By By Abdurehim Gheni (An Uyghur human rights activist in the Netherlands)
Today, on February 5th, another painful commemoration takes place for Uyghurs. The Ghulja Massacre took place 25 years ago when the Chinese government terrorized the Uyghur people in one of the most bloody crackdowns in recent history.
The horrors cannot escape the collective memory of the Uyghur nation. Ghulja is the Uyghur location of the declaration of independence of the East Turkistan Republic on November 12th, 1944. For the Chinese, this city has always been a sensitive area.
On February 5th, 25 years ago, a peaceful demonstration led by Abduhelil Abdumejit took place in Ghulja. The Uyghurs protested against the Chinese policies of banning Uyghur Meshrep, curbing football gatherings, and forcefully transferring Uyghur children and girls to mainland Chinese provinces. The Chinese authorities had neglected to handle the widespread drug use in the region.
This peaceful demonstration ended in bloodshed by the Chinese armed police and soldiers armed with machine guns, firebombs, and police dogs. For two weeks, the government declared a state of emergency and the use of martial law. They closed the airports and bus stations and blocked all main roads to the city.
The security forces searched all the houses and arrested thousands of innocent young Uyghur men. Prisons and cold, dungeon-like detention centers became packed with Uyghurs youngsters. Later on, the officials gathered all these men in an open square full of snow and ice and forced them to walk on it barefoot, and sprayed ice-cold water on them. The damage caused frostbites to their fingers and legs that later had to be amputated. Some froze to death. All the leaders of this demonstration received capital punishment, and the followers are still in prison until this day, after 25 years.
On February 5th, Uyghurs hold global, annual protests and memorial events commemorating the Ghulja Massacre. We are grieving for those who sacrificed themselves for freedom. We expose China’s crimes and ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs in the past 73 years.