Wild Pigeon: A Uyghur Fable

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WASHINGTON—“Wild Pigeon” was originally published in the author's native Uyghur in late 2004 by the official Kashgar Literature Journal .

Apparently reading the story as a tacit indictment of China's heavy-handed rule in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Chinese authorities arrested the author, Nurmuhemmet Yasin, on Nov. 29, 2004.

The story is the fictional first-person narrative of a young pigeon—the son of a pigeon king—who is trapped and caged by humans when he ventures far from home.

In the end, he commits suicide by swallowing a poisonous strawberry rather than sacrifice his freedom, just as his own father committed suicide under similiar conditions years earlier.

"The poisons from the strawberry flow through me," the unnamed pigeon remarks to himself at the end. "Now, finally, I can die freely. I feel as if my soul is on fire—soaring and free."

Yasin belongs to the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group that accounts for most of the population in Xinjiang, a vast territory rich in mineral resources and of great strategic importance to Beijing on its northwestern borders.

Closed-door trial without a lawyer

After a closed trial in February 2005 at which he was not permitted to hire a lawyer, Yasin was sentenced by the Kashgar Intermediate Court to 10 years in jail for inciting Uyghur separatism, sources told RFA's Uyghur service. His sentence was later upheld on appeal.

I see everything clearly now—the sky is still deep blue and the world remains so beautiful, and everything is quiet and still. A group of pigeons gathers at the edge of cage around me, watching me, puzzled and surprised.

Yasin was transferred on May 19, 2005 to Urumchi No. 1 Jail, and he has been permitted no visitors since his arrest, according to sources who asked not to be named.

At the time of his arrest, authorities confiscated Yasin’s personal computer, which contained an estimated 1,600 poems, commentaries, stories, and one unfinished novel, according to sources. How much of his work may one day be recovered is unknown.

Yasin, born March 6, 1974, is married with two young sons. His story, titled “Yawa Kepter” in the Uyghur language, translates literally as “untamed or wild dove” or “untamed pigeon,” as Uyghur uses the same word for both species.

“Wild Pigeon” was translated from the Uyghur into English and Chinese by Dolkun Kamberi, director of RFA’s Uyghur service. Adapted for broadcast by RFA's Uyghur service. Edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and produced for the Web by Luisetta Mudie.


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