Ahmed’s Story

On July 5, 2009, peaceful protests by Uyghurs in East Turkistan’s capital city of Urumqi turned into violent clashes between the Uyghurs and Han Chinese. It became one of the bloodiest and largest riots in Uyghur history, with over 200 killed and over four thousand Uyghurs arrested. Since the event, there have also been numerous cases of disappearance of suspects, breaches of due process, torture, and death sentences.This week I was able to interview one of the suspects who had disappeared after the Urumqi 2009 riot. He is a young man, whom I’ll refer to as Ahmed, who had taken part in the Urumqi protest but ran away shortly after he saw his friends being arrested. Knowing that he would be imprisoned and most likely killed if Chinese officials found him, he had been living as a runaway for seven years within his own city. He managed to escape to Turkey a couple months ago on a fake passport.

He told me that it wasn’t until that event when he started to truly despise China. The riot was a turning point in his life—as an escapee, he has always lived with fear of being found by the Chinese officials. For Ahmed to simply go out and run an errand was a huge risk. Several of my interviewees informed me that Chinese police officers often stop Uyghurs on the streets to ask them for their ID’s, a horrifying occurrence for the many Uyghurs who are either undocumented or on China’s wanted list. Ahmed ended up getting unofficially married by doing a small Islamic nikkah, but without a marriage certificate. He had six children, all of whom had to be undocumented. Now he’s trying to figure out how his wife and children will join him in Turkey. I wasn’t able to get much information regarding how he escaped China, but he told me he managed to obtain a fake passport using someone else’s ID. He was incredibly nervous throughout the interview, trying his best not to be too specific. Mid-interview, there was a heavy moment of silence as he let out his tears.

This interview was the first time I felt obliged to end the interview faster. Previous interviewees who had agreed to be interviewed didn’t seem as nervous as him. He had mentioned his children and wife a few times, saying that he couldn’t even be like Turkey’s stray cats that could come home to its litter of kittens. He knows that seeing his family again is not guaranteed and that, even if his wife and children manage to escape, it would be through perilous, dangerous routes through neighboring countries.

Throughout my stay, I’ve also found out that many Uyghurs have been preparing themselves to wage a war against China. Eight of Ahmed’s brothers are currently in Syria fighting the Assad regime in order to gain militant combat experience. His elderly father who is also in Turkey has been trying to figure out how he can join his sons in Syria. A 21 year old newly-arrived Uyghur told me that she can’t enroll in one of Turkey’s universities because none of them offer her desired major that would allow her to become a war pilot. Learning this has allowed me to sense the amount of frustration and pain they have been enduring, enough for them to prepare for physical retribution.

Aydin Anwar is a Trinity ’19 undergraduate.

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