Poems by Uyghur poets for Poetry Friday. I've included a bit about the situation in China for Uyghurs down below. Today, the The European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Prize to Ilham Tohti, a jailed advocate for China’s Uyghur minority.
The first poem is by Abdushükür Muhemet from an article called ‘The night is thick’: Uyghur poets respond to the disappearance of their relatives by Darren Byler. [Muhemet] “first learned that his brother was taken to a Xinjiang “re-education” internment camp in March 2017. Since then he has lost contact with his family. He said: ‘Although I’m physically here in Sweden, my mind is always with them back at home. Sometimes I feel like my whole body is burning with longing. I miss my country, my relatives, my friends, and the hometown where I grow up.’”
A poem from Words Without Borders by Uyghur poet Exmetjan Osman:
The Nights Passing Endlessly through Scheherazade’s Mouth
by Exmetjan Osman
In a public park
where I like to sit
in the thick shade cast by the branches of a tree
I was more or less enjoying the daytime
I was watching grass sprout from cracks in the asphalt
and the sun as it shone in the faces passing by
as I pondered the meaning of the murder taking place
in the nights passing endlessly though Scheherazade's mouth
when a fortune-teller woman approached me
and asked permission
to illuminate my fate
from my life's dark mirrors
read the rest here
A brief bit from Wikipedia about the current situation:
After Xi Jinping assumed the presidency in 2013, Uyghurs in Xinjiang suffer under a "fully-fledged police state" with extensive controls and restrictions upon their religious, cultural and social life. In Xinjiang, the Chinese government has expanded police surveillance to watch for signs of "religious extremism" that include owning books about Uyghurs, growing a beard, having a prayer rug, or quitting smoking or drinking. The government had also installed cameras in the homes of private citizens.
Further, at least 120,000 (and possibly over 1 million) Uyghurs are detained in mass detention camps, termed "re-education camps," aimed at changing the political thinking of detainees, their identities, and their religious beliefs. Some of these facilities keep prisoners detained around the clock, while others release their inmates at night to return home. The New York Times has reported inmates are required to "sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write 'self-criticism' essays," and that prisoners are also subjected to physical and verbal abuse by prison guards. Chinese officials are sometimes assigned to monitor the families of current inmates, and women have been detained due to actions by their sons or husbands.
Karen Edmisten has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Karen!