China’s “strike hard” campaign designed to crack down on violent incidents has hit one Uyghur family particularly hard, as it sent two family members to prison and may have contributed to the death of two more, relatives and other sources told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
The one-year strike hard campaign started in June 2014 in restive Xinjiang region following a bombing at the morning market in Urumqi that killed 43 people.
While Beijing has promoted the latest strike hard campaign as a way to battle terrorism, it is widely seen in the region as a way to tighten control of the Muslim Uyghur community with little regard for the human costs.
Those costs are being born by people like Hasiyet Abliz, a grandmother in the Aykol Township of Aksu city (in Chinese, Akesu). The 46-year-old suddenly finds herself with a husband and son in prison, a dead daughter and a dead grandchild.
“My husband Tursun Mamut and my son Ablikim Tursun were jailed after three or four months of the strike hard campaign,” she told RFA. “My 27 year-old-daughter Ayshemgul died in child birth because no one was left at home to take her to hospital, and her two-year-old son also died from a sudden sickness because no one could take him to the hospital.”
Ayshemgul died in January 2015 and her son died in March 2015.
Hasiyet Abliz said her husband was sentenced to a seven-year jail term for an illegal gathering outside a government-designated mosque where he went to pray. He was arrested at October 2014.
Ablikim Tursun was charged with the same crime, but the family has yet to learn his fate. He was arrested on September 2014.
“I visited him three months ago, at the teenager labor camp in Ulanbay district of Urumqi city,” she said of her son. “He has no idea about his jail term either.”
The losses mean Hasiyet Abliz is now left to care for two of her own children and two of her daughter’s, forcing her to work a restaurant at night and a farm during the day.
The tragedy also forced her to keep a secret, as she refuses to give Tursun Mamut the news.
“My husband doesn’t know his daughter and grandchild are dead,” she said. “He continuously asks about Ayshemgul and the grandchild in his letters from the jail, but I keep the situation from him and my son, because they cannot do anything for them at this point."
Like others in the restive province, the Hasiyet Abliz’s family tragedy is not uncommon.
“It’s almost normalized; the disappearing, the jailing without questions in Aksu,” said a teacher from city, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “In some townships, like Aykol, where the violent incident occurred, people ask each other: ‘How many of your children are in jail?’ People are no longer surprised by the question.”
Like many in the region, the teacher thinks the Uyghurs are being targeted as a way for the Chinese to increase their control of the region.
“The government is obviously bullying the Uyghurs, because no legal entity or organization exists to protect their rights,” the teacher said. “We don’t know what is going on about our rights in the international arena, because of the censorship. Most tragically, we don’t know when the dark days will end.”
Local law enforcement officials also know of the Hasiyet Abliz family plight.
“We know the tragedy in the family you talked about, but we have no idea and no right to speak about the reason or responsibility for the tragedy,” police officer Husenjan Kerim said at the Aykol Police station. “If you want to investigate such a sensitive case you should call the higher police department in Aksu city."
Jume Gayit , deputy security chief of Peyshenbebazar village of the Aykol township told RFA emergency services were not developed well enough to get people to hospital and that the government offered compensation to the family.
"It is true the Ayshemgul died at home while she was in labor, because no man was left at home to take her to hospital,” he said. “We have given them 300 yuan as welfare for each person in the family, but it is impossible to cover the basic expense of their family.”
“I am trying to find a job for her whenever I have a request from Han bosses in our village, but there are a lot of families like her family in our village because of the violent incidents that occurred in recent years,” he added.
Reported and Translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.