Thank you, Indiana University, Professor Bovington, Professor Marianna Kamp, senior lecturer Gulnisa Nazarova, and graduate student Mustafa Aksu for putting together this panel. To the faculty, staff, and students of the University, and members of the IU community—I offer my sincere appreciation for this opportunity to shed light on the horrendous situation of East Turkestan today. I would also like to recognize Jewher Ilham among us here, daughter of the distinguished Uyghur academic, Professor Ilham Tohti, who remains in prison since 2014.
The Chinese government has brutally persecuted the Uyghur people under different labels for years. Since 2001, Beijing rebranded the effort as a “War on Terrorism.” Today, the entire population of East Turkestan has become the victim of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative as the final solution for the imperialistic Chinese dream of “Made in China 2025”. Hudson Institute’s Dr. Michael Pillsbury stated in his book “The Hundred-Year Marathon” that “The primary driver behind these ethnic cleansing practices is designed to accelerate ‘China’s secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower’”. The occupied land of East Turkestan lies in the strategic heart of this blueprint for world domination.
The entire region is under siege. Punishment is directed to wipe out religious and cultural traditions and is waged collectively against the people of East Turkestan. Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes and sent away to Soviet Gulag-style concentration camps for indoctrination in Chinese Communist philosophy, and their children sent to orphanages. There are credible reports detailing atrocious tales of torture and death in the camps.The conditions are so intolerably bad that Qeyser Qeyyum, a brother of my high school classmate who was the chief editor for a literature magazine committed suicide by jumping from an 8thfloor window when he received the order for his arrest and detention.
Among the many Uyghur public figures, intellectuals and academics who have “disappeared” are Rahile Dawut and Kuresh Tahir, expats from this campus-Indiana University. Uyghur academics are under major attack, whether they are traveling abroad legally, publishing textbooks or literature with the government’s permission, or simply just guilty of not being Han Chinese.
Reporting on the detailed real situation is hindered by an information blockade by the communist state. Now, according to the reports by Radio Free Asia the government has requisitioned the railways to move large numbers of Uyghur detainees to other parts of China. The Washington Post said, “The world is watching as ‘the ethnic cleansing makes a comeback — in China’.
Beijing’s human rights abuses do not stop in East Turkestan; they are influencing the entire Uyghur Diaspora directly in many ways. Over the course of the past 18 months, Uyghurs living abroad are experiencing worry and despair. They can’t communicate with their families. They can’t get any information on where their missing relatives are located or if they are alive or dead. The current harsh situation in East Turkestan is affecting their work, schooling, daily activities, emotional state and health. Helplessness, obscurity, pessimism and depression are growing, and they are suffering from intense chronic fear and anxiety. The frustration of not knowing has disturbed people’s personal relationships, affected mothers’ emotions, their love and care for their children at home. This frustration has been diverting their attention away from the important things in their lives. Many young students abroad no longer receive the funds sent by their parents back in East Turkistan for their school, room and board, because the Chinese Government has stopped all money transfers abroad, frozen financial accounts, or simply detained their family. They are facing hardships in their lives and are unable to continue their education.
Uyghur Dr. Memet Imin from New York conducted a survey in April, 2018 with 871 Uyghur participants from 4 continents and 90% expressed some extent of mental and emotional symptoms including agitation, depression, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, and loss of confidence 46% of the participants have some extent of depression, 18% (That is 157) have suicidal thoughts, and 14% never shared their grief and sadness with anyone. One of my friends in Virginia articulated her current mood as a “homeless” person. Despite having three healthy and loving children, a caring husband and owning a nice home, she described her feeling of being unable to maintain a regular, safe and secure daily life due to the constant worry for her parents back home. Others also feel there is no meaning to life and have lost the warmth of family. The feeling of helplessness is driving them to dispair. I saw another friend of mine last Sunday and her eyes were swollen and red from crying non-stop since Friday evening for more than 2 days because of worrying for her aged mother. Seeing others with their worry for their aged and ailing parents back home, and listening to their apprehension and dread, I am relieved to know that my parents are not alive anymore. I never could have imagined a situation where I would be thankful for not having my dearly beloved parents alive.
Uyghurs in Diasporas are not only facing extreme emotional distress but also facing false indictments by some of the other members of the community. Some small numbers of the overseas Uyghurs abroad are attacking, harassing and falsely accusing Uyghur organizations, Uyghur intellectuals and political activists with groundlessslander. We believe many of these actions are direct results of communist China’s coercing or rewarding them in order to discourage and disrupt any political movement among the overseas Uyghurs. Chinese state media reported Shohrat Zakir, Chairman of XUAR, made the pledge that the “Current target is the ‘Uyghur separatists and organizations abroad”. Beijing is extending its oppression with its black tentacles to the Uyghurs living abroad.
A typical example of Beijing’s retaliation against political activists abroad is through taking hostage of their innocent family members. My 56-year-old sister and my 64-year-old aunt were taken 6 days after my speech about the camps at the Hudson Institute on September 5. On September 11th, 2018, they disappeared without a trace. I have not been to East Turkestan since 2005 and I have not spoken to my aunt for more than a dozen years. I have not spoken to my sister since the summer of 2017.
What I am describing here today, isn’t just about systematic human rights abuse. It is a crime against humanity and civilization; collectively punishing people with fascist atrocities and ethnic genocide. Such a horrific, repugnant catastrophe should have no place in the twenty-first century. I am deeply saddened to see the international response has been muted. As Member of the European Parliament Ignazio Corrao from Italy recently said, “Concentration camps are back, there are no other words to describe what is happening in Xinjiang… Colleagues, what else do we have to witness before taking concrete actions? Gas chambers? Mass executions?”
I would like to plead for some action items for the IU faculty, staff and community:
- Please send letters to your representatives and request immediate release of all innocent people in those concentration camps.
- Send letters to your representatives and ask them to act strongly on sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe human rights violations under the provisions of the Global Magnitsky Act.
- Ask your representatives to request the United States Homeland Security to accelerate the review of the Uyghur Asylum cases currently being held in the United States immigration offices.
- Ask your representatives to request the United States Education Department and Universities to waive tuition requirements for Uyghur students in the United States whose parents have been sentenced to prison in China or placed in the concentration camps.
- Please ask Indiana University to admit some new Uyghur students and wave their tuition so they can continue their education.
Gratefully, the world stood up and said “never again” to ethnic genocide in the history before. Let’s stop this cruelty against the humanity with the same strength and conviction, before it’s too late.
Firkat Jawdet came to the United States in 2011 and currently living in VA with his wife and 2 years old daughter. I would like to invite him to the stage so Firkat can testify how the horrific cruelty of these camps is directly affecting his life and family today.