Undelivered Birthday Wishes: How the CCP Destroys Uyghur Families

Bitter Winter, 21 June 2020

Below is an article published by Bitter Winter, Photo Bitter Winter. 

Have you ever, even if it was only a joke, told someone important to you that you do not want to see them anymore? Or that you cannot believe that such a silly one is really your relative? Well, let us be honest, it happens sometimes, but only as a joke (in fact, we really care about the person in question). Moreover, when it happens, we do not really take such words seriously, and tend to forget the whole thing very quickly.

Could we, however imagine a situation where the feeling of loss is so strong and causes such a pain that memories of even that innocent “mistreat” hurt? It is difficult to imagine, and this is how it should be, because the fact that our loved ones simply disappear, and there is no way to contact them, does not happen often in real life. Unfortunately, this is what millions of Uyghurs should face nowadays. Memeteli Niyaz is one of them.

Some months ago, many people could read his touching post in social media. The text, deeply emotional and highly resembling a poem, was a form of birthday wishes for his sister, Heyrigul. She was not able to receive them. Heyrigul Niyaz, a young Uyghur woman, has been detained by Chinese authorities and, most probably, is in a Chinese prison or transformation through education camp now. Why? According to the logics of the Chinese regime, the reason is as follows.

The family of Memeteli and Heyrigul Niyaz comes from Toksu region, Xinjiang (that Uyghurs prefer to call East Turkistan). They have two more brothers. In 2011, when there were considerably less restrictions concerning travel freedom for Uyghurs, Heyrigul went to Turkey to complete her studies. No one in the family expected that what at that time seemed a huge success (Heyrigul won a scholarship from the Turkish government) would one day become their tragedy. Some years after those happy events, the slightest contact with the outside world became a reason for persecution. Even calling friends and relatives abroad, not to mention traveling or studying outside China, started to be seen as a crime. Having obtained a scholarship once, Heyrigul got punished by the same authorities that years before gave her permission to accept the invitation from Turkey and to study abroad. She has been imprisoned literally for having crossed the border.

Before the catastrophe happened, in July 2013, Memeteli was given an opportunity to spend some time with his sister. He came to Turkey, as Heyrigul had offered him help with everyday life issues. The years spent together are the time Memeteli is referring to in his touching birthday letter, published some months ago on Facebook. His bittersweet memories would melt even hearts frozen by skepticism, the hearts of those who claim that we are all blinded by anti-Chinese propaganda. In his symbolical letter, still undelivered to the main receiver, he evokes the moments they shared together in Turkey. As probably all siblings around the world, at least sometimes, have small arguments, and occasionally make each other cry. Memeteli admits that now the reasons for that fighting seem completely irrelevant. At those moments. they might have exchanged comments like “you are not my brother,” “can such a silly thing be related to me,” etc., but they never really meant it. Moreover, in his touching letter Memeteli confesses he has been missing every moment spent with his sister. Even if she sometimes used harsh words while arguing with him.

Unfortunately, at some stage more serious troubles started to affect their lives. Heyrigul started to face some difficulties in her emotional life. As her anxiety was growing, Memeteli realized that the reason for that might be homesickness. It was 2015. Nothing seemed to be an obstacle to visit the homeland. Not only did Memeteli not prevent Heyrigul from traveling back home, he also encouraged her to go. In a so-called normal world, there is nothing more obvious. When you watch somebody you love suffering, missing friends and other relatives, you do everything you can to help them regain mental stability. You send them back home, when you can see that their health is deteriorating in a foreign environment. Heyrigul went back home in 2015, and took up a job for a tourism company. Later, in 2016, she started her own business, a travel agency. She became a young, successful businesswoman, contributing to the development of her region. This is probably one of the reasons why she found herself in the CCP’s target group. During the spring 2017, she was arrested. There has been no news from her since that. Her most probable current location is Aksu, but we cannot be sure about it. We cannot even be sure whether… Let this sentence stay unfinished. Readers will understand the message.

It was not the end of the family’s traumatic experiences. As you go through the Database of Xinjiang Victims, you will come across the files of the two brothers of Heyrigul and Memeteli. We have already witnessed the scale of suffering Memeteli had to go through. As for his parents, we can only imagine it, if it is not beyond our imagination. As a result, the life of the whole family has been destroyed. Those referred to as “victims” usually are people detained in different types of detention centers or under house arrest. However, we shall never forget all the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters, and sons, or simply friends longing for a two-line message or one-minute phone call just to get a confirmation that their loved ones are still alive. Our task is to help them to go through the torture of waiting. In case the message fails to arrive, we shall testify for their sufferings, with the strong belief that the perpetrators will eventually get punished. For all the undelivered birthday wishes, wasted opportunities, and crushed dreams.