I risked my life getting my parents out of a Chinese Uighur Muslim detention camp. I need your help to save more

My people have faced decades of hardship, now we now need the world to stand with us in our time of need

Halmurat Harri Uyghur
Wednesday 27 November 2019 17:02 GMT
Uighur Muslim woman tells Congressional-Executive Commission on China she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

I am a Uighur and my family's connection to politics has always been a painful one. From ancestors being forced to move over fears of retaliation from provincial rulers, to my grandfather being sent to a labour camp during the Cultural Revolution.

My father, who was a government worker until his retirement, and my mother were hoping for something else for me. There were two choices before me after I finished high school, one was going to study literature, the other was medicine. My father encouraged me to study medicine, I thought I was going to break the curse, live a life that doesn’t involve politics, government work or community service.

Unfortunately, fate hunted me down after my parents were sent to a Chinese prison camp in Xinjiang. Beijing claims the camps offer voluntary education and training to counter terrorism. But it is a punishment for innocent people. That is why I became an activist to free my parents.

Somewhere between one and three million are believed to be held in the camps. Among them were my parents, retired civil servants, who didn’t have any political ambitions, and no longer actively practiced any religion. Uighurs are a people who are suffering. Those in the camps suffer the most, but even relatives like me - now in Europe - cannot be free of the stress and anxiety.

My story is not unique, many Uighurs want to keep a distance from politics.But China's policies have left us with no other option but resistance. After my mother went missing in 2017 and my father in 2018, I started to campaign against their unlawful detention. I wanted to put pressure on the Chinese authorities to release them. By doing so, I was also hoping to encourage other Uighurs, who have remained silent, to do the same.

After my parents’ release, I faced a bit of a dilemma. Should I continue with my activism, and risk them being sent back to a camp? I decided that others need my help, those whose families are still missing. I know that as long as the oppression continues, my parents will not be safe.

Recently leaked documents confirm what we have been saying for the last couple of years, they make clear the brutality of what China is doing. Chinese authorities no longer hesitate to crack down on Uighurs ever more violently. There is some dispute among scholars and politicians about calling the atrocity faced by Uighurs a genocide. But I believe it is justified. The new documents prove this organized crime against humanity is directly lead by the high rank leaders of the Chinese communist party.

Beijing seems to have already calculated that suppression is a better strategy than engagement with the Uighur. Even more moderate voices have been silenced, like Mr. Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist, who campaigned for Uighurs in Beijing has been sentenced to life in prison in 2014.

China’s security services are pressing members of the country’s Uighur minority abroad to spy on compatriots

Uighurs cannot face this atrocity all on our own. We must keep struggling for human rights, human dignity for our relatives and people. We are weak, yet we haven’t given up. I have travelled to more than 20 countries, visited hundreds of different destinations, given speeches in universities, in churches, conferences, on the streets and even at private events, yet, my small organisation is not funded or supported by any foundation wider movement.

I have risked my family, my marriage and my life for fighting for my parents and people’s freedom. I am one of many, who are sacrificing everything they have for our faith and protecting democratic values that we believe in.

The fight against the Uighur’s plight should not just be led by the Uighurs ourselves. All of humanity should play a role in resisting a country which is on its way to becoming the ultimate superpower, yet continues its crimes against basic human rights, freedom, and democracy. This affects everyone, let us not stand by. Today’s Uighur tragedy is possibly an issue that the whole world will eventually have to deal with.

I still define myself as a human rights activist, I don’t hide. As an Uighur, I wish my nation will be free again. Realistically speaking, my family story is a reflection of Uighur nation’s history of the last hundred years. We were people who want to enjoy their way of life, My family always wanted to live away from politics, we would be satisfied if we could have a regular life, without racial profiling, without discrimination, most importantly, without the camps. I don’t believe my parents have any political ambitions, they are just regular people, they never dreamed that big. And they taught me in the same way, I was living a peaceful life with my beautiful wife and children, have never planned to become an activist.

I'm in Finland to avoid to becoming a target for the Chinese authority. I was planning to raise my family in Finland and be able to go back to my parents regularly and I still wish to take care of them when they get old. But now, I think I am already on a Beijing watch list. Maybe I will never be able to go to see my parents and take care of them, this pains me and leaves me unable to sleep at night.

But I don’t regret my actions, I know what I am doing is right. And the righteous should not fight alone. United we are stronger. The world have been too slow to act, now is the time. If we really do care about human rights at all, then now is the time for action. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

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