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The Trip of No Return

By Annie McDonnell , in China Human Rights Uyghurs , at July 30, 2020 Tags: , ,

Written by Askar M.

Edited by Christopher Gross, T. Ganz, and the Uyghur Cases Team

When Hesenjan Qari left Kazakhstan to visit his family in February 2017, his wife Gulshan had no reason to suspect that he would never come back. His relatives in Urumqi, China, had been calling him saying, “You have to visit here, things are not going well, people are taken to camps or to inner cities of China.” His family’s distress confused him. Chinese officials contacted Hesenjan, a Chinese citizen, asking him to return to China to answer some questions. Hesenjan and his wife, Gulshan, agreed that it would be best for him to make a brief visit back to his family. The trip would have to be quick, as Gulshan was three months pregnant. He would return to her and their five other children soon.

One week after arriving in Urumqi, Hesenjan received a phone call from a government official asking him to come in for questioning. When he arrived, the officers seized his passport and Kazakhstan resident card, prohibiting him from returning home. Over the next seven months, he was unable to return home, or to give his wife, Gulshan, any idea about when he might be able to. They spoke over WeChat, though he could not give any details on what exactly was keeping him or whether he planned on returning during their monitored conversations. When she asked when he would be back, he could only say, “things are not going well. I hope you take care of yourself and the kids. I should have stayed there instead of having gone on this trip.”

That October, Gulshan finally learned more about her husband’s fate. He was going to be ‘re-educated’ at a camp, but uncertain of  how long or for what purpose. She still has clear memories of the call. “The day he was taken, he had some idea of what was happening. He called me to say he was going to be taken to a camp,” Gulshan remembers.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be back or not.” he said.

“What are you going to do?” she asked. “Why are you being sent to a camp?”

“To study,” he said.

“But you’re old,” she told him. “You’re almost fifty.”

He said that one of his relatives—almost eighty years old— was already studying in the same camp. “Age is irrelevant,” he said.

Since then, not another word. It’s almost as if he had vanished.

Hesenjan Qari was born in Atush, in Northwestern China, and started a career in business after finishing middle school, spending many years as a textile trader between China and Central Asia. He met his wife, Gulshan Manapova, in Uzbekistan in 1997. Gulshan Manapova is a citizen of Uzbekistan who grew up speaking Uyghur and Russian. Her family had escaped from China to Kazakhstan in 1969. They married in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Over the years, their marriage was happy and they excitedly built a family and a future together. They had six children and developed a family business in Kazakhstan, opening a fabric shop in 2017. When his family called asking for him to return, nobody had any reason to suspect that the Chinese state might have an interest in him.

Today we know much more about what is happening to Uyghurs in China. Between one and three million Uyghurs have been rounded up into concentration camps, where they are indoctrinated into communist ideology, and taught Chinese culture and to reject Islamic practice. The family members who are not incarcerated in this way are given Han Chinese ‘relatives,’ people who may visit, or live with, Uyghur families to ensure that they are adopting Chinese political and cultural values, and not engaging in traditional or religious practices. The list of things for which Uyghurs may be sent for ‘re-education’ is long, and includes expressing interest in or sympathy for foreign ideas, such as democracy, and practicing Islam or owning religious books or artifacts. Even communicating with people outside of China can be cause for internment.

Hesenjan had a few conversations with his family after he was imprisoned. According to Raziya, his daughter, “Every phone conversation lasted 5 minutes and was held in Chinese language. In fact, my father could only speak in Uyghur. He used to beg me and my older sister to teach him Russian, but he was never able to learn because his pronunciation was bad. I heard all he could say in Chinese was ‘how are you?’ and ‘how is it going?’ I know it must have been difficult for him to express himself in Chinese, and I wonder how he has been doing.”

After he was imprisoned, Raziya married. She said, “Before my marriage I asked his family in Atush to talk to him one more time to ask his permission. I heard he told them ‘Go for it, do not wait for me, as long as her mom agrees, I wish all the best for her married life.’

“It was heartbreaking getting married without my father’s attendance. I even hesitated to do it. Even on my wedding day I was crying hard. It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but my mind was all about my father. About what he said on the phone, and how I wished that he was there for me, holding my hand and giving me away himself. Mom was heartbroken to see me crying that hard.”

Gulshan, Raziya, and other family members submitted appeals to the Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan governments to ask for help. In February of 2019, the Chinese government responded with a letter saying he was being “re-educated” in a camp and foreign countries have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of other states. The coldness of their statement reflects the complicit nature of the CCP to indulge in crimes against humanity.

Raziya said, “My siblings are of the age that need a father’s love. The youngest one cries for him sometimes, saying he wants to see dad, and ‘where is dad.’ My other siblings are starting to question if dad is a bad person, and why he is in prison. We don’t know how to answer their questions. Even when we try to tell them they are too young to understand. They say ‘other kids have their dad, where is ours?’ My younger sister said, ‘why doesn’t dad come to pick me up from school?’ It is even harder for my mom to see her children having a hard time like this. She has been having health problems since then and gets sick more often, staying in bed for weeks.”’

“All I want is to be with my mother and father at the same time. Whenever I think about him, I wonder if he has lost a lot of weight, has had his head shaven, and is forced to work for the CCP. He was a fit and healthy man and now I imagine he is lifting heavy things or wearing heavy irons on his hands and feet; reading propaganda every day about communist ideology. His older brother, Imam Husan Qari, was a state governor worker in Atush, also taken to the same camp as my dad, and he passed away in that camp. I cannot imagine if he witnessed his own brother’s death and bearing the pain in himself; losing mental stability with each passing day.”

 

Hesenjan Qari Criminal Incarceration Notice

 

Gulshan in the hospital, Gulshan’s appeal.

 

Hesenjan and his family

 

Hesenjan and his family

 

Hesenjan’s Identification in the Xinjiang Victims Database

Testimonies:

 

Translation:

不归之途当艾山江卡里于2017年2月离开哈萨克斯坦回国探亲时,他的妻子古尔珊没有理由怀疑他永远不会回来。他在中国乌鲁木齐的亲戚打电话给他说:“你必须回来,事情进展不顺利,人们被带到了中国的集中营或其他一些内地城市去了。” 他的家人的话使他感到困惑。中国官员联系了艾山江,要求他返回中国回答一些问题。艾山江和他的妻子古尔珊商量后觉得最好回去看看。毕竟古尔珊怀孕三个月了,因此行程必须很快。他将很快回到她和他们的另外五个孩子身边。到达乌鲁木齐一个星期后,艾山江接到一位政府官员的电话,要求他进来进行讯问。当他到达时,警察扣押了他的护照和哈萨克斯坦居民证,禁止他离开中国。在接下来的七个月中,他无法返回哈萨克斯坦,也无法告诉她妻子古尔珊什么时候他可以回去。他们通过微信进行了交谈,但是由于他正在被监听,他无法告知太太到底是什么原因让自己不能回去。当她问他什么时候回来时,他只能说:“事情进展不顺利。希望你能照顾好自己和孩子们。我本不应该离开哈萨克斯坦。”那年十月,古尔珊终于了解了她丈夫的命运。他将在营地接受“再教育“,但不确定会持续多长时间或出于什么目的。她对丈夫的那通电话仍然记忆犹新。“被捕的那一天,他对将要发生的事情有所准备。他打电话给我,说他将被带到一个营地。
“我不知道我是否会回来。” 他说。
“你要怎么办?” 她问。“你为什么要被送到营地?”
“要学习,“他说。
“但是你老了,“她告诉他。“你快五十了。”
他说,他的一个亲戚(将近80岁)也已经在同一营地学习。他说:“年龄无关紧要。”
从那以后,再没有别的消息了。好像他已经消失了。艾山江卡里出生于中国西北的阿图什,初中毕业后就开始经商,在中国和中亚之间从事纺织品贸易多年。他于1997年在乌兹别克斯坦认识了妻子古尔珊·曼纳波娃(Gulshan Manapova)。古尔珊·曼纳波娃是乌兹别克斯坦公民,长大后会说维吾尔语和俄语。她的家人于1969年从中国逃到了哈萨克斯坦。他们在乌兹别克斯坦首都塔什干结婚。多年以来,他们的婚姻很幸福,他们幸福地共同建立了家庭和未来。他们有六个孩子,并在哈萨克斯坦发展了一家家族企业,于2017年开设了一家布料店。当他的家人打电话要求他去中国时,没有人怀疑中国政府可能对他有兴趣。今天,我们对中国维吾尔人正在发生的事情了解得更多。一百万到三百万维吾尔人被集中到集中营,在那里他们被灌输共产主义意识形态,并被传授中国文化以及拒绝伊斯兰教。没有被监禁的家庭成员会获得汉族的“亲戚“,他们可以探访维吾尔族或与维吾尔族住在一起,以确保他们采用中国的政治和文化价值观,并且不从事传统或宗教活动。维吾尔人可能会被送去进行“再教育“的原因有很很多,其中包括表达对外国思想的兴趣或同情,例如民主,实践伊斯兰教或拥有宗教书籍或手工艺品。甚至与中国以外的人进行交流也可能会被抓去再学习。入狱后,艾山江与家人进行了几次交谈。据他的女儿拉济亚所说:“每次电话通话持续5分钟,并以中文进行。实际上,我父亲只会讲维吾尔语。他曾经要我和我的姐姐教他俄语,但由于发音不好,他从没学会。我听到他只能用中文说:“你好吗?” 以及“进展如何?” 我知道他用中文表达自己一定很困难,我想知道他现在怎么样。”在他被囚禁期间,拉济亚结婚了。她说:“在我结婚之前,我请他在阿图什的家人跟他联系,征求他的同意。我听说他对他们说:“去吧,别等我,只要她妈妈同意,我祝她婚姻生活一切顺利。”“在没有父亲出席的情况下结婚令人心碎。我甚至犹豫是不是还要结婚。即使在我的婚礼那天,我也哭得很厉害。那本应该是我一生中最幸福的一天,但我的心一直在想念我父亲,想念他在电话里说过的话。我多么希望他在婚礼现场,牵住我的手,把我交给新郎。看到我哭得那么厉害,妈妈伤心欲绝。”古尔珊,拉济亚和其他家庭成员向乌兹别克斯坦和哈萨克斯坦政府提出了呼吁,要求他们提供帮助。2019年2月,中国政府在回信中说,他正在难民营中接受“再教育“,外国无权干涉其他国家的内政。他们的言论冷淡反映了中共反人类的本质。拉济亚说:“我的兄弟姐妹都已经到了需要父亲陪伴的年纪。最小的孩子有时会为他而哭泣,说他想见爸爸,“爸爸在哪里“。我的其他兄弟姐妹开始质疑父亲是否是一个坏人,以及他为什么在监狱中。我们不知道如何回答他们的问题。即使我们试图告诉他们,他们还太年轻,无法理解。他们说:“其他孩子有他们的父亲,我们的父亲在哪里?” 我的妹妹说,“为什么爸爸不来接我放学?” 对于我妈妈来说,看到她的孩子有这样的困难只会让她更加痛苦。从那以后,她一直身体不好,生病的频率更高,动辄卧床休息数周。”“我只想和我的父亲和母亲在一起。每当我想到他时,我都想知道他是否瘦了,被剃了光头,被迫为中国服劳役。他本是一个非常强壮的人,现在我想他现在是不是在干重活,手脚上是不是绑着沉重的铁棍。每天必须要阅读有关共产主义思想的宣传。他的哥哥伊玛目·胡桑·卡里(Imam Husan Qari)是阿图什的州长,也被带到了我父亲的同一个营地,他死在那里。我无法想象他是否还亲眼目睹了自己兄弟的死,为之承受莫大的痛苦,一步步迈向崩溃的边缘。