I am Uyghur. I have two younger brothers detained in Chinese concentration camps since almost two years, and my mother has been detained for six months. My contacts with my family has been entirely cut off since May this year. I don’t have any other informations about my family now.
My name is Muhammad, I’m from Ornush village of Hotan county, East Türkestan (aka Xinjiang, China). There are eight people in my family. They are my aged parents, an older sister, four younger brothers and me.
I came to Turkey in May 2016 with Turkish visa. After studied math and Turkish language for six months, and passed all the related exams, I successfully enrolled into Sütçü İmam University in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, Feb 2017. Currently, I am studying politics and international relations for a MA degree.
I lost my contact with my family since May 2018, until then I was calling them at least once in a month. In last two years, my family got a lot of troubles from the local Chinese government and the police. They registered my family as “closely watched family” just because I am in Turkey and questioned them many times. Police threatened them and asked me to go back to China. But, I rejected their request. They forced my family members to ask me to contact with the local police. I contacted them. They wanted my student ID and other official documents from my university. I sent them everything that they asked for, but, still, I ended up with same consequences with my fellow Uyghurs who traveled to Turkey for other reasons.
The Chinese government first detained my youngest brother, 22 years old, Ruzimemet Atawulla, in the concentration camp in March 2017. Because he is the youngest one in our family, it made my mother ill. Then they detained my another 28 years old younger brother, Memeteli Atawullah, in Aug 2017. He was a married man with two children; his health is poor and it became deteriorated in the concentration camp. The police took him to the hospital because of his poor health and called my parents to pay for the medical treatment. But, they didn’t allow my parents to meet with my brother. My mother cried miserably and asked them to allow her to see my brother. The police tried to persuade my mother and told her that ‘she should be happy because her son is in the concentration camp while many other young men were sentenced into jail. They then allowed my aged mother to see him for only ten minutes. During their meeting, my brother Memeteli has cried and begged my mother to save him. However, nothing changed. The police hasn’t released my youngest brother too.
Once, in our phone conversation, my mother told me that the police treated my brother, Memeteli, as a criminal and detected him all the time. After that hospital treatment, they took my brother in a police car with armed guards.
In order to free my innocent brothers, my old mother went to every relevant officials, from the village to county level, but she got the same answers like” don’t worry, he’ll be back soon” or “I’m sorry, I can’t put my nose into this type of things, only the senior level officials can help with it.” Whenever I called my mother, she cried with grievance and told me that “I went to everywhere and pleaded everyone, but, I can’t do anything to release your brothers.”
These struggles and mental tortures broken down my mother and she was given emergency medical treatment for a few times. Doctors notified my family that her life is in danger so to be very cautious of her situation. So, I tried to speak to her over the phone for a little longer and tried to alleviate her pain with my fake smiles and happıness when I called her; tried to convince her that concentration camp is just like a school and my brothers are students, just as I do here. However, my ‘kindest trick’ doesn’t work as she has seen what was going on with my brother with her own eyes. Even though, she tried her best to hide her sorrows from me and conveyed her love and worries about me. At such moments, I feel so powerless and useless towards my mother and my entire caring family. I came to Turkey to seek knowledge and for this reason, for studying aboard, I have done a lot of hard work too and came with official permit. Why the Chinese authorities don’t respect it’s own law?! It started beaten me up. It made me feel outragous for the unjust situations for my family.
Yet, what happened to my brothers, over 2 years, was not the end of the misery of my family. In Aug 2017, I learned that my brother in-law was sentenced for six years after detained by police for a week. His crime was listening to the religious speech at mosque a few years ago; more than sixty attendants all sentenced for more than six years, with the same nonsense reason. As a result, my sister became a widow and her children became orphans. In one of our phone conversation, my mother told me that one of my young nephew was sentenced for five years imprisonment too, with no reason.
“Criminals” are in jail and suffering both physically and mentally; my family members are grieving in helplessness; I, myself, is a forced migrant in sadness. The days are passing very slowly and painfully. Time has lost its meaning to me because I’m sleepless at night and has no spirit during the daytime. My heart aches whenever I call my family as all I heard wassuch a painful news, one after another, about my close relatives and my friends. I was extremely worried about the safety of my mom in my calls and tried my best to avoid asking her any sensitive questions; every phone call was accompanied with fear and hope…
Because my aged father has a hearing problem, so, usually I spoke to my mum only, over the phone. My sister and my brothers do not stay at home very often; So, most of the time, the person who answered my calls was my mother. In addition, I also worried to speak with others as I thought chatting with my aged mother should be safer than causing ‘trouble’ to others. Sometimes, I fell so scared to dial the number to call my home. Whenever the phone was connected, my heart began to beat very fast. I was getting nervous about one day the one who picked up my phone was not my mom. I always ask about her first, and as long as I learned that she is safe, I will then ask about my brothers. All our conversations carried on with almost same tone, repeated questions and replies. Their reply to my inquires about brothers kept same, like”have not released yet”. I can fell that this tragic situation was very unbearable to my mom. Sometimes, I avoided to call them because it is difficult for me to hear my mother’s sob. Most of all, I avoided to hear the worst news about my mother.
But, and but, the heart-breaking news has finally came over in a day of March 2018. My beloved mother was arrested by the Chinese police. I learnt this news from my sister in a phone conversation. She told me with all her grieving tears and speechless tones. Her trembling voice, that heart-broken voice of helplessness, is still alive in my ear. The Chinese police arrested my mother with more than twenty older women together from my village. All of their crime is that they read the Holly Qur’an in one of neighbor’s funeral, 4 years ago. The coward, brutal Chinese communists, the enemy of humanity, jailed my mother and aother twenty Uyghur women, who are in their 70’s, only with such a groundless reason of reading a book, a holy book, that millions of other believers read everyday all aroud the world!
After this terrific news, I have only contacted with my other familiy members a few times. When I asked about my mother, they were in complete silence as I knew that they feared to speak anything related to the police or the local regulations. They began to ignore and later rejected my call. To avoid of making trouble to them, I didn’t call my family over a month. on My last call, I came to know that our home landline was already out of service.
My contact with my dad was ended when I got my flight to Turkey as he gave me a tight hug and said goodbye. Because of his hearing issue, I was not able to talk to him on the phone, but whenever I called my mom, I knew that he stands next to my mom and tried to listen to our conversations. My mom used to convey his care and concerns about me all the time. He was old and not in good health. So, I don’t know how is he living without my mom now.
All the work in my family and the labour work in our farm is loaded to my another two younger brothers, my sister and my sisters-in-law since my brothers’ imprisonment and my mother’s arrest. On top of that, they are required to attend the so called ‘’open re-education training’’ every evening; As part of the village members, they must attend the flag-raising ceremony, must go to the forced labour that ordered by the communist regime otherwise they get punishment or fines.
Since May 2018, I haven’t heard a word about my family because of the disconnection of our landline. So, I do not know what else happened to my sister and two other younger brothers now. I am barely having a peaceful sleep since I learnt the arrest of my aged mother. Are they still alive? Are they also in the camps? what about my little cousins or nieces? Are they sent to the government funded orphanages???
I am becoming a depressed person. I can’t concentrate on my studies and couldn’t follow my study plan as well. Life become a nightmare to me. Even then, I am still trying to push myself to carry on my studies as that was the first and ultimate aim that brought me to Turkey. I wish one day, we, the powerless Uyghurs, can earn the basic freedom of human being and live in peace. Any more wishes may seemed like a luxury at the moment. Please God, help me to save my mother; please make our sorrows and voice be heard to the people of peace and love around the world.
I believe that every Uyghur live in the diaspora do have a similar or more tragic stories like mine…
15th October, 2018. Ankara, Turkey.