Author: Darren Byler

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 …

The Xinjiang Ketchup Shirt

Are you interested in finding ways to stand with Turkic Muslims in their struggle for human rights in Northwest China? One of the ways to amplify knowledge about their struggle is by wearing it, making it a part of your everyday life. Many of the retailers who sell us clothes and tomato products are complicit in the oppression of Muslims in China. This shirt helps draw together those connections. Follow this link to find out more about how you can support the project. Below is a bit more about this effort from it’s creator, Joxkun. In addition to cotton, Xinjiang is also a major producer of tomatoes. Our research shows that 1/4 of the world’s tomato paste supply originates in Xinjiang. Several years ago, Juxkun had the idea to redesign a series of ketchup bottle and cans of soup in such a way to position them as an Indigenous Uyghur product. Things have changed since then. In May 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a report about western companies’ entanglement in a system of compelled labour connected to …

How Companies Profit From Forced Labor In Xinjiang

On November 3, 2018, Erzhan Qurban, a middle-aged Kazakh man from a small village 50 kilometers from the city of Ghulja in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, was released from the camp where he had been held for nine months. He thought that perhaps now he would be free to return to his former life as an immigrant in Kazakhstan. Yet just a few days later, he was sent to work in a glove factory back in Ghulja city. Erzhan had been detained soon after he came back to China to seek medical treatment for his daughter and care for his ailing mother in early 2018. In an interview with the German magazine Die Zeit, he said: On the evening of February 8, 2018 they picked me up in a minibus. It was already dark and they put black plastic sacs over our heads and handcuffs on our wrists. There were five young men from my village with me in the minibus. The room in which I had to stay for the next nine months was …