By Halmurat Harri Uyghur
During the course of last four years, Uyghur at abroad getting used to pushing themselves with getting along with other Uyghurs in diaspora, that gives chance for Uyghurs, especially on internet, form a new kind of unofficial but somewhat unformal community without borders. And it is natural, Uyghurs, as being distinctive ethnic group, identify themselves as a nation, longing for their homeland, due to China’s newly adopted policy of concentration camps started from early 2017, they lost contact with the motherland, the Uyghurs began to feel lonely, and he wanted to talk and share with people who understood him. Because people around them, speaking from my personal experience, no way to understand what they are have been through. That creates opportunity for Uyghurs to start to build new social unity using social media platforms. I have never had that much Uyghur friends on my Facebook ever, after I start to sharing my parents’ story since early 2018, all of a sudden, I start to have thousands of Uyghurs who send me friend request, or following me, at the end I have had 5k Facebook friends, which is the maximum limit of how much Facebook friends you have, and over 16k followers. I was overwhelmed, and felt being rounded by people who speak same language, who are being through same pain and fear.
2017 was a year Uyghurs were waiting and hoping that their missing relatives could possibly be released soon, nobody wanted to taking risk to being targeted by the CCP and will become a blacklist of China. Nobody wanted to speak up first, it was like everybody went to gather in a dark hall, where everyone sits or stand in silence, everybody knows that there are people surrounding them, but nobody wants to move or make any sound, we were just enjoying the sense presence and being surrounded, but didn’t want to, or more honest way to say didn’t trust nor believe to open up the heart to heart talk.
From my childhood, I was never a shy guy, I always talk, communicate with the surrounding. Despite being a Finnish guy, a nation famous for personal distancing and shyness, I was among the very first who have dared to speak up openly about missing relatives. That was the beginning of Uyghurs start to making voices, letting the world know about what is happening to their relatives in their homeland, what china is possibly committing. Naturally, in the beginning, we don’t know what is going on, because people there are afraid to talk to us, left us in a kind of darkness of unknowing. That is where I came out, speak my opinions, and motivate others to do the same.
I have recording hundreds of videos of I am speaking about my opinions, things I have heard, and news I have read, etc. Which way I start to become known to the Uyghur diaspora public, people start to admiring me, trusting me, talk to me. I have built up a vast network among Uyghur diaspora and using that network, strike while the iron is hot, I have started a testimony video campaign. It was March or April, I have recorded a video of I giving a testimony about my parents’ detention in so-called re-education camps, and asked other Uyghurs to do the same. Few others followed me in the beginning, as a result of the promotion of the campaign, slowly, people started to give their testimonies. Then I and a volunteer have collected those testimony videos. Those were the very first evidence of China’s adaptation of a shift in its Uyghur policies, about the so-called re-education camp initiative.
Following the success of the testimony videos, I have started an international serial demonstration in Europe, I called it Freedom Tour. I have derived my car from Helsinki, crossed the Baltic sea with ferry went to Stockholm, from there derived to Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, etc. organized demonstration, speeches, group meetings, private meetings, media interviews and met with government officials. And put all my activities on social media platforms to encourage Uyghurs. I was tried to telling them it is ok to talk about their missing relatives, it is ok to seek them, seek freedom for them, fight for them. The message was received well, Uyghurs around the world have started to speak about their missing relatives.
It turned out that my original intention was to start a rights defense movement. Regardless of political trends and religious beliefs, victims should have the right and opportunity to defend themselves and their relatives and friends. Because, in my opinion, there should be a visible boundary between the political movement and the rights defense movement. Otherwise, the colored glasses of political battles will change the color of the rights defense movement. After more people joined the movement, it started to become more divided and vulnerable. Groups of people, who have strong separatist and Islamist mentality started to dominate the campaigns. Because their slogans fit the Uyghurs’ desire for national independence and religious beliefs, their slogans have gradually become the moral standards and political accuracy of all Uyghur activities. From then on, no matter what campaign plan, all Uyghur rights activists including me began to fear not to touch the moral standards and political correctness that those people set for us. Every sentence and every action must be consistent with the policy and direction they have established, otherwise, they will be criticized, slandered, or even threatened and intimidated. The most terrifying thing is being isolated, marginalized, and excommunicated.
When I first came to Finland, because I had expressed my different religious beliefs, I was expelled from the Uyghur community by the local Uyghur leader. No matter how much I contribute to the Uyghur community in Finland, he has not stopped persecuting and slandering me until today. Therefore, I have always been worried that I will be abandoned, marginalized, and isolated by the international Uyghur community. Because, in order to rescue my parents, I must have the opportunity to encourage Uyghurs, encourage them and unite them to report the truth, so as to get international attention, to raise the pressure on the Chinese government to let it give up its unacceptable and unbearable policy against Uyghurs.
As an Uyghur, I also dream that we can have a democratic and free independent Uyghur state. For Uyghurs, the common aspiration of the nation is indisputable, and I agree with this. Because everyone should have the freedom to dream, the desire to yearn, and the right to have hope. People shouldn’t be punished for their desires or consciousness. On the other hand, because of China’s unfair treatments and violations against Uyghur autonomy rights, if Uyghurs can’t feel belonging to China, they shouldn’t be accountable for their human nature. Yearning for freedom, peace, equality, and respect is the natural nature of mankind. That is how we define self-determination of a person and also of a nation. However, I am not debating about Uyghurs’ desire for independence nor the right to self-determination. The ignorance and absurd behavior that cannot be viewed separately from the rights defense movement and the political movement, the correctism based on that idiotic standard, makes Uyghurs start to weigh each other, became judgmental, and that cost us gradually losing the ability to unite and work together. Maybe I should put territorialism of some older generation of political activists, an some newly upraised self-claimed populist politicians, they are very cautious, always afraid their territory could be violated by new activists, and skeptical of everyone. That makes them unpopular among Uyghurs. Because it is irrelevant to this topic, I will put it aside for now. Ironically, they are also being victims of political correctness and moral standards. So, who is behind that? I can’t point a single person accountable for that, I would say, it is a collective change under the influence of our actions and interactions with each other. Of course, the root could be found from the direct and indirect intervention of the Chinese government, and games played by some religious figures and political independence activists are inseparable.
In the summary, my intention is not to point my fingers at some groups or certain person to be accountable for the harmful phenomenon of the political correctness of Uyghur diaspora. I want people who want to understand Uyghurs, should know that there are different measurements among Uyghurs are being used for judging each other, and interacting. And I believe, it is one of many reasons why Uyghurs can’t stand in solidarities.