Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Exiled in France, a Uighur haunted by the memory of Chinese camps

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When she found herself with her teenage son in a locked room with a dozen other foreigners on Sunday October 11 at Roissy airport, Gulbahar Jalilova panicked. She started to cry, asking for help. She was reassured: it would only last two hours, and she could explain her case through an interpreter. Then transferred to a waiting area with accommodation, she has since been admitted to French territory and initiated an asylum application procedure in France.

This is because this citizen of Kazakhstan of Uighur origin, who had left Turkey a fortnight earlier through Albania and then Belarus with the plan to seek asylum during a stopover in Paris, believed to see the Chinese cell of 25 m2 where she spent a year and three months with around 30 other inmates, in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, between May 2017 and September 2018. “As soon as I see a locked door, the police, the nightmare begins again”, she explains, Sunday, October 18, at the home of a Uighur family who welcomed her to Paris.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Kazakhs and Uighurs in the hell of the Chinese Gulag

Gulbahar Jalilova, 56, is one of the first victims to testify in the fall of 2018 about the massive internment policy implemented in Chinese Xinjiang against Muslim minorities, mainly Uighurs but also Kazakhs. It is a question of eradicating the “virus” of Islamism by means of a campaign, kept secret, of all-out detention launched in 2017: the authorities round up in flair, fill the prisons, then brand new ” vocational training centers’ where the “students” are subjected to months of indoctrination in prison conditions, before being either sent to prison, or released under surveillance, or assigned to factory work. Several NGOs and researchers estimate the number of people interned in this region of the Great West of China on the borders of Central Asia at over a million, under the pretext of a large-scale “de-radicalization” program.

Turkey deemed insecure

These early witnesses almost all have a link with Kazakhstan, of which they had nationality, or a residence permit, or family. They were able to return to this country thanks to pressure from their relatives and the Kazakh authorities. Several of them then left it, first for Turkey and then for Western countries – for fear of Beijing’s long arm. Gulbahar Jalilova, who in Turkey has often testified in the media, is vilified by name in the Chinese press: the Global Times makes her a ” actress who plays the victims in Western media ”, alongside other key witnesses such as Sayragul Sawutbay, now living in Sweden, or Tursunay Ziavdun, a refugee in the United States.

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