Nurehmet Burhan, who was born and raised in Korla (in Chinese, Kuerle), a county-level city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s (XUAR) Bayin’gholin Mongol (Bayinguoleng Menggu) Autonomous Prefecture, is one of countless Uyghur youngsters who failed to test in to China’s university system. With the help of his father Burhan Kerimtulla, the imam of the mosque in his home village of Tekche, and more when compared to a year . 5 of trying to secure a passport from government officials, Burhan left Xinjiang in 2014 to pursue Islamic studies at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
In 2016, Burhan started to hear disturbing news concerning the deteriorating political situation in the XUAR from his father, who he said urged him to return home, likely at the behest of local authorities. However, after hearing news about students who had disappeared after coming to the airport in the XUAR capital Urumqi and believing that his own life would be in peril were that he to return, Burhan decided not to return back. Beginning in early July 2017, a lot more than 200 Uyghurs, many of them religious students at Al-Azhar, were detained in Egypt after being rounded up in restaurants or at their homes, with others seized at airports as they tried to flee to safer countries. The detentions are believed to took place on the orders of Beijing. Burhan spent 8 weeks in detention but surely could later make his solution to Turkey and on to Belgium, where he’s got lived since.
It has been more than 36 months since Burhan lost experience of his father, who that he thinks was either imprisoned or delivered to one of the XUAR’s vast network of internment camps, where authorities are believed to have held up to at least one.8 million Uyghurs as well as other Muslim minorities since April 2017. He also has a wife and young son back in the XUAR whom he has maybe not heard from in years. He has been not able to obtain information regarding his members of the family from either friends home or authorities in the region. Burhan recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about how that he often questions whether that he made the proper decision never to return home, although that he acknowledged he likely might have ended up in certain form of detention alongside his father.
They were always calling my dad to the big National Security office in Korla, asking him questions like, “When is your son coming back? He must come back.” They put a lot of pressure on him. All of the students who returned [from Egypt] in 2017 disappeared at the airport, the Urumqi airport.
If it just affected me, whatever, but if my parents were to learn that I was putting up with in a camp or in prison, that I was going to be locked up for many years, they might certainly lose consciousness, they may lose their minds. They would be so disturbed they’d become gravely ill. In that way, I might be destroyed, and my parents and relatives will be destroyed aswell. So, I decided it will be best to stay [in Egypt], and I didn’t leave.
I followed my dreams and visited Egypt because I wanted to review well and start to become someone who was capable and useful for my people. But I never imagined that I would need certainly to escape from Egypt and become unable to get back to the homeland, that I’d be separated from my spouse and daughter or son.
No news for years
Sometimes I think concerning this: my father is currently in his 50s. Now, in his older age, he’s been experiencing this Chinese oppression. There’s been no news about him for yesteryear three years. Is that he alive? Is he dead? If he’s alive, what are his days like? What will there be for him to do? I’m wandering around abroad, alone, unable to return back. What can he do? I start my days with this worry, this unease.
My father and I lost contact with one another in May 2017. Several months soon after we lost contact, I heard from other folks that my dad had been taken into a camp, that he’d been drawn in for annually of “reeducation.” But I don’t have any information other than this.
I find myself not planning to do any work, feeling depressed. My father and mother, my relatives: they’re all [back home]. I’m alone, wondering what’s going to occur to me, feeling depressed. My dad still hasn’t gotten out. I look at that and realize even when I’d gone back home, they might likely have disappeared both me and my father, us.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.