All posts filed under: Social Analysis

“99 bad things”: A man’s 2-year journey through Xinjiang’s complex detention network

Editor’s preface: Three years after the start of the mass incarcerations in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, there are now dozens of eyewitness accounts testifying to the coercive, violent, and often cruel nature of Xinjiang’s “re-education initiative”. Among these, however, few are as informative, comprehensive, and detailed as Erbaqyt Otarbai’s, a Kazakh truck driver who – following a trip to Xinjiang in May 2017 – found himself caught up in the system for two full years, with the majority of the time spent in detention centers, “re-education” camps, a hospital, an improvised factory, and house arrest. His account – independently corroborated various times over by former cellmates, satellite images, and testimonies for victims that he met along the way – offers a rare and invaluable view of not only the system’s many facets but also of their evolution, from the initial beginnings of the incarcerations, to their intensification, and finally to the authorities’ very visible response to outside pressure, with the facilities being transformed and many inmates being released, yet others being given long …

Her Biggest Worry Now is that Her Children Might be Taken Away From Her

The following is an eyewitness account from Hanna Burdorf, a PhD candidate at Newcastle University, who visited the victim while in Ürümchi and spent around two hours with her. The visit took place about three months after Horiyet and her children were taken from the Belgian embassy in Beijing and forced to return to Ürümchi, following an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a family-reunification visa to reunite with the father in Belgium. Her husband has lost contact since 3 Dec 2019. Earlier this year a journalist was able to visit her and learned that she and her children are together at home. In the early afternoon of September 11, 2019, I went to the address that Ablimit Tursun had given to me, in order to visit his wife Horiyet Abdulla and the couple’s four children. They live in Ürümchi, near the Grand Bazar. The entrance to the residential complex (小区) in which they live was accessible from the main road, although blocked by gates. The entrance gate for pedestrians was on the left – a big …

‘Heaviness In The Stomach’: A Uyghur Daughter Alone In America On Her Birthday During A Pandemic

When my Chinese friends see her as a human, as a mother, if they start there, then it makes me feel as though there is hope. But to be honest, among my Chinese friends, this is really rare, just one or two or three. Last month, Akida Pulat celebrated her birthday alone. It was her third birthday since her mother, Uyghur anthropologist Rahile Dawut, had disappeared in Northwest China. Thinking about this in a café in Seattle two weeks before the city began to shut down due to COVID-19, Akida said, “When I was little my mom would ask me what I would want for my birthday. She would make my favorite food, hand-pulled noodles or Hui-style lamb fried with garlic (蒜苔炒羊肉 suàntái chǎo yángròu), and served with rice. She would invite her friends to bring their kids to my party. They always showed me that they really loved me and showered me with attention. “She would always tell me, ‘I love you my daughter, I hope you have a wonderful year.’ She would always be the first person to …

17 years and 10 months. A Uyghur Son Learns of his Mother’s Prison Sentence 

It is likely that Aliyem Urayim was detained the moment she landed in China after visiting Eli in Turkey. “Your mother went to ´study.´” When Eli Yarmemet first received these words, he was convinced that it was a mistake and that she would soon be released from the reeducation camps. But three years on, the nightmare has just gotten worse, Eli recently learned that his mother has been sentenced to 17 years and 10 months in prison. The last time Eli Yarmemet saw his mother was in December 2016. Eli – an ethnic Uyghur from northwest of China currently living in Norway — traveled with his family to Turkey, where they met up with his mother and spent two weeks together. At that time the mass detentions in Xinjiang had affected the entire Uyghur population. It was not until April 2017 that Chinese authorities intensified a brutal crackdown on the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities who make up more than half of the region’s population. “Had I known anything about it I would never have …