Author: Darren Byler

Scenes from the Disappearance of Perhat Tursun, a Preeminent Modernist Uyghur Author

Perhat was disappeared at the height of his powers by the Chinese state, a victim of the government’s re-education campaign in Xinjiang. Perhat Tursun is a slight man with a receding hairline. To look at him, you wouldn’t know that he is one of the most influential contemporary Uyghur authors in the world. When I met him for the first time at a reception for a Uyghur-language publishing house in February 2015, his importance was clear from the way other Uyghurs looked at him as he moved through the crowd. He cut a wide swath. After we chatted for a bit at the reception, he said he was really bored. He hated formal gatherings and performing for strangers. He left immediately after the ceremony was finished, glad-handing and mumbling under his breath as he shuffled through the banquet hall. Many people stopped to shake his hand as we walked together to his house. His house was on the 26th floor of a new apartment building owned by the Uyghur grocery franchise Arman. Many Uyghur celebrities lived in the …

Xinjiang Action List

People often ask me what they can do to engage the issues confronting the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Hui in Northwest China. Here is a list of action items for people who want to get evolved in the United States. Contact Your Congress Members  The Human Rights Policy Act is currently awaiting ratification by the Senate. This bill will leverage sanctions on companies and key leaders who have been implicated in the camp system, and mandate a detailed congressional report on the global supply chain that supports these atrocities. Call your congress person and ask them to support the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Send a message to your Members of Congress using this action alert, and share it. Join Grassroots Movements Boycott and divest from companies and investment funds that profit from Turkic Muslim suffering. As much as 84 percent of the cotton used in Chinese made garments is sourced in the Uyghur region of China. For a report on the Fortune 500 companies that are connected to the Uyghur homeland follow this link. For …

Reeducation Time: A Decade Of Stories Of Loss In Xinjiang

All names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees. I met Ablikim for the first time in late 2014 at a Uyghur house party in a neighborhood in Southern Ürümchi. He was a thin man with a closely-trimmed moustache. He sat hunched over, his shoulders drawn in. We told each other our names, but I wasn’t really sure how to place him. Over the course of the evening, he sat in the corner quietly, his eyes darting around the room. It wasn’t until much later, when we were walking to our homes side-by-side, that he began to speak. He said he didn’t like speaking in groups because he didn’t like talking openly with strangers. Like many of the young Uyghurs I interviewed over the course of the past decade, Ablikim had been deeply affected by his encounters with police and Han society. In the months that followed, Ablikim and I became close friends. We met nearly every day to drink tea, read novels, and talk about his job search …

“The camps are bad, but this school system will produce even more lasting damage.”

The “bilingual” education system introduced over the past decade in Xinjiang is better characterized as an attempt to transform minority education systems in the region. There have been frightening consequences for Uyghur culture. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals. In March of this year, Kaiser noticed that his 15-year-old sister Abida began to interject Chinese phrases into their Uyghur conversations. Up until that time they had never spoken Chinese with one another. The words she used signaled her “quality” (素质 sùzhì) as an educated young woman. They often ended with the soft-toned drawn-out particle “a” (啊), as in phrases such as “tǐng hǎo a!” (挺好啊) — “Pretty good!”—  or “wǒ xǐhuān’a” (我喜欢啊), “I like (it).” The siblings didn’t speak frequently, because it wasn’t safe for them to talk. Kaiser was attending college in North America while Abida was just finishing middle school in a small town near the city of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang. Usually they spoke only when a mutual friend who lived in a nearby city visited the family and allowed …