Five years ago, more precisely in April 2016, Ekbar Assad disappeared overnight. The young Uyghur, a Turkish-speaking and Muslim minority in China, was returning to Xinjiang after his stay in the United States, during which time he participated in a valuable program aimed at training future leaders of the planet. For months, his relatives did not ask him, until he learned that he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and that he had been detained in a Chinese camp. Since then, his older sister, a Harvard graduate, has screamed in his anger and fought to free his brother. Like him, a million Uyghurs are said to be locked up today because of their race. Rayhan Assad, The lawyer, who specializes in human rights, is a guest of Lollipop on Saturday.
Your brother Ekber came to the United States every year as 5,000 foreign nationalsInternational Visitor Leadership Program, A valuable foreign ministry program set up to nurture future leaders. He disappeared three weeks later. What happened ? Does China see him as an enemy because he went to the United States?
That’s what I think, because a month before this trip to the United States, he was in China’s good grace. He was even invited to an exhibition party organized by the Chinese government. He went to the United States, and when he returned he disappeared. Suddenly. No evidence has yet been established against him to justify such detention. Now I believe he is seen as a kind of leader by the regime.
Founded by your brother Pactox, A social network for Uyghurs, is that right?
Yes, it was a kind of mix between a social network and a news site. You can add photos, videos, music, friends, and talk to people. There was also an excerpt of articles and interviews translated from Mandarin to Uighur. My brother studied computer science and he loves literature, culture and languages. This site was a mix of everything he wanted.
How do you know he is locked up in a camp?
Initially, we knew nothing. He will return to the United States a few months later to attend my graduation ceremony with my parents. They canceled, but did not tell me anything. I wondered what was going on. My older brother is inaccessible. Emails, calls, messages, nothing … At first, we thought he would be released. Sometimes returning citizens from abroad will be interrogated. He’s a model citizen, so he has to come out. It’s been more than six months and we still don’t know where he is. Little by little we started to think about camps. Uighur friends who share information about the situation in the region told me about their presence. Some Chinese friends also stopped talking to me and there was a lot of censorship in China. Thanks to U.S. senators who invited Chinese officials to the account were confirmed in December 2019. At the time, I told myself I could not be quiet. I had to talk. Until now I have been quiet because I was afraid that the Chinese government would attack other members of my family. The only way to believe that things will happen is to talk.
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s unjust detention of Akbar Assad.
– Joey Chiu 岚 岚 (oo Joo Chiu) April 7, 2021
Your parents were able to talk to you for three minutes. What did he say, and what condition was he in?
It was as if he had become the ghost of the person he had been before. My parents didn’t even recognize him. He lost a lot of weight, black dots mark his face. I think this is because there is no exposure to the sun.
Why did the authorities allow them to talk?
Many countries have recognized genocide: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands. I think this is to tell the whole world: we are not committing genocide, we are not killing people … the government wants to kill our people slowly. I don’t know if my brother will get out of there alive. Today, in these camps, these men are malnourished, tortured (waterboarding, electricity …), they lose sleep, they have to self-criticize, they have to treat the extremists themselves. These innocent people have lost their dignity. Then, locking up men, many of them between the ages of 20 and 45, is a good way for the Chinese government to control births. If you have all these men, who are the women who are going to marry and have children? Women have also been sterilized. Authorities also separated the children from their parents Should be placed in public orphanages. You can’t force people to be someone else. As these kids get older, I think they are going to be shocked to know what happened. There, they are so young that they do not understand, but one day they will know the truth and understand why they broke up, and will be shocked. I do not know what this will create for them …
What was the situation in Uyghurs when you were young?
I grew up in Aramki, the capital of Xinjiang. Growing up in a big city I would call it “OK”. There was still discrimination, and the city was divided between the Uyghur neighborhood and Chinatown. But, for my part, we lived in a building between “Han” families (majority ethnic group in China, editorial note) where we were the only Uyghur children. I learned to respect them. I do not see them as Hans, but as neighbors. Then I went to a bilingual school.
When was the situation dropped?
When the Chinese government came to Han and began to pursue immigration policy by encouraging immigration to the region, we became a minority. By paying them better wages. This created unemployment and led to further discrimination. Some jobs were reserved for Hans only. The situation worsened following the July 2009 riots in Armiki (inter-ethnic violence erupted in the capital, according to Beijing. 197 were killed and 2,000 were injured, Author note). In 2014, it was more complicated. The government began to lead Strike Heart Campaign (China has “doubled its budget to fight terrorism.”“, Watch and Suppress the Acres, Editor’s Note).
Have you heard from your parents?
They are not working properly. My father diagnosed him with lung cancer earlier this year. I know he was sickened by the many years of suffering caused by the Chinese government. I am scared for them, I am in the US, my brother is in the camps, they are alone now. I try to invite them regularly, but I’m sure all of our conversations are monitored. The Chinese government is ready to go so far as to send Han to Uyghur homes to live with them Spy on them.
How to cope alone in the United States?
I am lucky to believe in the wonderful network of supporters of Xinjiang and friends of America. I love America, but part of my heart is with me, my parents and my brother. Unfortunately I can not return. If I come back, I will be sent to these camps too. I can’t fully enjoy life here. When I take a vacation, I have no guilt. This is called “Survivor Syndrome”. I also know that my brother wants me to be happy. So I try to live as long as I can. I go to the gym, I dance …
What can Belgium do to help you?
The event, which my brother attended, was attended by several Belgian prime ministers Yves Letterm and French politicians (Nicolas Sarkozy, Lionel Jospin, Alain Jupp …). I urge him to consider his case, plead with China to release him and other Uyghur cases. We are talking about one million people being locked up in these camps, which equates to about 10% of our population.
This interview was conducted on the one hand Geneva Summit on Human Rights It happened on June 7th and 8th.
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