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.
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.
Artist Shimizu Tomomi (清水ともみ) rendered Mihrigul Tursun‘s testimony given at US Congressional hearing in Manga form. Mihrigul’s testimony gave accounts of various torture and gender based violence inside one of the ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang. It is never easy to gather the courage to speak on the trauma and inhumane treatment from an unjust system, especially for Uyghurs; this could mean retaliation to their families from the Chinese government.
Kazakhstan is facing Chinese expansion and surveillance directly across the border. At the same time, the youths there are fighting against their government’s corruption and autocracy. Bravo to these young artists’ creative initiative to reflect the truth behind the government orchestrated tour of the Xinjiang ‘re-education camps’!