Picture: Mehray Mezensof
By Mehrsy Mezensof
My name is Mehray Mezensof and I am a registered nurse who lives in Melbourne, Australia. My husband, Mirzat Taher, an Australian permanent resident, is currently being held in a prison in Urumqi, Xinjiang as part of the Uyghur genocide and systematic crackdown being committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
My husband Mirzat is a really friendly, easy-going and down to earth guy. He has an amazing relationship with his family; he is very family oriented. He is the type of guy who gets along well with anyone regardless of their age. He was always smiling and laughing. Whilst my husband lived in Turkey he worked as a tour guide. When he returned to Urumqi, he was helping run the family business; his father’s kebab shop.
My husband and I met online in 2016, and we got married in August. I stayed with my husband in Urumqi whilst his Australian visa was getting processed. His spouse visa was granted in April 2017, but before we were able to leave my husband was arbitrarily detained by police. We didn't know at the time, but this was the beginning of the mass detention of Uyghurs. At the time, the reason given for his detention was that he traveled overseas and lived in Turkey.
My husband went through the CCP's so-called re-education system where he "graduated" and was released 2 years later in May 2019. Just when we thought our nightmare was over, my husband was detained again in May 2020 for the same reason as the first time. However, this time he was released after 100 days.
Not long after my husband was released, he was detained again for the third time. I didn't know this would be the last time. He knew that Chinese police were coming to detain him as he had been notified prior. He told me this over the Chinese messaging platform WeChat on the 26th of September 2020. That was the last time I spoke to him. This time, my husband was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “participating in a terrorist organization, splitting the country and preparing to commit terrorist activities.” This was absolutely bizarre and ridiculous because my husband has done no such thing. I believe the reason for his persecution is because of his ethnicity and his travels to Turkey.
My husband is currently being held in a prison in Urumqi. Initially he was taken to a pre-trial detention centre in Hami where he was held for 17 months and then he was transferred to Xinjiang No.1 Prison in February this year.
I am so afraid that I will not get a chance to be reunited with my husband again. I am so scared that I will never be able to see him or speak to him again. I worry deeply about how he is, the conditions that he is living under and the torture that he is having to endure. It absolutely scares me to not know anything about how he is doing. It also scares me how long he will be detained for - I am in disbelief that he can possibly be locked away for 25 years.
I feel absolutely heartbroken and extremely upset and angry that we are living in the 21st century and there is a genocide happening right in front of our eyes, yet China is getting away with it and has been getting away with it for the past 5 years. I want the world to know my story and every other Uyghurs’ stories and to please try and do everything they can to help us reunite with our loved ones again.
I question, in what universe is it okay for innocent people to be locked up and sentenced to prison for no other reason than for their ethnicity? How can it be normal that us Uyghurs have lost all contact with our family members, and have no way of knowing if they are even alive?
I want people to imagine, to just try to put themselves in our shoes for even one second. Us Uyghurs are living out our worst fears and worst nightmares but unlike our nightmares, we do not know if and when we will ever be able to wake up from it.
I wish for people to be more proactive when it comes to the Uyghur genocide, and I hope they will start speaking out more. I wish for people to take action against the CCP in any way that they can, whether it be something as simple as being a voice for the Uyghurs or helping to amplify the voices of the Uyghurs by using different social media platforms and also writing to our senators and Members of Parliament about what is happening. People can also help by signing petitions or by helping to put an end to Uyghur forced labour fashion by boycotting those brands found complicit. There are so many things one can do to help the Uyghurs. Please don’t let our voices go unheard.