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Tiktok video by 3 Uyghur women goes viral

TikTok (Dreamstime/TNS)
January 30, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Leveraging the #ofcourse challenge on social media, a short video by three young Uyghur women talking about their cultural identity and persecution facing their people in China has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram, with millions of views.

In the 37-second video, the three women — ages 18, 20 and 21, all born and living in Germany — walk along a street in winter, delivering short statements, some humorous and some deadly serious.

It plays off the broader #ofcourse trend sweeping various social media platforms where individuals use the phrase “of course” to talk about their ethnicity, jobs or other topics.

“We are Uyghurs,” says the first woman. “Of course, we are always late.”

“We are Uyghurs,” says another. “Of course, we don’t have basic human rights.”

“We are Uyghurs,” says a third. “Of course, China is selling our organs.”

The video was posted on Jan. 20 by the Uyghur Youth Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Germany. It was produced following a recent pro-Uyghur demonstration in Munich, according to a report by Religion News Service.

It has since had over 3.2 million views on TikTok and 7.5 million hits on Instagram.

Using a bit of humor will help people pay attention to a grave topic, said Muqeddes Memet, 18, one of the women in the video who was interviewed by Radio Free Asia.

“The Uyghur crisis is a very urgent and serious topic,” she told RFA Uyghur. “If we add a little humor content, people will watch it. If we always talk about an urgent topic, people will get tired. If we add some jokes, they will pay better attention.”

Many Uyghurs living abroad who are active on social media have shared the video, saying it effectively captures and reflects the current situation of Uyghurs in line with social media trends.

The United States and other Western governments have accused China of conducting a genocide against the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, a 11-million strong ethnic group living in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.

‘Intriguing and shocking’

The women made the video after Zumretay Arkin, director of the Women’s Committee at the World Uyghur Congress, suggested they take advantage of the “of course” trend on social media, said Esma Memtimin, 20.

“We wanted to make two videos — one about humor, such as always being late and saying leghmen instead of spaghetti, and a separate one about human rights,” she said. “Both of them use the same trend.”

But they ended up combining them into one video “because it was more interesting, intriguing and shocking,” she said.

In response, they received many messages of support, with people saying, “You guys are doing great, how can we help you?” Memtimin said. She urged them to join their protests.

One viewer claimed the women worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, while Chinese viewers accused them of being terrorists and spreading lies, said Amine Tursun, 21, who was also part of the video.

Angelo Giuliano, a Hong Kong-based influencer who peddles Chinese propaganda against the United States, tweeted on X that “Uyghurs are so oppressed…. Cannot believe some people still fall for the Xinjiang genocide BS CIA stories.”

Tursan found that amusing. “We are just students in Germany and have nothing to do with the CIA,” she said.

The women said they have been attending workshops organized by the Uyghur Youth Initiative, founded in late 2022, which has between 40 and 60 members, all of whom are from Germany, except for a few from Asia. 

“Protesting is easier, but anyone can do it,” Memtimin said. “Our parents have been doing it, and it’s not hard in Germany.” 

“However, learning how to create an organization, approach problems and collaborate with others, as well as determining which sources are reliable, [are] challenging, so the workshops are very useful.”

The video ends with the same mix of humor and gravity.

“We are Uyghurs,” says one of the women. “Of course, we need four hours to prepare one dish.”

“We are Uyghurs,” says another. “Of course, we are suffering from a genocide in 2024.”