This interview was written anonymously to protect the safety of the author.
As a result of the suppression of Uyghur Muslim voices in China, the CAIR-Blog Editorial team was encouraged to uplift the story of an Uyghur Muslim woman living in the Bay Area. The interviewee came to the United States with her husband, who was an international student at the time. With the current situation impacting Uyghur Muslims in China, she reflects on the impact this has had on her family and community.
What would you like to share from your experience as an Uyghur Muslim?
Growing up as an Uyghur Muslim, I feel proud to be one. Since kindergarten, I was always around Chinese people, whether it was attending Chinese schools, studying with Chinese children, or being friends with them. Twenty to thirty years back, our classmates and teachers were way more respectful towards our culture and religious differences.
Most of the Uyghurs living in China are kind-hearted. They dedicate their time to their families and friends, love social gatherings, and take care of each other, and are very kind-hearted.
However, in the last couple of years, things have changed dramatically. Recently, those living abroad are mentally going through trauma while not being able to visit family and friends back home.
How has the situation there impacted your life or your relatives’ lives in China?
I was able to speak with my family and friends occasionally through the Chinese censored WeChat app. I was grateful that I could speak with them and know how they are doing. However, all my friends blocked me from their contacts and almost none of my relatives speak to me or have me in their contact list since contacting me can endanger their lives in China. Speaking with them might get them in trouble by the government there. I do miss them and miss speaking with them freely and openly.
Not being able to communicate properly with family members has caused an emotional disconnect between my own children and their relatives back home. Children here don’t quite understand why their grandparents can’t come to visit them or talk to them freely nor can they go visit them.
What is something people aren’t aware of from watching the news/media?
One thing that people don’t get to see in the media is the beautiful culture of the Uyghurs, and the peaceful and loving relationships between people. Uyghurs have a long history full of beautiful art and cultures. Unfortunately, due to the suppression, a lot of them have been destroyed.
Where can people learn more about the situation of Uyghur Muslims in China? Are there local organizations who support East Bay Uyghur Muslims?
There are many local organizations in the Bay Area that help support Uyghurs here. The Uyghur Foundation has been helping bring awareness to support Uyghur communities, especially children who have lost their parents due to the harsh policy and treatment by the Chinese regime.
There is a local Uyghur community association – Uyghur Cultural Advancement Association (UCAA) that organizes community programs for local Uyghurs.
The Muslim Community Center – East Bay (MCC East Bay) is a response to the needs of American Muslims in the East Bay area. Programs are developed by community members and staff to address the unique social and religious demands faced by families.
MCC East Bay has been supporting Uyghurs locally with lots of different programs. With MCC’s help, Uyghur children are able to use their space for language programs. Also, with their YouTube Channel, we were able to have some lectures and programs that help local Muslims and the interfaith community be aware of their situation in China.
Below are the Uyghur Foundation, UCAA, and MCC East Bay’s Websites and YouTube Channel links:
The situation in China impacting millions of Uyghur Muslims continues to be a dire humanitarian crisis. By drawing attention to this person’s story, we hope to continue uplifting the voices in the Uyghur Muslim community.
This interview was edited by Abia Khan.
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