All posts filed under: Literature

His Dictionaries Taught Chinese To The Uyghur World. Then He Was Taken Away

Hüsenjan was a Chinese state employee — and member of the Chinese Communist Party — tasked with creating dictionaries for the Uyghur language. His work couldn’t save him. The Chinese-Uyghur finance dictionary was huge. It must have been made out of A3-size paper, almost 11 inches by 17 inches. When she held it in her hands, Gulruy Asqer remembers it feeling like two big bricks. It was a lot to carry. Her brother had given it to her as a farewell gift before she moved to the United States. “I complained that it was so heavy,” she said. “I just left it in the center of the living room rug with all of the other things that I thought were too big to carry.” She had the rug, which was a wedding gift, shipped to the U.S. She left the dictionary behind. “I can imagine how disappointed he must have been to see me abandoning that dictionary,” she said, thinking back. “I didn’t value it at all.” Her brother, Hüsenjan, who has published more than …

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 …

‘The Night Is Thick’: Uyghur Poets Respond To The Disappearance Of Their Relatives

The horrifying stories of pain and suffering in internment camps filtering out from the Uyghur homeland have filled Uyghurs around the world with a deep sorrow. The Uyghur poet Muyesser Abdulehed said she could not help but imagine being one of the million who have spent time in these camps. The guilt of having escaped and survived is sometimes overwhelming. Many Uyghurs that I have become close to over the years have told me that survivor’s guilt invades their dreams and takes away the small joys in their lives. For many, these feelings of guilt, anger, sorrow, and fear coalesced during the uncertain rumors of folk musician and poet Abdurehim Heyit’s death — and his subsequent appearance in a forced video testimony. Uyghurs around the world took to social media to publicly demand the Chinese state release videos of their relatives to show that they too remain alive. They asked non-Uyghur allies to join them by posting images with handwritten signs with the hashtag #MeTooUyghur — an expression of sharing in the pain of Uyghur suffering. …

How is Abdukerim Rahman surviving without his books?

For decades there was an inside joke that was told by generations of Uyghur students in the School of Humanities at Xinjiang University. The joke went: “How can you be a doctoral advisor without having a Ph.D. degree?” In response they would say, “Work as hard as Abdukerim Rahman!”  Mr. Rahman is a legendary figure among students and faculty not only for his knowledge but also his humble and caring attitude toward his students. Students know that if a Uyghur language book had been published, it could be found in his home library. Everyone knows that even those books that are not available in the university library can be found there. Mr. Rahman is known for his passionate scholarship, for his love of book. But most importantly students recognize him as the father of Uyghur folklore studies. His humor, inspiration, and positive feedback always encourages their young souls. All folklorists, anthropologists or Uyghur literature researchers who are interested in Uyghur culture view him as an essential resource. His scholarship has become the critical texts in …