Interview: ‘I Thought I Had Completed My Duty as a Father’

Radio Free Asia, 3 January 2018

Naman Bawdun, a Uyghur former head and Communist Party secretary of Awat township’s Bashawat village, in Bayin’gholin Mongol (in Chinese, Bayinguoleng Menggu) Autonomous Prefecture’s Korla (Kuerle) city, was one of only four residents of Xinjiang to have ever received China’s “Ethnic Unity Prize.” His wife, Patigul Dawut, was an active party member, while his daughter had a promising career as a police officer. But all of that ended in October, after authorities detained Dawut for allegedly “allowing others to preach religion” at her factory. Bawdun recently told Shohret Hoshur of RFA’s Uyghur Service about the difficulties his family has faced in recent months.

RFA: What was the reason for all the tragedy that happened to you and your family? How did it all start?

Naman Bawdun: In 2012, I set up a carpet factory, which was supported by the village committee, and they gave us the big hall below the government offices to use temporarily. We employed 15-20 people. I was working as the village head and party secretary. My daughter was studying at a university in mainland China. People came from other villages to learn carpet-making. One day, I heard that they had listened to religious teachings inside the factory. I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but my wife was accused of allowing others to preach religion at a workplace and she is now detained.

My wife, my daughter, and I are all party members. My wife became a party member before me. She worked as a women’s propaganda officer for more than 10 years. She was also the assistant manager for [the local] Women’s Committee. My daughter, having completed university last year, joined the village police force after passing the police entrance exams.

My wife was arrested in October, and one week later, my daughter was removed from her post. I went to the police station and asked them why. I was told that she had to ‘stay away from policing’ for now. I said that my wife’s case had yet to be finalized, and that she hadn’t even been to court or charged with any crime, asking how they could dismiss my daughter from her work without a reason.

My daughter studied hard in order to serve the government. She is 24 and doesn’t even know how to write in Uyghur, because she has been educated in Chinese since she was little. My daughter joined the police force in April [2017] and in August married a policeman who had previously served in the military. I thought I had completed my duty as a father, as she had found a stable job and a family. I thought I had achieved something great that would make me a worthy party member. And I thought they would stay clear of problems for the rest of their lives, as they were working within the legal system. I was content with my life.

But now my daughter is sitting at home as she lost her job and her mother is in detention. My daughter is four-months pregnant. I am very worried about her, how will she cope with such a sudden change, losing her mother to detention, plus losing the job that she was so good at.

RFA: So your wife went from being an “educator” to someone who is forced to receive re-education?

Naman Bawdun: Yes, that is what happened. I don’t know if she is with [those she once educated] or if she is separated from them. I am kept in the dark regarding her situation … We cannot call her and she can’t call us either. I only go there to give money to the center for her.

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for Radio Free Asia