This book is a compelling narrative on Uyghurs; their life, culture, geography and the strife unleashed upon them by the Chinese government or the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group from the autonomous region of Northwest China known as East Turkestan, which has been renamed as Xinjiang by the CCP. Modern Uyghurs are primarily Muslims and they are the second largest predominantly Muslim ethnicity in China after the Hui. The modern Uyghur language is classified under the Turkic language family and has an Arabic script. Gulchehra Hoja, author of this book, has written a memoir and through that, has encapsulated the trials and tribulations of her people and the ongoing modern day genocide.
Hoja, born and raised in Ürümchi, the capital of the then erstwhile East Turkestan, comes from a lineage of musicians and artists. Her family was known for their contributions towards the Uyghurs’ cultural landscape, and she had a very liberal upbringing. Gulchehra, upon completing her studies was chosen to be the face of Xinjiang Television’s children’s show. Whilst the show initially started off as a celebration of Uyghur culture and traditions, it gradually morphed into a CCP propaganda piece. Soon she realised how little to no control she had in the proceedings of the show and that, that she was becoming a puppet at the hands of the Han authorities running the channel. Now, the Chinese government had always wanted complete control of the Uyghur region and had started asserting their supremacy by sending Han Chinese civilians to live and work there. Chinese language was forcibly introduced in schools and other governmental establishments. Uyghur civilians were finding it more and more difficult to be themselves or practice their faith. The more Gulchehra understood the threats to her freedom and her Uyghur people, the more uncomfortable she got. One fine day, when she got an opportunity to go to Europe, she learnt starker truths and gory details of the Chinese government in the programmed oppression of the Uyghur, thanks to the free internet available in Europe. This prompted her to make a life changing decision to go America and work for Radio Free Asia (RFA), which simultaneously meant that, she could never come back to her land and her family.
As a journalist at RFA, Hoja gave the Uyghurs a voice that could be heard all across the globe. She brought to light the brutality and racial killing perpetuated by the CCP while promoting their ethnocentric agenda. This bold and fearless reporting only meant trouble for her family back home. She was soon branded as a separatist/ terrorist and her immediate and extended family were imprisoned and treated in the most inhuman way possible. Gulchehra battled immeasurable feelings of guilt and sorrow, but she continued her reporting nonetheless. Her personal life was a complete mess too, with an estranged husband and a budding love interest. However, Gulchehra remained committed to her Uyghur people, never lost focus of her responsibility towards them and through this extremely difficult journey, she portrayed her resilience, compassion and bravado.
What is happening to Uyghurs, is a genocide. The Islamophobia that is rampantly being broadcasted by the CCP is dangerous. There’s genocide happening of the Palestinians by apartheid Israel as well. The world, somehow has turned a blind eye to these genocides and various such Islamophobic propagandas. As I read this book, a chill ran down my spine. The measures taken by the CCP for this ethnic cleansing include detention camps (euphemised as vocational skills education training centers), forced sterilisation, disappearance of dissenting civilians, torture, violation of privacy, hi-tech mass surveillance, religious persecution, unreasonable incarcerations, suppression of free press. Now, only an imbecile or a fanatic should be able to not draw parallels to the situation here at home. Maybe there aren’t any detention camps or forced sterilisations yet, but Islamophobic rhetoric has become mainstream. And if you broaden the scope and look beyond the lens of any kind of phobia, you shall note that this is signalling of a rise in autocracy and complete totalitarianism. Let’s not shun an Uyghur or a Palestine as a localised geopolitical issue. The fanaticism used in this oppression has worldwide ramifications and replications. After the Holocaust, the world vowed that it would never ever allow another humanitarian catastrophe. Yet in 2023, we are not only seeing such events and genocides happening but also becoming widespread. How many more of such massacres would it take for the world, for us to get out of our ignorant slumber?
~ JUST A GAY BOY. 🥺