As told in Uyghur language to The Rights Practice in February 2021. Transcribed and translated into English by The Rights Practice.

By Dilnaz Kerim, 18 years old.

I went to my homeland [Uyghur region, China] for the first time in 2011 and I was 8 at the time. I witnessed a lot of harassment from the authorities. For example, my relatives had to ask for permission from the police at the local police station, in Shayar, if they wanted to travel to another town, or village. They never had passports. If they wanted to go to another neighbourhood, they had to go through gates between the neighbourhoods and there would be soldiers guarding them. So, every time we wanted to go to another neighbourhood, police would ask us why we wanted to go there, where were we going and what time we would be back. They would check the car and our bags. Even if the older women didn’t need to take off their headscarves, the young girls would take off their headscarves as soon as they saw the police.

The first time we went to Shayar, a huge number of police from different administrative levels and local village cadres came late at night to check our documents and ask questions. They then showed up during the day, and in the night, for three days. On the fourth day, my Mum called the Norwegian Embassy (we used to live in Norway) in Beijing and complained about the harassment. Then the police stopped coming.

I grew up in the West, so I noticed how different the things were back in my homeland. There’s no freedom there. No freedom of speech, or the freedom to do the things that we would like. People can’t afford to go against the rules. I started to understand it better as I got older.

Since the summer of 2015, we haven’t been able to get any news about my grandmother and other relatives. We don’t know what has happened to them, whether they are in the camps. I have been corresponding with my local MP since January 2020, I’m very grateful that he has been writing to the Chinese Embassy in London on our behalf to ask about the whereabouts of our relatives.

Last April, the Embassy replied saying that they are all alive and leading a happy life. Last summer in Turkey, a friend of one of my cousins gave testimony about the 5-year imprisonment of my five cousins (all men) and my uncle. So, we immediately wrote to our MP about this and he then wrote a few times to the Chinese Embassy. In the letter we received from the Chinese Embassy just a couple of weeks ago, the Chinese Ambassador wrote that my relatives don’t know who we are and that is why they don’t want to give their contact details to us. Which, I believe, is a lie for sure. A few weeks ago, I wrote an email to my MP again to tell them that it is a lie.

I want the world leaders to see that it is a genocide that is happening in my Uyghur homeland. I think it’s not just a genocide, it’s something even worse than genocide. I want governments and policy makers to enact laws to protect the Uyghur people in East Turkistan[1] and to hold the Chinese government to account.

[1] This is a term many Uyghurs use to describe their homeland.