As Beijing Olympics begin, exiled Uyghurs fight for families oppressed in ChinaFebruary 02, 2022
Most Uyghurs have long avoided politics for self-protection. They were raised that way, said Shemsiye Ali, a Uyghur from Kashgar in Xinjiang. Growing up surrounded by Communist Party security networks, she remembered self-censoring, praying in secret, always careful to not speak about her faith in public.
“We did these things secretly, but we never thought about why. Why does it have to be secret?” said Ali, 22, who moved to Istanbul in 2015 and is now a third-year nursing student in university. “My parents knew, but they never spoke about it…. Once you speak, your family is destroyed.”
In 2016, Ali’s parents came to visit her in Istanbul . . . After Ali’s parents returned to Xinjiang, their passports were confiscated. In 2017, they told Ali and her older sister, who was also abroad, to not contact them. Then all of Ali’s relatives started deleting her from WeChat. She reached a family friend later that year who said her father was in “training.” In 2019, she heard that he had finished and was now “working.” Two years later, she heard he was in “training” again.
It was as if her family in China had vanished into a parallel world. Detentions were so widespread that every Uyghur whom Ali knew had lost someone. She and her sister at first blamed themselves for moving away from China, she said: “Is it because we came here? Is it because we stayed? Maybe if we didn’t come out, he would be free.”
She added: “My father has never done anything wrong, and we have never done anything wrong. Silence will not bring anything to us.”