A 17-year-old girl claims she was blocked from her TikTok account on Monday after posting a viral video urging people to educate themselves on Muslim detention camps in China. But she says that the social media platform alone won’t silence her.
Feroza Aziz, a junior at an East Coast high school, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that social media helps her cope with the discrimination and Islamophobia that she often encounters.
“As anyone knows, Muslims are often oppressed, especially in America,” the teen explains. “I make content that Muslims can find relatable and funny and use as a coping mechanism. And to show that us Muslims shouldn’t take racist remarks to heart but make something positive out of it.”
Aziz started having problems on TikTok — an app launched by Chinese developer ByteDance — when some of her videos got flagged for allegedly violating community guidelines, specifically for promoting and supporting terrorist groups.
“I didn’t really understand because I wasn’t posting anything that would harm anybody or was offensive to anyone’s religion,” she says. “I got temporarily banned from posting, but I was still able to view and comment on videos.”
However, after that ban was lifted, Aziz created a video that criticized the Chinese government, which she says led TikTok to disable her account on the same basis as her previous ban. After Aziz’s appeal to reinstate her account was allegedly denied, she quickly created a new account to continue sharing her content.
Under the new handle @getmefamouspartthree, Aziz curated similar videos with the hashtags #muslim and #browngirlproblems. But it wasn’t until she posted three videos on Sunday bringing awareness to Muslim detention camps in China, that she faced new problems.
In the video Aziz curls her eyelashes. “Hi guys. So I’m gonna teach you guys how to get long lashes,” she starts off. “So the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes, obviously. Then you’re gonna put them down and use your phone that you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in China. How they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there.”
Aziz claims that she is unable to access her TikTok account. “When I go on the app, it’s a black screen. My own personal device is blocked — I can’t use the app, which is kind of scary. And my account is still visible to others but I myself can’t reach it on my own phone,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This is a way to silence me but I’m not gonna let that happen.”
Aziz says she been advocating for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities reportedly detained in western China (according to the Associated Press, the Chinese government says these sites are for voluntary job training). Aziz also explained how she disguises such videos as makeup tutorials for the sake of attracting an audience.
“I thought to myself, why don’t I just pretend that this video is about a new makeup tutorial about how to get long lashes?” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Let me start with that and maybe people will watch it. And then once I get their attention, they’ll continue the real issue, which is that people are dying.”
TikTok didn’t respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment however, a spokesperson told the Washington Post that Aziz’s videos on China were not why she was suspended. “TikTok does not moderate content due to political sensitivities and did not do so in this case,” representative Eric Han told the Post. He added that Aziz’s other account was stopped because she had referenced Osama bin Laden in a video that violated rules against terrorist content. And that using a phone connected to another ban presented an issue.
According to the 1.5 million views on her TikTok video, it seems that she achieved that goal. Aziz says that most of the comments on the video center on thanking her for raising awareness.
The teen fears possible retaliation by those who disagree with her efforts, although she will continue to shed light on the issue.
“I’m going to keep spreading awareness,” she says. “I will do anything and everything I can to bring the truth out, and if China wants to cover it up, if TikTok wants to cover it up, then I won’t let that happen.”
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