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.
“Our days became dark, and the nights even darker.” — Kazakh lyrical poem condemning state violence in Xinjiang
Written by Yi Xiaocuo This is a Kazakh song by an anonymous singer. It is in a traditional oral art … More
‘A Uyghur Poet in Fairfax’ by Nuo Ya
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.
Under surveillance: Artworks from Kazakhstan
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.
Letter to China: My Uyghur friend Zainur has been detained in one of your camps for two years
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.
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…
An Unanswered Telephone Call: a film by Aziz Isa Elkun
This short film is based on Aziz Isa Elkun’s real life experience. Just like every ordinary British citizen, he takes his daughter to school on a beautiful day; just like every Uyghur living in exile, he has lost contact with his family, even their well-being has become questionable. Aziz interrogates this painful disjuncture and his identity becomes the answer. Yet, he tirelessly explains to the world what happened, unraveling his childhood, youth, and generational trauma inflicted by the Chinese state.
A strange planet many, many light years away
A police walks up to an empty mosque
This is an otherworldly image, almost like a storm trooper on patrol on one of the empire’s colonial outposts. Photographer Theo Santana has walked the earth freely but never encountered the level of security checks and surveillance like in China’s Xinjiang. He shared these photos online at the end of 2018.
Shimizu Tomomi’s Art Testimony
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 Art Group Shapalaque
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’!