A Turkish citizen married a Uyghur woman. Now, he is told he cannot see his wife and little daughter – and his father-in-law has been arrested for the “crime” of letting his daughter marry a foreigner.
by Martyna Kokotkiewicz
Many today in democratic countries simply do not care about human rights in China. They claim that “it is not their business,” and that any criticism may endager commercial relationships with China. However, there still remains hope that stories such as the one of Doğan Erdoğan’s family may play an important role in changing this attitude. What would each of us do, if we had to face similar tragedies in our lives?
The dramatic story of Mr. Erdoğan, a Turkish citizen, started when he first arrived to Urumchi, Xinjiang (that Uyghurs prefers to call East Turkestan) in 2013. He spent some time working there, went away, and came back again in 2016, that time to Gulja. There, he managed to combine his professional career with family life, getting married with the Uyghur woman he loved. This sounds like the beginning of a happy-end story, but it isn’t.
Soon thereafter, visa issues started to be raised. Mr. Erdoğan did everything possible to be with his family; however, from time to time he had to leave and head to Turkey in order to renew his visa. In many countries, a similar poblem would be non-existent. The person in question got married with a local citizen. Normally, this should entitle the husband to remain in the country with his wife, if not to become a citizen of the wife’s country. Apparently, this is just another case in which universal rules do not apply to China, including in its regions that are formally autonomous.
Mr. Erdoğan had to travel to Turkey regularly, every 3 or 6 months, but every time he was happy to reunite with his family, especially as his wife had given birth to a little girl. Then, more than two years ago, something started to go wrong. We are all well aware of the context in Xinjiang, of which Mr. Erdoğan and his loved ones have become victims. One day, it became clear that Mr. Erdoğan’s visa would not be renewed. As if being separated from his wife, and prevented from seeing his baby daughter growing up, was not bad enough, he was informed that his father-in-law and the sister of his wife had been detained by the CCP.
We are probably used enough to ridiculous official explanations for such detentions, but the case of Erdoğan’s father-in law remains baffling. One of the so-called reasons was that the man let his daughter to marry a foreigner. A second “crime” is that he is a poet and once upon a time he read one of his texts in public. This happened in 2002. The CCP’s elephant’s memory is indeed impressive. No explanation was given for the detention of his daughter, the sister of Doğan’s wife. It seems that to be considered a criminal you only need to have a foreigner among your family members.
Doğan Erdoğan has recently spent time in Khazakhstan. Although he has been able to communicate with his wife and little daughter, and knows that at least the two are not in detention, this cannot replace a real family life. The months, years already lost will never be recovered. That might be one of the reasons why, as Mr. Erdoğan reported, his wife has tried to commit suicide. He had tried everything to be reunited with his family, which so much needs his support. However, his regular visits to the Chinese consulate ended when one day he was told that, if he showed up again, he would never be granted a visa in the future. Of course, they don’t plan to give him a visa at any rate.
Mr. Erdoğan has been doing everything possible to save his family, appearing frequently in social media, testifying not only for himself and the people dear to him. His voice is the voice of all those whose lives have become ruined, as the CCP decided that certain ethnic groups shall be wiped out from the cultural map of the world.
It is our turn now. It takes literally one second to share a post or a photograph. It may take a few more to read a short article. It might seem to us that we cannot do much, but doing “not much” is better than doing nothing. Our first task is to be aware, and to spread awareness. Then, when the time will come, we will be ready to testify, as we are eyewitnesses to an injustice so huge that no future history book will be long enough to describe it in detail.