Image: Pixabay / AK
By Abduweli Ayup
On Tuesday, the Russian airstrikes killed five people in the vicinity of Babi Yar, the infamous site where the Nazis killed 33,771 Jews in 24 hours during WW2.
The Ukrainian President Zelensky reminded the world that history is again repeating itself. Someone has said the same thing.
In a video speech on February 28, Mr. Dolkun Isa, the head of the World Uyghur Congress, said that “a genocide is happening right in front of our eyes. ‘Never again’ is happening again”.
Behind him, there were photos on the wall of his present office. They are the same pictures he had in his room when he lived in Beijing in 1990. That’s when I first met him, three decades ago.
Thirty years later, it is hard to grasp the kind of times we are now living in. However, we should fight, Isa said. We should fight like the Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian people are brave, and yes, they have decided to fight. Uyghurs should also fight as the Ukrainians are doing, but where? Where is our war? Who is the enemy? Ukrainians are fighting against their enemy and are willing to die for their freedom.
We, the Uyghurs, cannot even die for a cause like them. We cannot die for our freedom. We don’t have an enemy that is shooting us with guns. There are no airsrikes. Our inability to respond to the aggression is torturing us. The sorrow of standing idle is killing our souls. Except for crying, what can we do? Kill ourselves? In the end, who would remember heroic freedom fighters that had committed suicide?
The Chinese regime has already killed Uyghurs in concentration camps. It has brutally taken the lives of intellectuals such as prominent Uyghur writer Haji Mirzahit Karimi and public figure Ablimit Abdulla. They have killed my niece, Mihriay. We are helpless, voiceless, and alone. Why?
Uyghurs’ occupied homeland is too far from Europe. Our leaders do not appear on the screens of the European Union. The Americans have not heard gunshots coming from our homeland. The Chinese genocide against the Uyghurs is nothing to do with European security.
Uyghurs are suffering from an ongoing genocide. There have been no united actions to stop it. Genocide is smokeless. No one hears explosions or can smell gunpowder from the Uyghurs’ homeland. It is a silent genocide against the Uyghurs.
We want to fight as the Ukrainians do. We want to see a Europe stand united as the Ukraine crisis has allowed us to see. We want to encourage FIFA to ban the Chinese soccer team from the 2022 World Cup as they did to the Russian team.
We want to call the United Nations to stand up for Uyghurs as it has done for Ukraine. We want the world to stand up against the genocide, as it stood against Russia. But, somehow, we could not.
We are far away from Europe. The three million arbitrarily detained Uyghurs do not have access to the internet, as the Ukrainians do. Journalists can still enter Ukraine. They can report from there and interview locals.
Recently, when my daughter objected to us moving to another city, I asked her why. She said she wanted to go back to our homeland to see her grandma, uncles, and aunts. I was voiceless. How can I, as a father, tell her that perhaps one day she can. She lost contact with the relatives already five years ago. Her uncle received a 14-year sentence, her aunt a sentence of 12 years, and her cousin, separated from her parents, is in a Chinese boarding school! How can I tell my daughter we can one day go back when I have no idea when that would be.
Since 2017, China has extra-lawfully detained up to three million Uyghurs in concentration camps. The government policies have broken up hundreds of thousands of Uyghur families. Their brutal oppression has destroyed livelihoods and traumatized millions. The Chinese authorities shamelessly continue to lie and attempt to whitewash their crimes.
Five years have passed, and there has been no hefty, cohesive global action against China, such as disconnecting it from SWIFT. There have been no united sanctions from the European Union. Uyghur survivors don’t get to speak at the assemblies of the United Nations.
Yes, the International Olympic Committee made the correct decision to recommend banning Russian and Belarussian athletes from its games. However, the calls to cancel the Beijing Olympics because of the Uyghur genocide were unanswered.
President Zelensky was right: History repeating itself. ‘Never again’ is happening again, both against the Ukrainian people and against the Uyghurs. However, while President Zelensky can reach the world, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs cannot even talk to their immediate family members in Chinese concentration camps. The world has failed to hear us and thus fails to take action. Mr. Dolkun Isa is right: We should fight like the Ukrainians. Yet, we fight to breathe and survive another day.