Abdurahman is an ethnic Uyghur father of three who fled oppressive policies in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) for Turkey in October 2013, followed by his wife, Helime, four months later. After Helime gave birth to the couple’s third child, she returned with all three to her home in the XUAR’s Aksu (in Chinese, Akesu) prefecture in August 2016, seeking help with childcare from her parents. After losing touch with his family members, he learned that authorities had sentenced Helime to prison.
Since then, dozens of members of his extended family have been detained and he is unsure of what became of his children. His family members are believed to be among the estimated 1.1 million Uyghurs held in “political re-education camps” throughout the XUAR since April 2017 after being accused by authorities of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas. The children of detained parents are regularly brought for care to schools, nurseries or orphanages, where sources say the facilities are seriously overcrowded and in terrible condition.
Recently, a video portraying a Uyghur child being quizzed on propaganda points about the Chinese “fatherland” in Mandarin Chinese surfaced on social media and, upon viewing it, Abdurahman immediately recognized the boy as his four-year-old son Abduleziz. He recently spoke to RFA’s Uyghur Service about the difficulties he has endured living in exile without knowing what has become of his family.