Photo: Mamutjan Abdurehim
By Mamutjan Abdurehim / End Transplant Abuse
My name is Mamutjan Abdurehim. I am from Kashgar, Xinjiang, and currently reside in Australia. My wife, Muherrem Ablet, is currently in prison at an undisclosed location in Xinjiang. Our two children (daughter Muhlise, now 11 and son Hikmet, now 6) are in Kashgar.
My family moved to Malaysia in November 2012 as I studied my PhD there at the time. However, Muherrem’s passport was stolen, and she and our children had to go back to Kashgar to renew her passport after being denied a replacement at the Chinese embassy. It was a painful family separation, but I was in constant contact with my wife and children during that time.
Then on April 15, 2017, Muherrem was taken away from our home in Kashgar, called in for a “short study course” which I now know to be a euphemism for detention camps. She couldn’t have known it was coming. Our two children were left behind with our parents. I did not know then that it would mark the beginning of the mass internment of Uighurs; my wife would have been one of the first to be taken away.
In May 2017, I moved from Malaysia to Australia, where I am now. I had read reports that Egypt was deporting Uighur students back to China and feared that Malaysia would do the same.
In late May 2017, Muherrem texted me that she had come home for a day. One or two days later, she changed her profile picture, and I was deleted from her contacts list – presumably before being returned to the camps. I assume that she was forced to do this.
On May 2, 2019, I came across a video of my son on a relative’s WeChat page. He was screaming euphorically: “My mum has graduated!” That, I knew, meant she was released. I cannot recall how many times I frantically watched and re-watched the video that day.
I was under the impression that she was finally safe at home. However, three sources back home then sent me code words via WeChat, covertly notifying me that Muherrem had been taken away again, this time apparently with a sentence of five years in prison. I was crushed. I did not know the exact circumstances of my wife’s second disappearance, but she might have been arrested again sometime in 2019. Her sentencing fitted the prevalent pattern of former camp inmates being re-arrested and sentenced to prison terms.
No words can describe how agonizing the past three years have been for me. I never imagined what it would be like to lose my family to a black hole where nobody knows what happens. For years I did not speak out about my wife’s internment; I did not have concrete information about her disappearance, and we all assumed that this “study program” would only be short term. I also wanted to exhaust all my legal and diplomatic options to bring my family to Australia, but I could not use those channels as I am not yet an Australian citizen. However, upon finding out my wife’s sentence, I started speaking out to demand her release and the reunion of my family. My emails to the Chinese mission in Australia and Foreign Ministry in Beijing have been unanswered.
CNN covered my story in 2021 and since then, the Chinese Foreign Ministry vaguely informed the journalists that Muherrem had been sentenced to not five, but nine years in prison. There was nothing disclosed about her whereabouts. The home telephone line has been cut off. There is no way for me to contact my children and parents since everybody is too scared to contact us. I’m advocating publicly as well as privately through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia.
My story is just one of many, many more out there in the world – for every member of the Uighur diaspora speaking out, there are hundreds of thousands more who aren’t, for fear of repercussions from the CCP. There are many other families I know, especially in Turkey, that have also been separated and have no way of communicating with their lost relatives.
As a family who has never broken the law, we deserve justice and reunion. No innocent people should be subjected to this level of agony and suffering for just being who they are or for what they believe in.