A Uyghur poet who has written a series of poems movingly depicting the life of Uyghurs under Chinese rule is serving more than 17 years in prison for separatism, RFA confirmed.

Gulnisa ​​Emin from Chira County (in Chinese, Cele) in Hotan (Hetian) Prefecture in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is known for a series of poems called “A Thousand and One Nights”, which she began to write. write and distribute online as audio broadcasts under the pseudonym Gulhan in 2015.

On the 345th night she published a poem, Gulnisa ​​Emin was suddenly cut off from the Internet. Rumors circulated in the Uyghur community that she had been sentenced to a long prison term, according to Abduweli Ayup, an activist and linguist based in Norway who documents Uyghurs missing and imprisoned in Xinjiang.

“In May 2019, during a demonstration, I saw the photo of the poet who was using the pseudonym Gulhan and I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Abduweli said during one of his broadcasts on the Uyghur service. of RFA. “I spoke to the protester who was holding her picture and found out the truth that our beloved poet, Gulnisa ​​Emin, was arrested in December 2018.”

A Uyghur from Chira who now lives in exile and has knowledge of the situation told RFA that Gulnisa ​​was sentenced to 17.5 years in Mush prison because Chinese authorities said her poetry spread thoughts of “Separatism”.

Gulnisa, 45, has been arbitrarily detained and interrogated several times since 2014, when Chinese authorities launched a “counterterrorism” campaign until her final arrest in 2018, said the source, who requested anonymity. for fear of reprisals.

While in detention, Gulnisa ​​witnessed the brutal policies used by the authorities under the guise of “upholding the law”, the source said. Close friends have been “missing” and court sentences have led to mass executions, the source said.

When RFA contacted officials at Chira County Court and Chira County High School, where Gulnisa ​​had worked, most said they could not comment on the matter. But a senior court official said Gulnisa ​​was one of nearly three dozen county teachers arrested and sentenced in recent years.

“Seventeen years and six months,” he said when asked about the length of Gulnisa’s sentence.

A Chinese government official in Chira told RFA that Gulnisa ​​was detained once in 2017, held in an internment camp for a year in 2018, and was sentenced to jail in 2019.

The official could not say which of Gulnisa’s poems had her arrested, what crime Gulnisa ​​had been accused of, or whether she had had a trial. But he confirmed that she was serving her sentence in Mush Women’s Prison in Tokkuzak (Toukezhake) County in Kashgar (Kashi) Prefecture.

Chinese authorities have targeted and arrested scores of Uyghur businessmen, intellectuals, and cultural and religious figures in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for years as part of a campaign to monitor, control and assimilate members of the minority group. , allegedly to prevent religious extremism and terrorist activities. .

Many of them are among the 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkish minorities who have been held in a network of detention camps in Xinjiang since 2017. Beijing said the camps are vocational training centers and has denied widespread and documented allegations that he mistreated. Muslims living in Xinjiang.

Gulnisa ​​was a member of the Chira County and Hotan Prefecture Writers’ Associations. Some of his poems have become song lyrics, and others have been translated into Chinese and Japanese. She started writing her series “A Thousand and One Nights” on December 4, 2015 and published her last poem on March 28, 2018, according to Abduweli Ayup, the Norway-based activist.

In a poem, Gulnisa ​​seems to predict her future incarceration:

Maybe inside the prison walls I am
I’m waiting for my name to be called off the list
Maybe, maybe a lot more
Will occur suddenly or very slowly.

After these moments
About something discovered
Hiding, forgetting my headache awake
I will wait for my name to turn on the last list.

In a poem from “A Thousand and One Nights,” Gulnisa ​​wrote about her desire to escape an environment of fear:

She seeks space while living
On a rock that doesn’t crack like her
In a salty tear that cannot be shed
Breathe for a second
To light like a match even
Within the last limits of tolerance.

Gulnisa ​​also wrote about her dream of a bright future for the Uyghurs of Xinjiang in this poem:

The dawn you’re in will rise again
The dawn you’re in will rise again
The dawns in which you are will rise again,
Filling my arms with you
Put dew on the eyelashes
Of the croissant which has not given up.

Will spread the wide roads,
To the bottom of your feet.
Will bring your desire,
The dove cooing at your window.
Fragrance of the branches,
It will drizzle in my imagination.

Wishing you as clear as moonlight,
I have walked through my door a thousand times.
spreading their leaves,
Dreams are found like red flowers.

Like your lip kissing my burning lip,
The dawns you are in will rise again.

Translated by RFA Uyghur service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.