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This Eid A Uyghur Muslimah Tells Her Story

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By Gulnaz Uighur

My name is Gulnaz and I am a Uyghur Muslim. My place of birth is East Turkestan but the world knows it as ‘Xinjiang’ because China says so. When I was a child, entering my teenage years as an eleven year old, my family fled Xinjiang and at that time I had seen enough. That eleven year old girl had seen enough to understand that she was not safe in China. Today, at twenty three years old, even after so many years, Xinjiang still haunts me.

Below is my story, though at the same time I have tried to not reveal much about myself. Maybe you will understand my position after reading it. If you feel like it, you may also forward it on to other forms of media.

I remember not being allowed to attend school because I had to work in the fields with my father. Sometimes I would work alone if my father was unwell. My little hands weren’t able to help much but I had no choice. I remember the eyes of Chinese guards looking at us in the market; it made me feel like I belonged to a different planet disliked by them. This was only because we were Uyghurs and Muslims. One night, they stormed our house, searching every nook and corner. My mother hid me in the basement, gave me a little bottle with liquid in it and instructed me to drink from it if an officer tried to touch me. Thankfully nothing of the sort happened and we were told that these were normal search operations. But soon, a horrific incident followed which forced us to flee the country.

One of my aunts in the neighborhood was pregnant with her second child and her family was planning to send her away as Uyghurs weren’t allowed to have a second child. Somehow, the Chinese officials came to know about my aunt and they forced her to have an abortion. In a dingy hospital room one night, she died. Patime was six months pregnant and doctors operated on her while risking her life.

This incident greatly shocked my family, and my father decided to leave China. We fled immediately to Turkey but kept changing places, sometimes countries, every two years or so.

All this time we kept hearing news about China’s crackdown on Uyghurs; the Urumqi Massacre, demolishing mosques, arresting innocents, and about their raids to find Uyghurs living abroad too. My father warned us to never reveal our Uyghur identities and refrained from teaching us about the Uyghur culture too. The terrifying news of Thailand detaining 300 Uyghurs and sending them back to China instilled fear in us again. The fact that no protests or hunger strikes by detained Uyghurs could save them made it clear that if ever China found about our family then we would be punished too.

Despite of all the hardships we faced, my father never compromised on our education ensuring that we received good schooling. He thinks that only a good education can lead us out of this path of slavery or fear. Today, he wants me to become a teacher so that I can contribute towards making our world a better place for everyone. Though I do already feel that I am an activist on the inside, and whenever I hear or come across news of any injustice, my blood boils and I become determined to do something. Our world is perceived as divided between the First World and Third World countries, but Uyghurs aren’t given a place in any of these spheres. We are people living in a fourth country which has been left to suffer by world leaders, but why? Aren’t Uyghurs Human beings too? So, a few years ago, the Uyghur in me took over and I created my account on Twitter (@iamgul8).

Here I try to talk with as many people as I can to convey the struggles of Uyghurs in China. Why should we suffer just because we are Uyghurs or Muslims? What is our crime? Out of the many people I’ve contacted, some of them have always asked about my story, so this is for them. But I can’t reveal anything else because that risks putting my family in trouble.

After this story, my chances of being chased by the Chinese officials are are sure to increase and as a result I may go silent. But our story is important. The world has ignored Uyghurs for long enough, and now they have to stand with us. Like many Uyghurs, another Gulnaz may get abducted, tortured, or killed but her fight, our fight against injustice must be continued by someone – and it has to be you!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    MalikSaabSays

    June 27, 2017 at 6:21 AM

    You can renounce citizenship and become stateless. Many countries give asylum to stateless people.

    As for the treatment meted out to you, the world has too much of it, and it’s everywhere. Education and empathy is the way.

  2. Avatar

    Ishak

    June 29, 2017 at 11:01 AM

    May allah strengthen your iman and put barakah in your struggle, verily Allah is the all-hearing(as-samih) and al-seeing (al-baseer).

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“I don’t believe in uncritically adopting a platform, or letting a party take advantage of our vulnerability. We need to challenge Democrats just as strongly as we do Republicans, while remaining independent and principled. We have a right to an agenda like any other community. Politicians should have to work for our vote, and we shouldn’t shy away from where we differ with candidates even when we vote for them.

You can read my article on voting here in which I lay out those principles.”

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Coronavirus And The Impetus To Close The Chinese-Run Concentration Camps

My Appeal to the International Community to Save the Lives of 3+ Million Uyghurs in China’s Concentration Camps

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According to Dr. Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher based in Germany who has testified on several occasions on Capitol Hill, the concentration camps in East Turkestan number up to 1,400 (8 Nov 2019, [1]). It has been estimated that the number of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic minorities being held in those concentration camps can add up to more than 3 million.

On February 5th, 2020, when the official Chinese government’s media were reporting that coronavirus death toll on mainland China was 600 – 700 [2], Tencent briefly listed 154,023 infections and 24,589 deaths from Wuhan coronavirus [3]. That is, the actual death toll is about 40 times higher than what the Chinese government reported. East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang) is far from the epicenter of the outbreak and just 55 cases have been reported in the region so far [4]. We can easily believe that the actual number of the people who fell victim to coronavirus in East Turkestan is tens of times more than the above figure.

Among those who died in Wuhan, 61% died in their homes. Currently, almost all the Uyghur population in East Turkestan is locked up in their homes. 

The situation of the 3+ million Uyghur concentration camp detainees is worse by several degrees. Keeping 3+ million Uyghur alive detainees is a complex, expensive and extremely difficult project. Are the 3+ million detainees still alive? Are they still being fed? How and from where? 

There is a real reason to fear a rapid spread of coronavirus in the controversial Chinese camps. “The virus spreads from person to person through droplets disseminated by sneezing or coughing, and confining large groups of people together, possibly without adequate access to germ-killing soap and water, will increase the likelihood of an outbreak.” [4] 

I have started to panic. Most Uyghurs in the United States have families there, and they are dealing with the camps and the virus, and we do not know if they have enough to eat, have masks and enough heat to survive.

“If the international community fails to pressure China to take adequate actions to prevent outbreaks in the region, the nature of its mass network of concentration and forced labor camps will add an entirely new dimension to China’s ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs.” [5]

“Uyghurs in the diaspora fear if the virus isn’t already in the camps, when it does reach them, the consequences will be catastrophic, leading to mass outbreaks and high mortalities very quickly given reports of overcrowding, starvation, forced labor, sexual abuse and torture in the camps. As China has largely ignored the issue of the virus spreading in the region and its crimes against humanity in the region are ongoing, it’s unlikely the Chinese government will allocate resources to address the issue.” [5]

I call for:

  1. UN to send a delegation to the region to find out if the concentration camp detainees are being provided with enough food and heat to survive.
  2. WHO to send a delegation to the region to evaluate the spread of the virus, assess the risks in the camps and take all measures necessary to prevent mass outbreaks and deaths. 
  3. WHO, the UN, international human rights groups, national governments and the rest of the international community to pressure China to close the camps and release the millions detained immediately as part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  4. Global health and humanitarian organizations to send medical supplies and teams to screen, diagnose and treat affected individuals in the Uyghur region including those in China’s concentration camps. (Items 2 – 4 are almost identical to those in [5])

[1] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/detainees-11232019223242.html

[2]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/cloneofcloneofchina-coronavirus-outbreak-latest–200207231158175.html

[3]https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3871594?fbclid=IwAR1k3x27tW2jNmmQzbaNOWtciIwlP3z70GWvj2XcRhestwB6T6l16pSqL18

[4] https://www.france24.com/en/20200212-exiled-uighurs-fear-spread-of-coronavirus-in-china-camps

[5]https://www.change.org/p/demand-china-release-3-million-uyghurs-before-coronavirus-outbreaks-in-concentration-camps?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_20183581_en-CA%3Av2&recruiter=53261213&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

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