World Bank ends funding to controversial Uighur schools in China

"China's treatment of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region has come under growing scrutiny". (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 11 November 2019

World Bank ends funding to controversial Uighur schools in China

  • “Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed,” the World Bank said in a statement

WASHINGTON: The World Bank announced on Monday it was ending a project to fund vocational schools in China following allegations of mistreatment of minority Muslim Uighurs.
The World Bank launched another review of the program in late August after Foreign Policy magazine reported that a school that benefited from a tranche of the $50 million loan to China bought “barbed wire, gas launchers, and body armor.”
The Washington-based development lender said it launched another review in the wake of the charges but “did not substantiate the allegations.”
However, “In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced.”
“Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed,” the World Bank said in a statement.
China’s treatment of the Uighurs — a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority concentrated in the tightly-controlled northwestern Xinjiang region — has come under growing scrutiny.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been interned in re-education camps in Xinjiang, where they are being tortured and forced to renounce their religion.
China initially denied the existence of the camps before admitting to running what it called “vocational education centers,” which it presented as necessary to combat religious extremism and boost employment.
World Bank funding to five schools in the project will, however, continue.


Biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim south bans women, causing outcry

Updated 22 January 2020

Biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim south bans women, causing outcry

MOSCOW: The biggest swimming pool in Russia’s Muslim-majority North Caucasus region has banned women, prompting anger from rights activists and others who have accused the sports complex of discrimination.
The Anzhi Arena spa-complex near Makhachkala, the capital of the internal Russian republic of Dagestan, announced its policy change on the Instagram social media platform on Monday.
“From Jan. 20 onwards attendance of the pool is open only to men,” it said.
The decision has sparked heated debate among residents of the mountainous region, where traditional social values and conservative interpretations of Islam often put it at odds with large parts of European Russia where more liberal values prevail.
The swimming pool said its decision to deny entry to women, who were previously only admitted on Fridays for women-only sessions, was financially motivated.
“Unfortunately, there were hardly any visitors during women’s days,” the RIA news agency cited the spa complex as saying on its Instagram page, which has now been set to private.
“Specifically because of this, after a thorough analysis and evaluation, the difficult decision was made that keeping days for women open in our pool was not viable.”
It is common in the North Caucasus region to find sports facilities offering men and women access on separate days of the week. But a complete ban on women using the pool goes against the Russian constitution, activists said.
Fatima Abdulkhalimova, 31, said she could no longer use the pool despite working there as an instructor.
“I do demonstrations, show people the correct technique, and now I’m not allowed to enter the water,” Abdulkhalimova, a former professional swimmer, said.
“I think it’s to do with religion, I believe it is because a lot of religious guys come here,” she said.
Access to the pool had initially been permitted for both men and women, she said, before being restricted to Fridays only for women.
If having women-only days was not financially viable, then why not simply return to the earlier, mixed-gender system, Abdulkhalimova questioned.
Three women from Dagestan have now filed a complaint to the regional Prosecutor’s Office accusing the sports complex of unconstitutional gender-based discrimination, a copy of the document, shared by Olga Gnezdilova, a lawyer with the Rights Initiative Project, showed.
One of the complainants is Svetlana Anokhina, editor of a local online media platform focused on women’s rights. She said the practice of separating public spaces by gender was on the rise.
“I have a daughter here and she has three daughters too. I’m angry because... I’m afraid for them. I don’t want them to live in a special ghetto for women,” Anokhina, who is based in Makhachkala, said.
One woman, who said she frequently used the pool, said she had been refused a membership pass last month.
Commenting on a post on Instagram she wrote that the pool’s administrators had told her she couldn’t buy a pass because there was not enough locker room space for men.