The news about the death of one of East Turkestan’s poets, Abdurrehim Heyit, has shaken us deeply. Beijing, on the other hand, released a video to the press in which Heyit briefly explains that he is alive and well. Of course, it is good news that Heyit is alive. However, there is also the suspicion that the video could belong to an earlier date. The Chinese government may clear up things by allowing the Heyit’s family members or a delegation consisting of independent observers to visit. As of now, we are expecting Beijing to take this step.
Around the mid-1970s, the news that the legendary leader of the “Crimean Turks”, Mustafa Cemiloğlu, died during the hunger strike in Soviet Russia had spread. Since Soviet Russia was a closed country, it took time to find out whether the news was true or not. His real name was Mustafa Abdülcemil Kırımoğlu, and he is still alive, he is still leading his people, and he is still in exile. Cemiloğlu didn’t die, however, he was subjected to oppression worse than death. The fact that Heyit is alive won’t make the inhumane crimes committed against the people of East Turkestan go away. , Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are being subjected to “assimilation” in the concentration camps turned into prisons.
Uyghurs who have been enslaved in their homeland, have been rejecting assimilation for 70 years. They are forcing Uyghurs, whom they have been keeping in camps under the disguise of the fight against extremism, to live “Gulag lives”. Those who wonder how people lived in Gulag should read the book of a Soviet Russia intellectual, Aleksandr Soljenitsin, titled “The Gulag Archipelago”. Another book is the famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov’s novel “The Day Lasts More Than A hundred Years,” which also tells us about the “assimilation.”
The Beijing government presents the concentration camps installed in East Turkestan as “re-education centers”, “rehabilitation centers” or “vocational training centers.” Lately, I spoke to a young girl from East Turkestan. The poor girl’s mother and father are also in one of these camps. She was complaining about not being able to communicate with her parents even on the phone. Is it possible to ignore the pain of this girl who burst into tears when she was speaking to me? “But they say that those are vocational training camps?” I asked her. She suddenly assumed a sad look and said, “My father is a prominent doctor in the region we live.” Most of the Uyghurs in the camps are professionals. We have eyes, ears, a heart, we can distinguish between propaganda and an exaggeration. On the other hand, it is a fact that the truth will out.
There is a famous analogy mentioned in literature as the “Potemkin Villages”. When Russia annexed Crimea at the end of the 18th century, Queen Catherine appointed General Potemkin as the governor of the region. Supposedly, Crimea prospered under Potemkin. Potemkin, not to embarrass his lovely Queen, built lively and prosperous villages from billboards and installed them on her route. The Queen and her European guests who were traveling on the sea, jovially waved to the villages which looked perfect from the distance. The Queen and her guests, of course, didn’t realize that those villages were nothing but a simulation of Potemkin.
The Chinese government too invites “chosen journalists” to China to show that the prisoners’ camps in East Turkestan are actually social facilities established to re-educate and train people. Unfortunately, the chosen journalists speak to a few “chosen Uyghurs” who are allowed to speak to them and hear that the practice is “very good” and they bring this back to their countries. If you believe these “witnesses of Potemkin villages”, you may think that everything is perfect. However, we have had enough of these Potemkin lies.
We of course know that the U.S. has turned the oppression of the people of East Turkestan into leverage against China in their struggle for power. Should we ignore the oppression of our East Turkestani brothers and sisters just because of this? There is nothing at the end of this path China choses to walk. The Beijing government should immediately face reality.