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The Elephant in the XUAR: I. Entire families sentenced

This is the first in a series of three articles highlighting the massive expansion of the prison system in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region that has taken place in recent years. The prisons have been running in parallel with the much-covered concentration camps (“vocational training centers”) and possess many of the same traits, interning hundreds of thousands without real due process and engaging in labor exploitation. However, while international action has led to many, if not most, of the camp detainees have been let out as a result of international action; by contrast, those currently in prisons have long sentences and have not seen concessions. The world remains passive on the issue. For Nursiman Abdureshid, June 15, 2020 is now remembered as the worst day of her life. As the day when, after three years of little to no news, she was finally given official confirmation regarding the fate of her disappeared family in Kashgar. The confirmation was delivered via a phone call from a representative of the Chinese embassy in Ankara to Nursiman in …

The Imprisonment of the ‘Model Villagers’

For the family of sisters Nursiman and Nur’iman, a local work brigade placed a small red plaque with five stars on it to the front gate of their house. The stars stood for “patriotism, honesty, education, hygiene, and harmony.” But in the end, that didn’t stop the sisters’ parents and brother from being sent to jail for reasons that remain murky to this day. The phone call from the Chinese Embassy in Ankara came on June 15, 2020. It was 4:31 in the afternoon, Istanbul time. After she picked up and realized who was calling, Nursiman caught her breath. She held a second phone up to the speaker on her smartphone and hit record. — 【大使馆工作人员】哎,我们这个接到的上面写的很清楚,因为,说实话来,咱们国内也是咱们是法制国家,那么,它这个也肯定是有依据的,这个里面它是说的2017年12月13号因为准备实施恐怖主义活动罪,判处,被判处13年有期徒刑, Embassy: It is written clearly in the file we received. Our country is ruled by law so they must have a reason. It is written that she was sentenced to a 13-year prison term on December 13, 2017, for the crime of preparing to commit terrorist activities. 哎,13年的是妈妈吗? Nursiman: The one who was sentenced to 13 years is my mother? 【大使馆工作人员】对 Embassy: Yes. 就2017年12月13号,爸爸呢? …

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, …

‘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. …