The Uyghurs[note 2] (/?wi????rz, –??rz/ WEE-goorz, -?g?rz), alternatively spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. The Uyghurs are recognized as native[note 3] to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. They are one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities. The Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government as a regional minority and the titular people of Xinjiang.
The Uyghurs have traditionally inhabited a series of oases scattered across the Taklamakan Desert within the Tarim Basin. These oases have historically existed as independent states or were controlled by many civilizations including China, the Mongols, the Tibetans and various Turkic polities. The Uyghurs gradually started to become Islamized in the 10th century and most Uyghurs identified as Muslims by the 16th century. Islam has since played an important role in Uyghur culture and identity.
An estimated 80% of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs still live in the Tarim Basin. The rest of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs mostly live in Ürümqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, which is located in the historical region of Dzungaria. The largest community of Uyghurs living in another region of China are the Uyghurs living in Taoyuan County, in north-central Hunan. Significant diasporic communities of Uyghurs exist in other Turkic countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. Smaller communities live in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Australia, Russia and Sweden.
Since 2014, the Chinese government has subjected Uyghurs living in Xinjiang to widespread abuses that include forced sterilization and forced labor. Scholars estimate that at least one million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily detained in the Xinjiang internment camps since 2017; Chinese government officials claim that these camps, created under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping‘s administration, serve the goals of ensuring adherence to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideology, preventing separatism, fighting terrorism, and providing vocational training to Uyghurs. Several scholars and Western governments consider this policy to be genocide.
In August 2022, the United Nations released a report alleging that the Chinese government was committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs, which included physical and mental torture, slave labor, massive displacement, enforced sterilization and separation of children from their parents. The report was criticized by some activists for not calling the crimes a genocide. Many Uyghurs outside China saw it as a formal acknowledgement of the sufferings of Uyghurs in China, hoping it will add fuel to their campaign at the international level.