My name is Gulnaz and I am a Uyghur Muslim. My place of birth is East Turkestan but the world knows it as Xinjiang because China says so. When I was a child, entering my teenage, an eleven year old, my family flea “Xinjiang” and till then I had seen enough. Till then an 11 yr old girl had seen enough to understand that she was not safe in China. Today my age is 23 yrs and even after so many years, Xinjiang still Haunts me.
I remember being not allowed to attend school because I had to work in fields with my father. Sometimes I would work alone if my father was unwell. My little hands weren’t able to help much but I had no choice. I remember the eyes of Chinese guards looking at us in the market , it made me feel like I belong to a different planet which is disliked by them. This happened only because we were Uyghurs and Muslims. One Night, they stormed our house , checking every nook and corner. My mother hide me in the basement , gave me a little bottle with liquid in it and instructed me to drink it if an officer tries to touch me. Thankfully, nothing happened and we were told that these are normal search operations. But soon a horrific incident followed which forced us to flea the country.
One of my aunts in neighborhood was pregnant with her second child and her family was planning to send her away as Uyghurs weren’t allowed to have a second child. Somehow the Chinese officials came to know about my aunt and they forced her for abortion. In a dingy hospital room, one night, she died. Patime was 6 months pregnant and doctors operated her while risking her life.
This incident shocked my family and my father decided to leave China. We immediately fled to Turkey but kept changing places, sometimes countries, every two years or so.
All this time we kept hearing news about China’s crackdown on Uyghurs, Urumqi Massacre, demolishing mosques, arresting innocents and about their raids to find Uyghurs living abroad too. My father warned us to never reveal our Uyghur identities and refrained from teaching us about the Uyghur culture too. The terrifying news of Thailand detaining 300 Uyghurs and sending them back to China instilled fear in us again. The fact that no protests or hunger strikes by detained Uyghurs could save them made it clear that once China finds about our family then we will be punished too.
Despite of all the hardships we faced, My father never compromised with our education and he made sure that we got a good schooling. He thinks that only good education can lead us out of this path of slavery or fear. Today, he wants me to become a teacher so that I can contribute in making our world a better place for everyone. Although, I think that I am an activist from inside and whenever I listen or come across a news of Injustice , my blood boils and I become determined to do something. Our world has been seen as divided between First World and Third World countries but Uyghurs aren’t given place in any of those spheres. We are people living in a fourth country which has been left to suffer by the world leaders but Why? Aren’t Uyghurs Human beings too? So few years back, the Uyghur in me took over and I made my account on Twitter(@iamgul8).
Here I try to talk with as many people as I can to convey the struggle of Uyghurs in China. Why should we suffer just because we are Uyghurs or Muslims? What is our crime? Out of many people I contacted , some of them always asked about my story, so this is for them. But I can’t tell anything else because that can leave my family in trouble.
After this story, my chances of being chased by Chinese officials are increased and I may go silent . But our story is important . The world has long enough ignored Uyghurs and now they have to stand with us. Like many Uyghurs another Gulnaz may get abducted,tortured or killed but her fight, our fight against injustice must be continued by someone and it has to be you!
In search of a safe world,