LETTER | This year is the fourth Aidiladha since my entire family disappeared into Chinese prisons. I last heard from my family during Ramadan four years ago, in June 2017. I spoke to my father many times during that holy month.
I was surprised when he told me he just finished eating a meal, even though the sun had not set. Then I realised why. Ramadan fasting was banned by the Chinese government, and he knew the police would be listening to our call. He needed them to hear he was not fasting during Ramadan. Otherwise, he could be detained.
After that, there was only silence. Initially, I thought my family would call me soon, but a week turned into a month, then two months, and before I knew it, eight months had passed with no news of my family’s whereabouts. Then, in February 2018, an old classmate sent me a message confirming my worst fears: there was no one left in our home. That was the darkest moment of my life.
Since then, I have learned that my parents and brothers have all been imprisoned. My 54-year-old father, a retired government worker, has been sentenced to 16 years, 11 months, and my 51-year old mother was sentenced to 13 years.
My older brother - a businessperson, mechanic, and father of three - was sentenced to seven years in prison. My younger brother, a father of two, was sentenced to nearly 16 years.
I only found this out in June 2020, three years after that final phone call with my father. For three long years, I sent letter after letter and email after email to the Chinese embassy in Turkey, where I now live with my own family, but there was only silence until June 15, when someone from the embassy finally called me to tell me my family’s horrible fate.
My parents and brothers have always respected law and order. We were always praised as a model family in our village, and none of us has any record of violating the law. My family owns a small flour factory. Through their generosity and support, my parents made sure that my sister and I attended some of the best universities in China.
My mother always said to me that she would protect me as long as I was with her. Knowing that I would one day leave her, she taught me to be courteous and kind, and to believe that Allah would protect me. She taught me that a person who speaks the truth and has dignity will earn respect and keep away evil.
Now I spend every day and night desperately searching for a way to protect her, to fight for her and for the rest of my family. I can’t stop thinking about all of them languishing in dark prison cells, and I hope they know how much I love them.
Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained people like my family for simply having a beard, for fasting, for wearing a hijab, for having a prayer rug at home. The government says these normal religious practices are signs of “extremism,” and has locked up millions of Uyghurs, forcing them to denounce Islam.
I am yearning to hear words of support from our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world. Uyghurs feel abandoned by the ummah (Muslim community) when so few Muslim voices protest what the Chinese government is doing to my family and the entire Uyghur people.
It is 2021. This year, yet another Aidilfitri passed with no word from my family. Now, Muslims around the world are celebrating Aidiladha, which we Uyghurs call “Qurban.” To be honest, the holiday fills me with an overwhelming sense of dread. I never stop thinking about my family, but holidays - our holy days, days that should be filled with family and joy - hit me the hardest.
Each day, from the safety of my home in Turkey, I make dua (prayers) for my family. I am resolved to continue fighting for them, but I am also tired.
To my brothers and sisters in Malaysia: I need your help. Please write to your religious leaders and politicians and ask them to take action. Sign petitions to help Uyghurs like myself and my family. Educate yourselves, your friends, your family, and your neighbors about what is happening. Think of me and make dua for Uyghurs as you celebrate Aidiladha with your families.
We must stand together as brothers and sisters. It’s our only hope of ending these horrible human rights abuses.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.