Before Anar Sabit’s story became public, I had read her poems online. They are full of poignant and vivid details perceived from inside the camp and personal experiences such as being on night guard duty, taking yard time, and witnessing the arbitrary detention and suffering of others with her own eyes. When I reached out to Anar to discuss the inspiration for these poems she told me that after what she had experienced in the camp and returning to the free world she had nightmares for an entire year. She has suffered from depression, fear, and low self-esteem. There was a time when she didn’t know if she could go on. Then one day she was advised to channel these traumas through writing. Anar humbly said that she is not really a writer or a poet type, but simply wanted to document what had happened to her and not forget them.
This is Tahir Hamut, one of the most renowned contemporary Uyghur poets, starting his life all over again in US at 47 years old. Displacement is not just the physical removal of one’s body from their native land. In the film, the psychological stress of uprooting and struggling hides in the silent gestures of his performance. Tahir is still writing, he writes poignantly about the distance between all the capital cities in which he has lived his life: Urumqi, Beijing, and Washington DC. The experiences of everyday life as an exile, a transnational being, struggles with immigration paperwork, survival, and witnessing the violence in homeland from afar… still linger and shape his poetry.
The mounting evidences of artificial intelligence surveillance and arbitrary detention in Xinjiang exacerbated the already tense public anxiety due to the worsening human rights condition in Kazakhstan. Surveillance becomes one of the key themes in artistic expression in Kazakhstan civil society.
What is it like to be a Uyghur student in Beijing suddenly snatched up by the Chinese police state? Addy McTague writes about the friendship she had with Zainur, a Uyghur student graduated from Beijing University of Chemical Technology. Zainur is disappeared by China’s Muslim crackdown since 2017. Addy, back in US, recollects her memories with Zainur and submitted a testimony for her.
On December 9, 2019, Kazakhstan National Security Committee announced the decision that Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly, two young Kazakh men who fled Xinjiang, will be deported to China. This angered Kazakhstan public. A civil group took to action.
By an anonymous singer friend. Shared with artist’s permission on Sep 17, 2019. Featured image is credited to photographer Theo Paul. Quite a self-explanatory video telling the lived experience of Turkic speaking peoples in Xinjiang at the moment: family separation, cultural genocide, surveillance, forced inter-ethnic marriage, home invasion and spying, forced wage labor, state orphanage/residential school…
The term “genocide” began to be used by more and more scholars and activists to describe the situation in Xinjiang. In her essay, “‘Never again?’ It’s already happening,” Anne Applebaum compared global indifference to the Xinjiang atrocities today to indifference toward the famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1933, which was widely covered in western media at the time like Xinjiang today. Fred Hiatt used “Kristallnacht” (Night of Broken Glass) — the destruction of synagogues, cemeteries, and Jewish businesses — to describe the mass demolition of Mosques and Muslim cemeteries in Xinjiang today.
Minam began to collect stories from the Uyghur diaspora to send to human rights organizations. Very quickly, she was inundated by the intense pain in these stories. They all have a common theme: family separation. “I don’t know if they are alive or not,” has become a catchphrase to describe the broken state of diaspora Uyghur family life, the same goes for many Xinjiang Kazakh refugees who fled to Kazakhstan.
Originally published on Darren Byler’s Xinjiang Column on SupChina, March 6 2019
Shared with authors’ permission, Sep 22, 2019
Fatimah has testified for her mother and her people on different platforms many times, but this time she chose to present a poem to the world.