WASHINGTON — Kalbinur Gheni, an Uyghur woman, is being subjected to harassment along with her relatives.
She had met a US official in December 2020 to discuss the imprisonment of her sister Renagul Gheni by Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang region.
Nuriman Abdurashid, another Uyghur, said that the family is being pressured to stop speaking out about her siblings, while her relatives have been subjected to frequent questioning by police in their hometown.
Gheni told former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about her sister’s detention for praying after their father’s death.
Renagul was sentenced to 17 years in prison for observing religious rites after the death of their father and for keeping religious books in her possession, which she also loaned to others.
A teacher and mother of two children, Renagul, 39, was taken to a “reeducation camp” in 2018 as part of a group of educators and was transferred to prison this May, as per her sister, Kalbinur said.
Up to 1.8 million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities have been detained in a network of internment camps in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where they have been subject to political indoctrination, abuse, and forced labor.
Because Kalbinur had not been able to communicate with her family in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region since 2017, she was unaware of her sister’s detention, and found out about it through friends in Beijing in May 2019, said Abdurashid.
Kalbinur met briefly with former US Secretary of State Pompeo on Dec. 3, 2020, to discuss her sister’s fate.
Since then, the woman’s family based in Korla (in Chinese, Kuerle), the second-largest city in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has been interrogated frequently by Chinese authorities, she said.
Authorities have begun to pressure Kalbinur both directly and indirectly through her family members, even going so far as to send a voice message from Renagul asking her to “cease her involvement” in what they called “unsubstantiated” or “untoward” matters, Kalbinur said.
“I explained that even though [the US] was taking real action, the situation had not once improved for Uyghurs back in our homeland [or] for our families; that it was, in fact, getting worse as time goes on,” Kalbinur said of her conversation with Pompeo.
She said she discussed her sister’s case, noting that the arrests of sentencings of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were prevalent. Kalbinur stressed that the Chinese government is attempting to control the families of Uyghurs abroad by essentially taking them hostage.
She detailed many threats she has received, noting that the authorities have attempted to bargain with her by using her family members as bait, said Abdurashid.
Kalbinur said that Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region do not want her to express any different opinions about my sister or information about the detention camps and prisons and want her to accept that Renagul was sentenced for praying and reading religious books.
“They have one goal: Whether it is for my family or me back home, they want us to accept the crimes my sister has been accused of,” she said.
“They want my family to accept it, and they want me to accept it, and they want us not to talk. That’s their goal.”
The Uyghur Human Rights Project, an advocacy organization in Washington, DC that promotes human rights for Uyghurs, issued a report in June describing and analyzing videos released by the Chinese government about the personal and family lives of Uyghur.
The 57-page report confirms that Chinese authorities force Uyghur, who has been detained, to appear on camera and speak out against their relatives abroad, as well as against the broader movement calling for Uyghur human rights.
(With inputs from ANI)
Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra
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