Author: Darren Byler

Uyghur Stories Need To Be Mainstreamed

Over the past several months, state culture workers in the Uyghur region have produced a series of twisted, psychologically violent videos. These short films center on the transformation of Uyghurs as a way of justifying the “reeducation” camp system that has taken away the freedom of as many as 1.5 million Uyghurs. In one of the videos, a young woman discusses how she was forced into an arranged marriage and how the camp system saved her from her misogynist husband, exposed her to Chinese culture and the joys of hip-hop. Another tells the story of a young Uyghur man who, prior to his reeducation, said he saw his wife as his “property” and would not allow her to work outside the home. He said that he sometimes beat her. Now, he said, through his “reeducation,” he had come to truly love his wife and recognize that she deserves to be free; together they are embracing a new “reeducated” life. Uyghurs in the diaspora who have watched these short films tell me they come away deeply sad and angry. One Uyghur woman …

‘Saved’ By State Terror: Gendered Violence And Propaganda In Xinjiang

The ongoing atrocities targeting Turkic Muslim peoples in Xinjiang are, in many forms, gendered violence. As the “People’s War on Terror” campaign escalates, Han officials and settlers are removing Turkic Muslim men who they perceive as threats to “security” and “safety,” emptying out a clear path for Han settlers to insert their presence onto Uyghur and Kazakh homelands. This comes at the expense of the women who remain. In the state-initiated “Becoming Families” campaign, Han cadres enter native peoples’ homes and scan for any signs of Islamic piety, or wield scissors to cut off women’s long dresses on the streets. Since 2017, the state has begun to attack Muslim-Han marriage taboos as well as Muslim halal practices as forms of “religious extremism.” Interethnic marriage was forced upon many Uyghur women, an approach that went even further than simply encouraging them with money and other incentives in 2014. Several female survivors from the camps recounted experiences of being forced to take unknown medication that stopped their menstrual cycles. The mass-incarceration has also led to a large population of children, whose parents were detained, being taken into orphanages, where …

Making the Xinjiang authorities dance: 40 examples of publicized cases

For the past half-year and probably longer, I’ve admittedly been a broken record in replaying the same mantra when talking of what works in getting the oh-so-scary Xinjiang authorities to somehow curb their seemingly unbridled madness. China’s Achilles heel, I’ve continued to say, is its image, and as an insidious system that pretends to do everything “by the law” what it fears more than anything is loud, outspoken transparency. Speak out, document, and bring as much attention to the issues they want to keep hidden even when they threaten the worst and you will see results… I’ve said over and over and over. And the louder they threaten, the stronger the sign that you’re doing something correctly. That belief came to me on an instinctive level from my first-hand experience of being kicked out without ever officially being kicked out, and would for many months remain an instinct, coupled with some abstract theory and probably some wishful thinking – as a grassroots person, I needed to believe that I was not powerless against this behemoth, …

Responses to Unanswered Questions at UC Berkeley

Editorial Note: Below is a letter written to Chinese international students at UC Berkeley following an event concerning the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims that was held in March 2019. The author of the letter sent it to me after The Daily Californian declined to publish it. Following the letter I have replied to the letter in the hopes that we can open a dialogue regarding what is happening in Xinjiang. I hope readers will feel free to respond below in the comments section. A Question Unanswered On Wednesday, March 6th, 2019, a shouting match took place at UC Berkeley. The Berkeley Law Human Rights Center was hosting Rushan Abbas and Dr. Darren Byler to talk about the Uyghur crisis in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. The lecture hall at Boalt 110, which seats 166, had people sitting in the aisles and standing against the walls. Organizers said it was the best-attended talk in the Human Rights Center’s history. Nevertheless, for fear of surveillance on attendees cell-phone use was forbidden within the room. Rushan Abbas, a thin, middle-aged …