation of Muslims in Xinjiang.
So I went to Chinese embassy with good intention (and) I told them I want to visit Xinxiang myself to (see) the realty (on) the ground myself (and) after my visit I am going to produce articles and probably even a documentary about what is going with the Muslims of Xinjiang.
The reason that push me to go and investigate the situation (of) Uighur’s in Xinjiang was in way waving but honest as well.
I was thinking that western media are lying and the other hand I was thinking there was an attack against China to legitimize its relations with (the) world and with the Muslim world.
So, this was the reason why I approached Chinese embassy in Tirana.
Few days later they invited me to take part in an official journalist tour which was sponsored by State council information office of China and Xinjiang. I joined the group of around 19 journalists.
Nadir Ali: You visited China’s “re-education’’ centres to expose “western propaganda” coming out exposing the concentration camps – why?
Dr. Olsi: Apart from free that the Chinese government invited us, worst of it was to visit re-education centres of China, or what China calls vocational training centres.
But in the west (people) call them concentration camps.
I was invited by our Chinese friends; I was trusted journalist on their part and good intentions were to support China.
So, this is the way how I manage to enter in two vocational training centres – one was in the city of (Exudate?), another was in Kashgar.
Nadir Ali: What was the condition of the youth in the concentration camps?
Dr. Olsi: Visiting concentration camps was the breaking point with China but even other journalist who were with us among them were two Indians, a Turkish journalist, two Afghanis, one Bangladeshi, one Pakistani, around five who were from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, (and) when you go to Xinjiang you see the regions from the streets and outside things look very perfect, you see massive development and you will see people working so the image you get is very deceptive but (it) happens.
When you go with the life of Uyghurs, when you visit these concentration campuses you understand you are coming to upper faith regime.
What China is doing with the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang is even worse (than) what is being done to Palestinians or what India does to Kashmiris.
In Kashmir, as far as I know, there are no concentration camps, you can pray to Allah in the mosques (even though) of course you have state violence (from) time (to) time.
But the situation in Xinjiang was much more horrible.
In these so called vocational training centres what we find out Chinese authorities were taking ever Uyghur or other Turkish Muslims who have this religious identity – e.g., if you have to live in china with a beard, you won’t have any access to WhatsApp, Skype, or any social networking sites because in China everything is banned.
You have only WeChat in China (and) Chinese apps.
Moreover your communication is monitored by the police 24 hours (a day).
If a Chinese will see a person who has a beard and has a Muslim name like you (Nadir Ali), you will be immediately detained and sent to these concentration camps.
They are going to shave you and they are going to renounce your religion and identity.
They will probably force you to eat pork.
They will prohibit you from praying (to) Allah
They will force you many times to shout Long Live Xinjiang and the Communist Party of China, and they will force you not to speak your native language.
But they will force you (to) speak Chinese.
This is what they were doing to Uyghur Muslims in these concentration camps that we visited.
By the way this is not only with Uyghur’s. China goes against every Muslim that lives in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang like Kashmir is a Muslim majority region. Xinjiang is an occupied territory which before had its own empire in history.
The situation is very similar with Kashmir in India, which was annexed by India.
But the policy assimilation that Chinese are doing against the Muslims of East Turkestan are far worse than the policies of India in Kashmir.
What the Chinese are doing they are forcibly trying to assimilate the Muslims of Xinjiang who are of Uyghur, Kazakh, Turk(ish), Tatar and other Turkmen origin.
These people are the natives of Xinjiang, but China has built massive concentration camps.
(This is )where (they are) taking people from (the) streets who have Muslim identity, sending them in these concentration camps.
When I was in Xinjiang (there were) two Indian journalists from Delhi (and) they were Hindus and one told me, Olsi, when the most right wing Hindu that we have in our country do not even dream of doing what China is doing to Muslims of Xinjiang.
So what China is doing in these concentration camps, taking Muslims from the streets and sending them to these concentration camps and forcing them to renounce Islam and their Turkish identity, so this is a cultural genocide.
This is Pt. I of the transcript. Pt. II will be released tomorrow, November 19th.
Nadir Ali Wani is a resident of Hawal in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
He holds a Masters’s degree in Conflict Studies and International Relations from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Mr. Ali has an abiding interest in the study of conflicts in South Asia with a particular interest in international politics to do with China, Islam, and Kashmir.
He worked as a Research Assistant to Professor Amitabh Mattoo at JNU, New Delhi while conducting dialogue with various members of society, and with the Kashmiri leadership.
He is a prolific writer to date published across Europe, the USA, Indonesia, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Ali is currently Director of the Center for Peace and Justice, a research-based group in Srinagar, which is a non-profit organization known for its efforts in youth development in Kashmir.
He has no political affiliation.
Edited by Lisa Conklin.