What is homeland

by M.H. Uyghur

6.4.2018 Hyvinkää Finland

Cottonwood forest, Tarim river

I suddenly realize that I do not understand the word “homeland” with it is real meaning, I know I can check dictionary, but dictionary gives you a standardized explanation of political interpretation. What I want to know is the unfiltered opinion of the people with flesh and bones. So I asked the other people around me how to understand the word and their answers are varied. According to different answers, it is possible to classify it as follows:

1. Homeland is the land you were born

2. Homeland is the land you grow up and live

3. Homeland is the land were where your ethnic origin

4. Homeland is the country were you choice to live

5. Homeland is the country where you fit in

6. Homeland is the country where issues your passport


Then I checked the dictionary, it talks about “native land” kind of explanations, both the people and the dictionary talk about the concept of the place which belongs to people with particular ethnic or national identity. I asked my Jews and Palestinian friends, they both think they are indigenous people of the land and they both think they have right to establish their sovereign state. Then I asked from my Gypsy Finnish friend, he think Finland can be his homeland, according to him they live in here for more than three hundred years, but India is the place where their ancestors originated. Then I asked the question from Rohingya friend by internet, he gave me the answer that his village is his homeland.

Uyghur girl and boy with traditional clothing

Then I ask myself again the question, I start to confuse. I believe I am ethnic Uyghur. Xinjiang is the ethnic autonomous region of the Uyghur people. I know most Uyghur people prefer the name Uyghuria or Uyghuristan or East Turkistan as the name of the Uyghur region. I think how to call it goes to political terminology, I don’t want to involve with political debate or conflict, so lets call it “Uyghur region” for staying as neutral. So, by the diffenition and understanding, the Uyghur region is suppose to be my homeland. But during my last visit to the region I didn’t feel the land home to me. You may ask me why? It is so sad to see people continue their daily life under strict surveillance, the Uyghur language is banned from schools, a middle school student told me that he was punished for speaking Uyghur in school yard. From Turpan to Urumqi is about 100km (about 62 miles) and this road takes me 2 hours because of the checkpoints. I was being interrogated many times because my family name is Uyghur and I am holding Finnish passport. I was stopped many times on the street for being checked by patrolling polices. I encountered discrimination based on my ethnicity almost every day during my visit to the region. From many different people I heard many sad tragedies about disappearance of their sons, daughters, husband and wife. Expressing my sympathy for them, it is sad that I couldn’t do anything. Few times I was trying to get some evidence about the disappearance, unfortunately they were afraid to provide, they choice to keep their silence. Maybe they don’t trust anyone anymore, I saw hopelessness and helplessness in their eyes and I secretly crying in private. I wasn’t regret to go there, but I was really sad to witness the tragedies that Uyghurs faces every day.

chinese passport
Chinese passport

A question asked by my female cousin makes me really sad, she said: “I bet it must be very difficult to issue a passport to come here.” I wasn’t really understand her, then she explained to me that she think everywhere in the world is equally difficult to have a passport. Because for the Uyghur people living in Uyghur region holding a personal passport is equal to luxury. It costs hundreds of dollars and tight relationship with passport issuing related personals. I explained her that passport is nothing else than an identity document, everybody have right to have one if he or she is the legal citizen of particular country. But in real meaning, they are stateless minority in their ancestral homeland.

The city I was born has changed a lot, only thing in that city I feel familiar with was my grandfathers tomb, almost totally demolished old town market and those harmless people who gave me innocent smiles. I feel strongly related to them, but their tragedy makes me feel ashamed to being do not do anything. Least I can do maybe witnessing by telling what is happening to them.

Yurt in the Altay Mountain

I understand homeland wrong, it is not necessary the place where you live happily. Maybe you are being discriminated, oppressed and rejected in your homeland. But it is not homeland’s fault, you can’t blame the homeland about things happening on it, blaming homeland for what is happening there is like blaming a virgin who is victim of rape. Homeland can be ones heaven or hell, it dependence how much you can sacrifice for building it to become heaven. Loving, carrying, justice and equality is the golden bricks for the beautiful homeland building. I have two homeland, I am Finnish and I love my country. Finland is the place where is my home and my lovely family, it is my beloved homeland where I choice to live. And it is true whether I like it or not, whether I feel belonging or not, the place where my grandparents tombs placed are the location I call my homeland. Finland is the homeland that I happily rise my family, the Uyghur region is the homeland that I was born and I may never be able to live happily and safely over there. It doesn’t matter, it is still my homeland and I love it and proud of it. Hope someday soon we have chance to build it with golden bricks.

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