Uighur diaspora asks China for proof that disappeared loved ones are still alive
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"Show me that they are alive!” was the rallying cry of members of the Uighur diaspora who, on February 11, launched a campaign calling on China to offer proof that their disappeared loved ones were still alive. China is thought to have sent more than a million members of this Turkish-speaking, Muslim minority group to “re-education camps” in the region of Xinjiang. In the past few days, Uighurs living all over the world have flooded social media with photos of missing friends and relatives.
This campaign was launched shortly after Turkish media outlets announced on February 9 that a famous Uighur singer named Abdurehim Heyit had died in a Chinese detention camp. On its website, the newspaper Yeni Safak said that the artist, who had been detained since 2017, had been given an eight-year sentence for writing a song that angered the Chinese authorities.
In Turkey, home to many Uighur refugees, the Minister of Foreign Affairs called China’s treatment of the Uighurs a "shame for humanity".
China, for its part, fervently denied the musician’s death. That Sunday, China Radio International, a state-owned international broadcaster, tweeted a video of a man said to be Abdurehim Heyit who looked to be in good health.
Abdurrehim Heyit ölmedi, Türkiye Dışişleri’nin #Xinjiang iddiaları asılsız. Abdurrehim Heyit’in sağlık durumunun iyi olduğu açıklandı. https://t.co/cqmcyeVS2s @TC_Disisleri @TurkEmbBeijing @anadoluajansi @trthaber @ntv @cnnturk @Hurriyet @Postacomtr #AbdurrehimHeyit pic.twitter.com/hFryakReErCRI Türkçe (@CRI_Turkish) 10 février 2019
"My father has been missing for 11 months”
While discussions were popping up online debating the authenticity of that video, a Uighur living in Finland, Halmurat Harri, began to call on China to provide proof that the “millions of other detainees” were also alive. In a tweet posted on February 11, he called on other Uighurs to do the same, using the hashtag #MeTooUyghur.
Please join our social media campaign- #MeTooUyghur!Halmurat Harri Uyghur (@HalmuratU) 11 février 2019
As you know Chinese authority responded Abdurehim Heyts scandal by released a video to show he is alive.
Are millions of detainees too alive?
Small action, big impact! You action count, please join us! #MeTooUyghur pic.twitter.com/jtpvAX0oPM
From CCR’s video, we see #AbdurehimHeyt is possibly still alive, but where are millions of others? Where are these #Uyghur intellectuals? #China, show us their videos if they are alive! #MeTooUyghur #MenmuUyghur #FreeUyghur #SaveUyghur pic.twitter.com/mQZWCHp9rMHalmurat Harri Uyghur (@HalmuratU) 12 février 2019
The next day Harri posted another tweet with photos of the missing and the caption “Where are these #Uyghur intellectuals?”
Dozens of other Uighurs living in the diaspora also posted photos of missing loved ones on social media.
China, as u did with singer #Abdrehim heyit, show me my father and my mother ! Its been 15 Month since my mom taken to concentration camp and been 11 month since my father disappeared. Show me they r still alive! #MeTooUyghur#stopconcentrationcamp pic.twitter.com/4lXMAkUsfmAlfred_Uyghur (@Alfred_Uyghur) 11 février 2019
China’s government, show my father Kurban Mamut’s video too the way you did with #AbdurihimHeyitBahram K. Sintash (@BSintash) 11 février 2019
You’ve cut our connection for more than one year! I worry about his well-being.#CCPShowVideoOfMyLovedOneToo#MeTooUyghur pic.twitter.com/zemb3JCsEs
My parents SawutZunon and TursunhanKeyum. my 3 brothers and their families, my 4 sisters and their families . I am worrying about their well-being.fezilet (@Guzel_sawut) 12 février 2019
I ask Chinese government to show my parents‘ video as they did with #AbdurehimHeyit #MeTooUyghur #SaveUyghur pic.twitter.com/FpjKVVqZjP
The cousin of Erpat Ablekrem, a 25-year-old professional footballer, posted a photo of Ablekrem, who he said had been sent to a camp in March 2018.
This man and his children are calling on the Chinese government to free their grandfather.
My father’s name is Azat Eziz. He was taken to the #Consentrationcamp in October 2017. My mother’s name is Gvlmire Abdughini. She was taken to the #Consentrationcamp inSeptember 2017.I ask Chinese government to release my Parents. #مەنمۇئۇيغۇر #MeTooUyghur pic.twitter.com/I1T9HEa1b0Hayat Ezizoova (@ezizoova) 12 février 2019
China! As you did with our famous singer Abdurrahim Heyit, show my sister,father in low,MatherGulziraTaschmamat (@taschmamat) 12 février 2019
In low,sister in low,brother
In low in video too! They are been taken for more than a year! Show me they are still alive ! #MeTooUyghur #CCPShowVideoOfMyLovedOneToo #SaveUyghur pic.twitter.com/0wg6NqZujL
Çin rejimine soruyorum:Muhammad Atawulla (@Uyghur_0903) 11 février 2019
Benim annem ve iki kardeşim nerede? Onların durumu nasıl? Hayatta mı yoksa öldürüldü mü? Ailemde kalanlara ne oldu?
Ben Çin hükümetinden bu konuda ciddi bilgi vermesini talep ediyorum!!!#MeTooUyghur pic.twitter.com/yN8C63U2AG
This person is demanding information about his missing brothers and parents from the Chinese government.
Camps meant to 'disappear' Uighurs
The Uighurs population numbers around 10 million. They live in northwestern China, in the region of Xinjiang. This region, which is rich in natural resources, is also located in a strategic location for the Chinese government. President Xi Jinping’s big commercial project is to build a New Silk Road, which he’d like to run through Xinjiang.
After deadly riots in the region in 2009 and a series of attacks attributed to Uighurs, an enormous police presence was moved to Xinjiang and the residents were put under surveillance. According to the World Uyghur Congress, an international organisation for Uighurs in exile, the Chinese government started building what they called re-education camps in April 2017 in an attempt to crack down on this minority.
According to the United Nations, at least a million people are being held in these centres. Torture is commonplace, with reports of some people being waterboarded. The prisoners are also forced to sing patriotic songs and learn Chinese to the detriment of Uighur [which resembles Turkish and is written with the Arabic alphabet]. The Chinese government has refuted accusations of torture, instead claiming that these are professional training centres to combat radical Islam.
This article was written by Maëva Poulet (@maevaplt).