By Marhaba Yakub Salay
My name is Marhaba Yakub Salay. I am a mother of two young kids and living with my husband in Adelaide, working for our family business with my elderly parents. I am also the younger sister of a victim suffering from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) genocide towards the Uyghur people.
Just a couple of years ago, I was happy, cheerful, and full of love. However, things have been getting progressively worse since my sister was arrested. My sister, Mayila Yakudu, 44, is a single mother of three. She was previously a successful saleswoman of China Life, a large insurance company in China. She was also a Chinese language teacher in a local languages school. My sister was kind, open-minded, hard-working, and knew how to keep her life balanced. She loved to spend time with her kids; each night, she would study or read her books whilst her kids did their homework.
In October 2017, my sister left me a message on WeChat saying: “Please look after yourself and our parents and remember, do not call me again. Please understand.” That was the last time I heard from her. On March 2, 2018, she was taken to a so-called “re-education camp” without any reason provided. She was kept there for ten months. Then, again with no reason given, she was released for four months. She used to be in excellent health but within just ten months of being in the camp, she had developed severe liver damage. We did not take any action at the time, as we knew she was innocent and thought that things would get better. That was the biggest mistake we made.
My sister was arrested again in April 2019. This time, I started to search for her with whatever means possible from Australia. This proved to be a challenge as my relatives in China had already deleted me off their WeChat as they were not allowed to talk to us abroad. So, I sought help from the Australian government. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) helped me to find my sister’s whereabouts. I learned that after my sister transferred us money in 2013 to assist us in purchasing a home in Adelaide the CCP accused her of financially supporting terrorists which led to her arrest.
After a long search and advocacy, my sister was finally released on 5th September 2020. However, she was again taken away by Public Security Bureaus the next day. I learned that she was very sick that one day of her “release”, and she was not provided proper treatment. Then, in December 2020, my relatives in Ghulja learned that she was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. She remains there to this day.
My life has totally changed since my sister’s arrest. I was in such shock and now suffer from depression, anxiety and even panic attacks at times. I am very concerned for my sister’s health and do not know how she is able to stay alive under such pressure. My family lost my brother to a water accident in 2007, now I feel like I have also lost my sister. I cannot imagine what her kids must be going through, and I am also worried for my parents. They already lost my brother and now at their age, it is very difficult for them to face further tragedies.
I always remind myself to remain strong and take good care of my family, especially my young kids. But it is so difficult to keep our lives in balance whilst our beloved family members are missing. If I am happy about something for a minute or so, this is then followed by guilt, as I know my sister and her three children are suffering. I know this is not rational, but it is just one small example of my everyday life, and how the CCP has destroyed my family and any sense of a normal life we once had.
We need help. We are suffering for none other than our ethnicity. I lost a sister, my parents lost a daughter, my niece and nephews lost their mother. Our family story and tragedy is just one of millions that the Uyghurs face in our homeland. Millions of Uyghurs’ lives and families are similarly suffering under the CCP’s systematic crackdown towards the Uyghur people, a program bent on destroying the Uyghur community, its people and its culture across East Turkestan.
I hope Australia and its allies will take action to end this genocide and the CCP’s crimes against humanity, organ harvesting, and persecution of innocent people. People can say NO to genocide. People can boycott the Chinese products that are made with forced labour. People can stand on the right side of history.