Price for being a hero

By M.H Uyghur

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As a father of two beautiful daughters, I know and I feel the responsibility of being a father. Last two years, my life has changed a lot, I became an activist, my activism took most of my time, I have traveled different places, didn’t have much time spent with my daughters. I love them so much, I could sacrifice anything for them. I am afraid one day, they will call me a liar, I am afraid my daughters would say:

–  Father, you say love us very much, and you would sacrifice anything for us, but you didn’t spend much time with us. You are always busy, you are always traveling, you are a liar, if you really love us, you would spend time with us…

I don’t know what to tell them, I am afraid there will be an emotional gap between me and my daughters, I am afraid they would not love me that much. My activism has greatly impacted my normal life, I have already put my life, family and my marriage in danger. Still, I have no regret, I think my daughters will understand me, I hope I can be a good example for them. All that I am doing is for the sake of our family, my parents and other families like us. I am not a hero, I am just a son and a family man, who is doing his responsibility. There is someone, he is a true hero in my heart, I have met him only once, and I am grateful to God almighty gave me that opportunity to shake his hand.

It was 2008, I went to Beijing to meet with a friend, he was studying at Beijing Normal University. That night we went to Beijing Post university gathered with some Uyghur students in a Hui restaurant close to Beijing Post university.

– I saw Mr. Ilham Tohti is in a private room with some Uyghurs

A boy among us told us, he was so excited he saw Mr. Tohti. I haven’t seen him before, but I have heard about him, he was a hero (he still is a hero), or I would say a leader of many Uyghur youths was studying in inner China.

–  Let’s go greeting to him, show him that we support him.

Says my friend, who always have a great interest in the political things. He was the one who always tells me different news about Uyghurs at abroad, I know he listens to Uyghur programs of Radio Free Asia, I think he also went to Mr. Tohti’s lectures. I respect this friend, we have many stories, he is one of my best friends. He is a proud Uyghur, ironically his girlfriend was Han Chinese and he was a member of the underground church, that two things were his secret, I think many people know his first secret, but not much knows about he is a newborn Christian. I think I need to write his story, he is an interesting guy. I have lost contact with him since 2016, I am afraid we will never be able to friend again. When I see him for the last time while I was visiting my hometown, he has changed a lot, he is now a member of the communist party, became an arrogant deputy director. He has invited me to go to KTV, I think he takes me there because he wants to show me how powerful he is now. He says I was wrong, he says prodigal lifestyle actually protects him, I didn’t trust him. Anyway, I will write more details about him later.

– If we can’t protect the rights Chinese constitution has promised us, the slogan of China of being a state of the law is proven to be not true, the government loses it is legitimacy…

Mr. Ilham was speaking something like that, we were interrupted him, he stopped. We told him why we came, he was so humble, he stands up and shake our hands, and invited us to join them. I wanted to listen to his speech, but we politely refused and went back to our table. His hand was warm, he looks like a regular person, smells cigarette. Later I started to read his articles published in Uyghur.biz, I was excited, he could be the same figure as Mandela, regular looking person with ambition could create a better world.

After I went abroad, I start to learn what is the real situation of the Uyghurs, but I kept in silence because I am a regular person, I didn’t believe I could make any change. I didn’t dare to struggle for my people, most of the reason was that my family wasn’t impacted by the situation. Just like any other Uyghur, although living in a free country, I was afraid of the relation of Chinese authority. During that years, I have heard Mr. Tohti wasn’t allowed to leave abroad, he has stopped by the Chinese authority when he was leaving to the USA with his daughter Jewher. Then he was arrested and extradited to Xinjiang and sentenced for life. What he did was teaching us to know we actually have rights promised in Chinese constitutions, he was trying to build a bridge between Uyghurs and Hans, between people and government. He has presented a solution for his country, and for his people could have a beautiful and colorful future.

What he gains? Family separation, prison, ignorance, and slander. His image among his countryman sinks into oblivion. That is a true story of a real hero, true and sad story of a father, a daughter, and a husband. We don’t know where is his family, we don’t know what he is being through, what his daughter Jewher, his beloved wife and his son are through. We are too ignorant to remember them, that is how people treat their hero.

He could continue to teach in his university, he could continue his plain life with his family. But he chooses to have a different life, he chooses a different life for his family. I have heard some Uyghurs accusing him of not promoting the independence of Uyghurs. I don’t know what is his political ambition, but one thing I am sure is, he was fighting for his fellow Uyghurs, he has sacrificed his everything for his fellow Uyghurs, yet we haven’t learned to stand up for him. I guess it is the price of being a true hero, I don’t know how many of us could follow his example.

Every time I see Jewher holding her father’s picture, giving a speech and performing for different events for his father, my eyes filled with tears. Recently she has the opportunity to meet with President Trump, she could only focus on her father’s situation, but she has spoken for entire Uyghur people. She is a daughter, who has lost his father for Chinese prison, growing up alone in a foreign country on her own. I can’t image what she has been through all these years. If that is the price of being a hero, as a father, I think I don’t want my daughters going through a similar fate.

Mr. Ilham Tohti is a true hero, I hope he will be released and reunite with his family. Maybe he will choose to have plain life with his family, maybe it is his destiny to be a hero for us, he will continue to fulfill his dream, a dream common for all human, live free, respected, be heard, harmony and peace.

A testimony of Uyghur journalist of RFA (in Uyghur)

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