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‘Now or Never’: Australian Uyghurs call for International Boycott and Pressure on Beijing Olympics

What Almas Nizamidin knows about his wife’s arrest and disappearance is baseless: tragic reports from his relatives as they unfolded quickly.

Police arrived to search for Buzainafu Abudourexiti at his home in Ürümqi as he was going to the doctor on March 29, 2017. His family called, canceled his appointment and rushed home.

There, the police shoved a bag into his head, forced him into a car, and drove him off. Her husband, family and friends have not seen her since.

Imprisoned at Xinjiang Women’s Prison, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for “disorderly conduct” by her family.

The Uyhgur genocide of history has not stopped yet, they are being now mutilated silently.

The purpose of the doctor’s visit that day was to confirm what he had initially found through home tests: she was pregnant with her first child.

The fate of that unborn child is unknown. But 11 and a half years ago, Nizamidin became convinced that her baby was missing.

“My wife was pregnant, and she was pregnant. Maybe you were shocked by the arrest and lost the baby or maybe… I believe they had an abortion. That is what they are doing to the women of Uyghur, to our people in that area. “

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‘I have to speak’

It is a sunny morning in Adelaide when the Caregiver talks to Nizamidin under the shade of a eucalyptus, in a park near his home.

He says: “A very quiet town. “But she is beautiful, very quiet. I love you every day. ”

It is a happy day in the Uyghur community of 300 or more families in the city. That afternoon there was a wedding, “a great celebration”, Nizamidin says, a chance for his people to be together happily.

But these are times full of sadness for Nizamidin. He has not seen his wife for five years.

“Even the pictures I have, five years ago,” he said quietly. “Sometimes I feel really bad. My parents, my sweetheart, were forced into custody. They cannot even see the light of day. I really feel guilty about them, that I can’t bring them here.

“It hurts. Always. Even if you live in a free world, inside you are not free. Something is holding you back, you know? That’s why I’m talking to them, you should.”

Nizamidin and Abudourexiti were favorites in Ürümqi High School, the capital of Xinjiang province, in northwestern China.

The province is home to the ancestors of the Chinese people of Uyghur, Sunni Muslims and nearly 12 million Turkic people, who have been subject to decades of Chinese political and cultural oppression.

In 2009, workers’ protests turned violent in Ürümqi, and the resulting riots left hundreds of Han Chinese and Uyghurs dead.
By the time he was in his last year of high school, Nizamidin was part of the first protests and his family feared a brutal police crackdown on the city. What was already under pressure in Ürümqi “was like an open prison”.

His parents begged him to flee, and he quickly collected a large portion of their savings – about $ 40,000, “enough to buy a house in China” – to pay for a student visa and to travel to Australia. They begged him to seek refuge there.

Nizamidin’s claim for protection was recognized by Australia in 2010: he faced a fundamental fear of persecution in his home country, and he could not be repatriated there. He became an Australian citizen in 2014.

In all, he and Abudourexiti remained devoted to each other. He studied, first in Wuhan, and then at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Upon graduation, she and Nizamidin reunited – and got married – in her hometown in 2016.

The couple applied for a partner visa so that Abudourexiti could join her new husband in Australia.

On February 14 – Valentine’s Day – 2017, Nizamidin surprised Abudourexiti with an unannounced visit to China. He stayed for a month, before returning to Australia: “I wanted to rent a house, get furniture, and fix everything. They are making plans ”.

At the end of the following month Nizamidin received a call: his wife had been arrested. No one could tell him where he was.

A hasty return to China – first by plane to Urumqi, then Aksu, 1,000 kilometers away, and back to Urumqi – has elicited little information from officials, without the vague assertion of his whereabouts and welfare from bribed police.

Nizamidin was told that his wife had been arrested on a political charge – that it was in fact a state secret – and that he had no right to represent her. Abudourexiti was detained for three months without trial, and before the end of June, he was brought before a court of law, and was tried in a large number of cases, along with dozens of other women, none of whom were allowed by the lawyers.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison “for assembling a mob to disrupt public order”. The allegations against his wife were “baseless and baseless”, said Nizamidin. He says his wife is still embarrassed, and the allegations are “impossible”. Nizamidin believes his wife was imprisoned for her Islamic studies in Egypt, and says her imprisonment is part of a widespread crackdown on religious freedom in Xinjiang by the Chinese government.

The day after Abudourexiti’s sentencing, Nizamidin was called to the local police station. He was told he had 24 hours to leave China or face arrest. He was told not to tell anyone about his wife’s arrest.

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‘We know what’s going on’

Nizamidin reluctantly refused to do so. He spoke in support of Amnesty International and spoke to reporters. Last year, he testified at the UK House of Commons investigating the Xinjiang concentration camps.

Nizamidin urged the Australian government to do more to help reunite his family. Every year he visits Canberra, tirelessly walking through the corridors of the parliament building, asking for the political support of ministers and members of the same faction.

“I talk, and people listen, and they feel sorry for me. But I don’t know why they can’t follow that in action. “

Nizamidin’s father left Xinjiang for the US, fearing an escalation of oppression in Xinjiang. But in January 2018, Nizamidin’s mother, a retired mathematics teacher, was also imprisoned. The charge against her was the same as that of her daughter-in-law, “disturbing the order of the community”, but she was not tried, convicted, or imprisoned.

Instead, he was unjustly detained for 22 months, forced to undergo ‘re-training’, to work in a factory. He was released, after almost two years, in solitary confinement. He cannot leave China, and he remains under surveillance. His communication with his son remains under Chinese supervision.

In 2019, Abudourexiti was given a single call, a difficult three-minute conversation with Nizamidin’s mother, during which Abudourexiti repeatedly cried and apologized. “She was crying,” said Nizamidin. “And he said, ‘Sorry, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t do these things.’ They were forcing him to say something.

“They only gave him three minutes, so they could let me know he was alive.”

Nizamidin says the commitment of countries like Australia to ‘boycott’ the February winter Olympics in Beijing is not enough.

Australia will still compete in the Games, but will not send any officials or agents as a protest against China’s human rights record. Nizamidin argues that Australia should strike altogether, not send athletes, and reject any participation that may legitimize the sport.

“China kills people, kills people, and the world wants to play with China? The world must riot.

“They should not join the Games, they should not even broadcast the game on television. As long as countries join the games, they are supporting the genocide. And all the governments, everyone in the world, know exactly what is happening to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. “

Australia, he says, needs to call out the overwhelming evidence before it can prove it.

“I believe the Australian government can do more than it does. It should start with accusing China of committing genocide. Because we know that this is possible. ”

A bill from independent MP Rex Patrick to ban the importation of forced labor – designed to worry about products made in labor camps in Xinjiang – passed an Australian senate in August. But it has no government support, and it will not pass a lower house into law.

Economic measures are powerful, says Nizamidin. Consumers have incredible power, he says.

Boycott ‘made in China’, is what we can all do. Do not buy any products from China. Maybe they were made by my wife or mother. We do not know. ”

Evidence of Chinese crime against people is clear and growing.

In January, the US government said it had ruled that a “genocide” was taking place in China. “We see a concerted effort to destroy the Uyghurs by the Chinese party,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Do not buy any products from China. Maybe they were made by my wife or mother. We do not know.

Almas Nizamidin

Congress this week passed the Uygur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which prohibits the importation of all goods from Xinjiang unless companies provide convincing evidence that their production does not involve slavery.

And this week, the UK-based Uyghur Supreme Court ruled that Uyghurs living in Xinjiang province face charges against humanity, including genocide, directed by China. The court found evidence of abuse, as well as the oppression of children born in an attempt to destroy all or part of the Uyghurs in China.

Sophie Richardson, China’s director of Human Rights Watch, said that while the ‘tools’ countries could respond to Chinese oppression were inadequate, there were more “now than it was a year, three, five years ago”.

“We are beginning to see more and more different and important actors saying ‘there will be consequences, there will be costs’.

“Governments that are clearly committing crimes against humanity must face the consequences. It should not matter that it is the second most powerful nation in the world: there is no world without law. “

Amnesty International described Xinjiang as a “dystopian hellsscape” for hundreds of thousands of imprisoned Uyghurs. Amnesty campaigner Tim O’Connor said one of the most difficult things happening inside Xinjiang was that independent observers and investigators were not allowed into the region.

“Amnesty has compiled a number of first-person evidence, including the case of Almas and his wife Buzainafu, which is crucial for the world to understand the level and cost of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and women facing hardships. mass detention and torture. ”

China has repeatedly denied allegations of oppression in Xinjiang and said its camps were designed to provide Chinese language courses, vocational training and career support, as well as anti-religious extremism.

China seeks to discredit the plaintiffs, such as Nizamidin, and brands Xinjiang as a “wonderful country”.

It has always denied journalists and human rights organizations unrestricted access to the region and dismissed the results of the investigation and the Uyghur evidence as false.

Questions by the Guardian to the Chinese government regarding the arrest of Abudourexiti have not been answered.

In Adelaide, Nizamidin is looking forward to seeing his wife again. He says he is not afraid of being punished for speaking. “They took my wife, my baby and my mother away. What else can they do for me? ”

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